NAME Robert Brice, Balwyn, Victoria
THE TRIP Japan
THE ITINERARY A week in Tokyo staying at the Hotel Gracery a.k.a. the "Godzilla Hotel" in Kabukicho. Using our Japan Rail Passes on the circular JR Yamanote line to explore Tokyo's diverse sights, such as a traditional Autumn Festival performance within the Meiji Shinto shrine, and that evening, traversing Shibuya's pedestrian crossing engulfed by neon signs and video billboards.
After Tokyo, a bullet train to Kyoto followed by a local train, south to Tanabe on the Kii Peninsula to start our five-day pilgrimage of the Ancient Kumano Kodo trail. Walking under canopies of cedar and cypress, exploring spectacular shrines such as the Nachi Taisha, staying at traditional minshukus (B&Bs) and ryokans (guesthouses) enjoying their fine food, and the opportunity to learn about Japan's traditional customs from our guide.
A further week in Japan's old capital, Kyoto. Walking the streets of Gion and Pontocho, keeping an eye out for elusive geikos walking to engagements. Taking the opportunity to recharge our batteries in Arashiyama sitting on a stone bench in early morning light, sipping a great espresso, soaking up a zen-like ambience of red, yellow and brown foliage tumbling down the hillside into the Katsura River; all before entering the Tenryu-ji, zen shrine, and meandering through the 14th-century Sogenchi gardens and peaceful bamboo grove.
BEST BITS Walking in the footsteps of emperors along the Kumano Kodo.
Snapping a photo of a maiko and her mentor geiko on a cobblestoned laneway in Pontocho.
"Melbourne quality" espresso from Arabica, a modern cafe kiosk perched above the Katsura River in Arashiyama.
WORST BIT Decision to fly Melbourne-Narita return, making for a 26-hour combined bullet-train journey from Kyoto and connecting flight through Brisbane. Qantas now have a direct flight to-from Melbourne to Narita. Consider departing Japan via Kansai airport, Osaka.
BEST TIP Pre-order a Pocket Wi-Fi device. Pick it up at the airport and get connected straight off the plane.
WHERE TO NEXT Iceland and Lofoten Islands, Norway
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