Koyasan: an illustrated guide to visiting Japan’s most sacred mountain

There was a quiet excitement and sense of mystery as we travelled towards the secluded temple town of Koyasan, taking smaller and smaller trains through rural areas and up into the mountains. It began wending up a high mountain line, past tiny train platforms bulging with tree roots and overgrown with rich green creepers, some seemingly forgotten stations covered in leaves, being swallowed by the forest.

Read more

Experiencing Fushimi Inari: an illustrated walkthrough

Near the top of the mountain, we walked into a perfect view of Fushimi Inari’s torii gates. We turned a corner, and there it was waiting for us, with no tourists or anything. A long tunnel of vermillion was being illuminated by a perfectly angled sun, turning every gate a different shade of bright orange, deep and rich in front of us, and golden at the end.

Read more

Making a whole day trip out of Arashiyama bamboo forest

Kyoto’s eye-catching bamboo forest is called Arashiyama, and you’ve probably seen photos of it before. The forest is so dense and tall, that one feels completely enveloped in the beauty of these hollow giants. The effect is a striking natural pattern of straight lines, and a beautiful medley of different shades of green, from rich forest greens, pale and almost yellow.

Read more

Hiking the Magome – Tsumago trail (in winter)

We were the last ones in the bus, sitting in the back seat with our backpacks still on. We craned our necks to find any kind of sign as to where we were, but night had already fallen, and there were no streetlamps on this zig-zagging mountain road. It reminded me very much of the bus stop scene in My Neighbour Totoro – a cold rain drumming on the roof of the bus, the dark and eerie forest climbing over the mountains, the squeaky old bus, occasionally a weathered street sign in Japanese characters.

Read more

The Japan JR rail pass – what you should know

It was time to use the most valuable weapon in our Japanese travel arsenal – our JR Japan Rail Passes! We ordered them online in Australia (they cannot be bought in Japan), and picked them up at Shinjuku station with all the required stamps and stickers. We found them to be great value – i’ve even broken down the costs below.

Read more

How to enjoy Nakameguro in the winter

A suburb of Tokyo with lazy canals, rows of cherry blossoms, quiet streets and old buildings? In my mind’s eye, I pictured a mini-Amsterdam in Japan! However – this was still the mighty concrete jungle of Tokyo, so what we actually found in Nakameguro were high-walled, concrete stormwater channels stained green from algae. But this was actually more beautiful than it sounds.

Read more