Images of the Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival

Big festivals in Japan are vibrant and exiting, the energy of the massive crowds palpable. But small festivals with rich history and cultural connections are worth finding.

On such festival is the Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival, in Hongu, Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture. Hongu is a central place in the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes which are registered as UNESCO World Heritage and part of the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”.

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A short but well-formed section of the Kumano Kodo

Historic pilgrimage routes are becoming extremely popular with serious trekkers and casual visitors. The Kii Peninsula in Wakayama Prefecture offers the Kumano Kodo network of pilgrimage routes.

The 7 km walk from Hosshinmon-oji to Hongu Taisha is an easily accessible part of the Nakahechi Route that gives an insight into 1,000 years of arduous pilgrimage across the Kii mountains. Local buses can get you to the trailheads at either end.

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My Umbrella

The simple question from my work colleague was “where did I get my umbrella?” It might look like an ordinary, cheap looking, clear plastic, black ribbed and black handled umbrella. But that umbrella is a link to disaster, resilience, hope and friendship.

Here is the story of my umbrella.

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Miffy Cafe brings smiles in Kamaishi

Fair to say that I am not a fan of theme cafes. But the unmistakable line visage of Miffy adorning a cafe in far-off Kamaishi took Veronica and I back to those days some 30 years ago when Dick Bruna’s classics were a favourite in our household. We just had to go in.

That simple outlined image of a rabbit, often depicted with intense colour, associated with parent’s reading and children’s laughter. What a juxtaposition for Miffy to be in front of us here – a place of death and destruction, an engulfing tsunami etched in survivor’s memories, forever captured on video and seemingly endlessly repeated.

 

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Cafe Ryusenkei replaces a faster music life

So this is Cafe Ryusenkei, an American Airstream caravan from the 60’s transformed into an intimate, mobile cafe fitted out by award-winning designers. Moving from place to place, a calendar identifying the next port of call.

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Putting Hiraizumi on your itinerary 

A few hours north of Tokyo is the recently registered World Heritage Site of Hiraizumi that is recognised for its remarkable buildings and gardens that directly express Pure Land Buddhism.

I know little about Buddhism and less about the ancient connections with Japan as we now know it. The central place of Hiraizumi in religious and cultural history is highlighted in the fantastic Hiraizumi Tourism Association website.

So if you plan to head north past Sendai, maybe heading to Morioka, Aomori or over to Hokkaido – I would absolutely recommend a visit to Hiraizumi.

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Remains of the Stay

Traveling brings with it an accumulation of momentary conversations and connections. Relationships that are never developed, and highly unlikely to be rekindled. Like a variant on Kazuo Ishiguro’s fantastic book The Remains of the Day.

I smile to myself at times, reflecting fondly on those moments. I think I am a better person for having met otherwise random folk. On the other side of the world, maybe someone is mirroring those memories. I hope so.

There are too many of these instances to document. Making writing interesting about seemingly insignificant travel events relies on the context of being there at the time. A few though stand out for me, shaping an overwhelmingly positive set of experiences in half a dozen short trips to Japan.

So to Yau, Yoshiko and Yuri – I have not forgotten and here is a short version of your story that makes travel both a privilege and joy.

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