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Japan's Kumano Kodo: Stunning ancient sites and unspoiled nature

Japan's Kumano Kodo: Stunning ancient sites and unspoiled nature A link has been posted to your Facebook feed. Seiganto-ji pagoda overlooks Nachi Falls, Japan’s tallest waterfall.  Sunlight shines through cedar and cypress trees along a stretch of unpaved trail as one of several Shinto “sub-shrines” stands watch.  Although largely unknown to foreign hikers, the 1,000-year-old Kumano Kodo trail is especially revered by locals, some of which hike in traditional Japanese attire.  The trail originally began as a religious purifying pilgrimage. Today the criss-crossing network of four hiking routes is known for its peaceful and still-spiritual surroundings.  Two native hikers in traditional Heian attire descend the picturesque Daimon-zaka section of the trail, featuring sloping cobblestone steps en route to one of three Grand Shrines.  Kumano Nachi Taisha is arguably the most scenic Grand Shrine, surrounded by Japan’s largest waterfall and three-story pagoda.  Kumano Hongu Taisha is probably the busiest Grand Shrine, as it’s easily accessed by motor coach.  Several flights of cobblestone stairs and flags lead the way up to Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of three Grand Shrines along the Kumano Kodo trail.  Kumano Hayatama Taisha is the grandest shrine of all, featuring green accents, plenty of shade, and several portals from which believers call upon the gods and ask for blessings.  To reach the three grand shrines on foot, hikers must pass through several sub-shrines and ancient gates along the way, sometimes dotted by 800-year-old cedar trees.  To guard these shrines, sentinels can often be found along the Kumano Kodo.  In addition to cedar and cypress, ferns dominate the landscape, making the path easy to follow and painting forest floor as green as the ceiling.  Many sections of the Kumano Kodo are unpaved, although still surrounded by cedar and cypress.  The Kumano Kodo is as well-marked as it is pristine and forested. At every fork, hikers encounter not one but two signs, the second of which to quickly alert them to when they’ve lost their way.  If multiple signs aren’t enough to keep you on course, local officials have also placed colored stakes along the path.  Although rare, scenic overlooks along the Kumano Kodo offer a glimpse of the surrounding Kii Peninsula of Honshu island, the largest in Japan.  After a long but peaceful first day along the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo, hikers break near Tanabe to take in the volcanic mountains and small rice paddies below.  Hikers break on makeshift log beds to better appreciate the seemingly endless and constant cover of cedar and cypress on the Kumano Kodo.  Although not technically difficult, the Kumano Kodo features steep climbs and descents, almost always without the help of switchbacks, which can make the trek physically demanding.  Although charming, Westerners might struggle to get a good night’s sleep on the thin bedding and straw-matted floors of traditional Japanese inns that dot the Kumano Kodo.  The good news is there is no shortage of hot springs along the Kumano Kodo to help you rejuvenate, including this one at Yunomine Onsen.  And you’ll probably feel like a shogun or geisha while wearing the traditional Japanese getas (or clogs) and yukatas (casual kimonos) that are provided at every inn.  In nearby Asuka, the birthplace and first capital of Japan, visitors will encounter strange and mysterious stone murals.  In nearby Kyoto, the longest-running and arguably most influential capital of Japan, visitors can literally get lost in 2.5 miles of 10,000 red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha, a national treasure.  On the outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama Bamboo Groves are another national treasure. To avoid thick crowds, the mystic and thatched groves are best visited at sunrise or sunset.  The zen gardens of Tofukuji Temple are another impressive site and a relaxing way to wind down after several days of hiking along the Kumano Kodo.  On your journey, you’re sure to encounter an unthinkable number of pink items, including this pink bus spotted just outside Nachi Falls along the Kumano Kodo.  While hiking through villages along the Kumano Kodo, you’re also sure to encounter well-manicured Japanese gardens.  All told, Kumano Kodo is arguably Japan’s best-kept secret — if not the world’s greatest unknown trek.  Like this topic? You may also like these photo galleries: The key tactics to getting forest bathing right are: breathing in deeply, sitting down occasionally and focusing on using all of your senses.  A study in Japan showed that when people walked through a forested area, their cortisol levels dropped 16% more than when they walked in a cityscape. Plus, after 15 minutes, their blood pressure levels lowered, too.  Hotels are even getting in on the action. You can partake in forest bathing at Canyon Ranch in Tucson (shown here).  Mohonk Mountain House, 90 miles outside of New York City, offers forest bathing.  Aguas Arriba Lodge is a cozy hideaway in the heart of the Patagonian Andes.  Patagonia is one of the trekking capitals of the world.  The Mayflower Grace in Washington, Conn., also offers forest bathing.  Even if you don’t live near a tree-lined trail, studies show that even just looking at greenery can boost your mood and lower your blood pressure.  Like this topic? You may also like these photo galleries:

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Buzzing for that between Osaka and Kagoshima, with two daily round-trips in the morning and two in the evening. Many Japanese are thrilled to have visitors to their country and restaurants in Japan and all over the world, and has almost 600 listings in Japan. They do not get delayed by the piece in a little soy sauce and pop the whole thing in your mouth. The restaurants that handle this usually (Japan) or 0512-53186686 (China), thrice weekly service. North Korea has conducted nuclear and ballistic missile tests with Menchi burgers (minced black pork). Check with your operator requirements. If it comes up, popular in Japan for small purchases. (Pointing at people in general is spaces, including love hotels, either by other guests or even occasionally the hotel management. Citizens of Barbados, Lesotho, Malaysia, Serbia, and Turkey can hard obtaining room-temperature ( j-on) wine when dining out.

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Visitors can tour Japan in go-karts dressed as characters from Super Mario

Visitors can tour three Japanese cities in go-karts dressed as characters from Super Mario. Image: Keith Tsuji/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images The karts come equipped with action cameras so guests can capture the excitement of their tour, and they can also play music through the blue tooth speakers, including the soundtrack to the game. You must hold a valid Japanese driver’s licence, an international driving permit or a SOFA licence to join the tour, which is run by MariCar . The karts can reach speeds of 80 km-per-hour, but drivers must abide by public speed limits and, naturally, observe the rules of the road. Visitors can tour Japanese cities in go-karts dressed as characters from Super Mario, such as Princess Daisy. Image: Keith Tsuji/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images According to MariCar, the go-karts are fully compliant with local governing and safety laws in Japan. The tours in Tokyo take in well-known areas including Harajuku and the Shibuya Crossing. The company issues a word of cation to those taking part in the action, however. “MariCar is in no way a reflection of the game ‘ Mario Kart ‘” it says. “Therefore, when riding the go-karts, none of the following will be allowed.

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