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Macs Adventure, Walking

5 Things I loved about Japan (and 5 foods I won’t forget!)

11 Oct , 2017  

In June, I took a trip with my partner, Scott, to Japan. We walked sections of the Nakasendo Trail, the Kumano Kodo, and the Shikoku Pilgrim’s trail, in addition to visiting Kyoto and Osaka. In a word, it was amazing. I’ve recently been reflecting on some of the things I loved about the country. I’m not going to lie, it was quite an easy list to put together, and I probably could have added many more!

Nakasendo Trail

On the Nakasendo Trail

Things I loved about Japan

1. Public Transport

“How easy is it to navigate the public transport system in Japan?” – is one of the questions I am asked the most. Well, I can assure you it’s incredibly easy! When I received my itinerary from our wonderful local ground handlers, the information detailed all the public transport I would need to use as part of the trip. Depending on the trip, you’ll be using a mixture of trains, subway and buses. On the main Island (Honshu) you’ll find signs written in English for all public transport and if you’re ever unsure, someone will be on hand to ask. It was honestly so easy, there is no need to worry.

Japanese train station signs

Don’t worry about finding your way, the public transport is so efficient and well organised.

2. Temples located… everywhere!

If you’re exploring Tokyo or Kyoto, you’ll probably come across beautiful temples as you explore. These tend to be smaller, but still spectacular. Keep your eyes peeled!

Temple at Mount Koya

Temple at Mount Koya

3. Mountains… also everywhere!

I was amazed with how close the mountains were to the big cities. Even in bustling and busy Tokyo, you’ll have a backdrop of tree lined mountain ranges. It’s beautiful.

Nicola on the Shikoku Trail

Nicola taking in the views on the Shikoku Trail

4. Onsens (bathing)

Again, this is another concern I get asked about quite often, as the concept of communal bathing (gender segregated) is something quite difficult to the norm. I was quite apprehensive about it myself, but I ended up loving it! After a long day’s walk, a hot spring bath is just the tonic. My colleague Laura explained the custom very well in her blog about Japanese lodgings.

Onsen hot spring bathing.

An “onsen” is a hot spring, which usually provides the bathing water for the facilities at your Ryokan on Minshuku accommodation.

5. The trails

This was my main reason for travelling to Japan, to experience the hiking trails, and I was not disappointed. I knew the walking was going to be good, but it far exceeded my expectations. Regardless of which trip you decide to embark on, you will walk through atmospheric bamboo forests, past ancient shrines and be rewarded with some of the most breath-taking views you’ll ever see. This was my first visit to Japan but it certainly won’t be my last.

Way marking on the Nakasendo Trail

Way marking on the Nakasendo Trail

A shrine at Temple 2 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage Trail

 

5 Food or drink experiences I won’t forget

The culinary experience was so great, it deserves its own category!

1. Sashimi

I’m a huge seafood fan and have eaten sushi and sashimi often at home but nothing prepared me for the freshness and taste of the sashimi (thinly sliced raw fish) I had in Japan.

Sashimi

Enjoying sashimi (sliced raw fish)

2. Local specialities

I loved how different regions had their own little twist on dishes. I had wonderful cold noodle dishes in Shikoku Island, and 3 different ways with Plums whilst walking the Kumano Kodo (ice cream, wine & pickled)

3. Drinks

I developed a taste for Saki and Green Tea (not together though!). I even sampled some ice cold Jasmine Tea, and it was fantastic.

4. Pickles

With every meal on the trail, you will find a selection of pickles. Some like Umeboshi (pickled plums) are very sour and not to everyone’s taste (I heartily recommend trying them though), but others like lotus root and cabbage are a delight.

Japanese dining

Scott enjoying one of many fine banquets on our trip.

5. Kit Kats

I wouldn’t normally mention a chocolate bar as one of my favourite things, but there are so many weird and wonderful flavours available in Japan, you’ll never look at your milk chocolate kit kat in the same light again. Current available flavours are Matcha Green Tea, Purple Sweet Potato, Wasabi and my favourite, Raspberry!

Matcha kit kat

Yes, that’s a green kit kat. Matcha flavoured… mmmmm!

My time sampling these trails is not only a memory which will last forever, but a great opportunity to learn more about travel to Japan. I’m here to answer any questions, and more than happy to enthuse about the great things awaiting you on a trip to Japan! You can contact me, or my colleagues, about any self guided walking holiday to Japan or beyond – just email us on [email protected] or browse macsadventure.com for more information.

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Macs Adventure’s destination specialist for Europe, specialising in Mediterranean destinations. My passions in life are travel and food.