Gaijin on Getas Blog

Posts in the ‘samurai tours’ Category

10 Small Things Japan Has To Be Proud Of

Posted on January 7th, 2015 by Mike Roberts

The Japanese love to create lists of different things. There are the Nihon Sankei (Three Scenic Views: Miyajima Island, Amanohashidate and Matsushima), the Nihon Sanmeien (Three great gardens: Korakuen, Korakuen and Kairakuen), the Hyakumeizan (100 great mountains), etc. Most lists contain the largest or greatest. But since Japan is a small country, I thought it might be interesting to explore the small things that Japan has to be proud of. So (with my apologies to David Letterman) here are the 10 small things Japan has to be proud of.

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Kumano Kodo Trek – Day 2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura

Posted on December 3rd, 2014 by Mike Roberts

  • Total Elevation Gain: 1,650 Feet (500 meters)
  • Total Elevation Loss: 1,300 Feet (400 meters)
  • Net Elevation Gain: 350 (100 meters)
  • Total Distance: 8 1/4 Miles (13.2 kilometers)

Nakahechi Trail

During the night it rained heavily, which meant one thing for today’s walk. It would be very humid. After having an excellent breakfast at the minshuku, I set out for Day 2 at about 8:30 for Tsugizakura-Oji.

For the first kilometer or so, the trail was over pavement, and then changed to dirt trail. For the first 5 1/2 kilometers, the trail steadily climbed past several important Oji to the former site of the Uwadaya-jaya Chaya. At about 700 meters (about 2,300 feet), this location is the highest spot on the trail between Takijirioji and Hongu Taisha Shrine. At one time, there were numerous chaya (literally translates to tea house) along the Kumano Kodo. These were places of rest, drink and food. Some chaya also offered lodging. These chaya were an important part of the Kumano pilgrimage infrastructure. In addition to a place of rest, they also served as centers of exchange between pilgrims and the locals. These chaya were not only found on the Kumano Kodo, but were also common along major highways in Japan such as the Tokaido and Nakasendo.

From here, the trail descended into a small river valley to the Osakamoto Oji. It is thought that the Oji got its name from the fact that the Oji is located at the base of what was once known as Osaka Pass. In his pilgrim’s diary from 1109, Fujiwara Munetada wrote “On the Osaka Pass, there is a tall tree on which a snake-shaped object is hung. It is said in the past, a woman was transformed into the object.” It is also thought that in the old days, at the site of the Osakamoto Oji there was an inn for lords. Read the full post »

Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Trek – Day 1

Posted on November 11th, 2014 by Mike Roberts


Nakahechi Trail

Nakahechi Trail

I set out for my Kumano Kodo trek from Kyoto as did pilgrims more than 1,000 years ago. At that time, it was common practice to visit Jonan-gu Shrine just south of Kyoto near Fushimi. Here, pilgrims would stay for about a week and perform “misogi” (Shinto water purification rituals) and maintain a strict vegetarian diet to purify themselves before starting their pilgrimage. After leaving Jonan-gu, they would travel down the nearby Yodo River by boat, and then walk along the Kiiji pilgrimage route along the western coast of the Kii Peninsula. After arriving at the present site of the city of Tanabe, they would follow the Nakahechi along the river until reaching Takijiri Oji. I visited the Jonan-gu shrine before today, but I didn’t stay for a week, and I didn’t perform any water purification rituals or eat only vegetables. Read the full post »

Tokyo Sky Tree

Posted on October 8th, 2014 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Tokyo Sky Tree 2The Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) is a digital broadcasting tower and a new landmark of Tokyo. At a height of 634 m, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world. It is the core of the Tokyo Skytree Town, near Asakusa. Read the full post »

Akihabara Maid Cafes

Posted on May 11th, 2014 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Akihabara Maid Cafe Ad

Akihabara Maid Cafe Ad

Akihabara is a paradise for electric appliance and anime subculture fans. Akihabara started as a place where radio parts were sold just after the Second World War. Today Akihabara is famous as the cheapest place in Japan for electric appliances. It’s also well-known as a place of ‘otaku’ (Japanese word for geeks) including comic-book devotees, video-game fanatics or anime figurine colletctors. Among all the shops, maid cafés attract attention, especially to men. If you spot girls dressed in a waitress costume delivering brochures on the street, they are the maid café waitresses who attract customers to their shops. They wear a maid dress, petticoat, and apron and frill accessory. At a maid café, they act as customers’ servants and entertain them just as the customer’s own servants. When customers enter a maid cafe, they will be greeted with ‘Okaeri nasai mase, goshujin sama!’ which means ‘Welcome back home, my lords!’ Read the full post »

History of the Kumano Kodo (Part 2 of the Kumano Kodo Series)

Posted on April 24th, 2014 by Mike Roberts

Kumano Kodo NewKumano has been considered a sacred area since prehistoric times. Shinto, the native religion of Japan, started during prehistoric times as nature worship. And it was during this time when the sacred sites of Kumano were first created. When Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the 6th century, Shinto and Buddhism merged together. It was during this time when the belief that Kumano as a Buddhist Pure Land became prevalent (in the 9th and 10th centuries), the sacred sites as we know them today were formed. Read the full post »

Driver’s License in Japan

Posted on April 3rd, 2014 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Japan has one of the best, if not the best public transportation systems in the world. There are many, diverse means of public transportation in Japan. We can move around by bullet train, train, bus, streetcar, subway and monorail. But still, about 90% of Japanese adults have a driver’s license. We can start to drive at the age of 18 and many people go to a driving school to get a driver’s license after finishing high school. Read the full post »

Kumano Kodo – Part 1: What is the Kumano Kodo?

Posted on March 23rd, 2014 by Mike Roberts

Entrance to the Hasshinmon-oji along the Nakahechi Trail

Entrance to the Hasshinmon-oji along the Nakahechi Trail

The Kumano Kodo is a large and complex subject, and could not be sufficiently discussed in one blog. So this is the first part of three blogs. I have found that few people, even people who are very familiar with Japan, know what the Kumano Kodo is. So this blog will define what the Kumano Kodo is. Part 2 will discuss the major trail routes that are part of the Kumano Kodo. And Part 3 will discuss the Kumano Sanzan.

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Arashiyama Monkey Park

Posted on March 6th, 2014 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Feeding Time at Arashiyama Monkey Park

Feeding Time at Arashiyama Monkey Park

Monkeys are the closest species to humans and they are often portrayed in proverbs and sayings as stupid and incompetent. For example, ‘monkey brain’ means ‘stupid’, ‘monkey about’ means messing around. But are they really silly? Arashiyama Monkey Park is a very rare place where you can observe how monkeys behave, and buy them bananas to feed them from inside a cage. You can see baby-monkeys chasing each other around, wrestling with each other and climbing or jumping off trees. Arashiyama Monkey Park has come to be known worldwide since Tom Cruise visited there and introduced it to the public. Even though they are tame, they are wild animals. When you are in the park, please follow these three rules and enjoy the time with monkeys!: ‘Don’t feed them, touch them or make eye contact with them’. The entrance to the monkey park is near the JR Arashiyama station, and it’s about 30 minute-uphill walk from the entrance.

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What is a Ryokan?

Posted on April 12th, 2013 by Rachel Moore

When looking at our tours, you will notice that we often stay at ryokans, instead of  a “western style hotel”.  So what is a ryokan?

Ryokan Entrance

Ryokan Entrance

Well first, so you know how to pronounce it, say it with me: ree-o-kahn. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn.  They are smaller, more quaint, and often more hospitable than your mainstream hotel.  Since our tour groups max out at 16 people, it allows us to have the opportunity to stay at such wonderful facilities. You could almost compare the mannerisms to bed and breakfast lodging that we are used to in Western culture, though the room layout is very different.  The rooms will have traditional tatami (straw) mats on the floor, and you will have your own mattress (similar to a futon mattress) to sleep on.  You can often layer a couple of these mattresses to give yourself a little extra height and/or cushion.  Some ryokans offer a few western-style rooms, but you will need to check with us on the particular tour you are interested in to see if this option is available.  The food is also very wonderful (they can cook for a smaller amount of people, giving their food more attention to detail). The “Kaiseki-style” dinners are a treat for both your tastebuds and your eyes. Everything is delicious and served with excellent presentation. Read the full post »