Having survived the harsh sun and rain of the first two days, we next set off for our motorbike adventure deep in the mountains of Nara Prefecture! On the way there we decided to stop at the famous cemetery in Koyasan and also make our way to some viewpoints so we could experiment with skyline photography. I had a lot of fun testing out the Canon EOS M I was lent for this trip and it turned out to be quite the relaxing day. Though some of the parts of the mountain were steep, they were overall smooth and easy to ride on. The main motivation for riding here was the luxury ryokan awaiting us upon completion of this trail. This trip was going by so fast that I couldn’t believe it was halfway over…
For the introduction and full context of this trip, please see Day 1 (From Tokyo to Ise) and Day 2 (From Mihama Beach to Kawayu Onsen).
The 3rd day began on August 3rd at 6:30am. I took one last dip in the river onsen before we departed because it was the perfect way to start the day. We definitely got our money’s worth at Kawayu Ryokan! Our original plan was to go to Awaji Island on this day but due to the rain our itinerary changed. Tonight our final destination was a ryokan designed by a famous architect in the mountains of Nara (Yoshinoyama) which took approximately 4 hours to reach (with breaks included). We decided to spend more time in Wakayama and see some extremely rare sites that are only accessible by vehicle while making our way through the deep mountain paths.
Our updated map travel map looked like this:
Mt. Tamaki & Tamakijinja ShrineYakushima. How nostalgic.
We next walked 15 minutes to the World Heritage Site of Tamakijinja Shrine. The area was partially shaded by foliage so it was an easy hike. The morning breeze felt lovely too.
Tanize Suspension Bridge
Other than the bridge, there’s really not a lot to do here. But I did try some strange-looking sushi wrapped in cabbage because that’s apparently the specialty here. It was vegetarian-friendly and quite healthy. The taste was a bit different than what I was used to but it gave me the energy I needed to power through the rest of this day:
This is a place that I would not normally choose to go by myself because I am not religious or that well-versed in history, but my driver guided me through it which made the experience a lot more enriching. A curious thing that I noticed here was that many statues were wearing red bibs. I asked my driver why, and he didn’t know off the top of his head so we both researched it while we were resting.
According to Tadaima Japan, these statues are called Jizo and have two main roles:
“Their main role is to protect children. They also protect the souls of children who passed away and unborn babies. […] The other main role of Jizo is to protect the travelers, which is why you will often find Jizo statues on the side of the roads.”
I’ve seen these statues before in other areas of Japan, but I never understood the true symbolism until now. It makes sense that parents would want to wish a safe journey to their children in the afterlife by praying to Jizo. I’ve also encountered some in my mountain hikes and am glad that they are watching over me. Koyasan is a really great place to learn more about these kinds of subjects if you are interested.
After cooling off at the rest center here, we took a 2 hour ride towards Yoshinoyama to reach our final destination for the day:
Chikurin-in Gumpeon RyokanChikurin-in Gumpeon ryokan in Yoshinoyama. This ryokan was originally a temple that housed high-ranking monks who appraised the mountain. The former Emperor of Japan, Hirohito, has even stayed here! Now it servers as a famous hotspring resort that is open to the public but much of the original architecture has been preserved. A famous ikebana artist designed the garden outside and you can tell that a lot of articulate work was put into the aesthetic here. Due to the pandemic, there was only one other guest staying at the time so we got upgraded to a family room for free. That is literally the best hospitality we could have asked for. It really was an honor staying here!
Here is a video tour of our upgraded family room. This is hands-down the most fancy resort that I have every stayed at and I am eternally grateful to my sponsor for the trip:
Since the sun was going down and we were starving, we grabbed a healthy meal from a restaurant across the street. The roads of Yoshinoyama are extremely narrow but you can easily find food and drinks near wherever you are staying. Just be careful because some places close around 6pm. This area designed for relaxing at your hotspring and is remote from the city so I recommend staying here overnight. You will thank yourself later.
At this point we were exhausted and headed off to bed in our family-size ryokan, but I will be writing more about this area in my next and final article of this series!
Day 3 Itinerary: 80% Completion
It’s hard to score our completion due to us completely skipping over Awaji Island, but in hindsight I’m happy we did. This was a full day that was packed with activity so I give us another 80%. This gave us more time to explore the mountains of Nara and area around our famed ryokan. Had we gone to Awaji, we would have missed out on seeing the shrines and learning about the history of Koyasan. The best thing is that we agreed to go to Awaji on another trip over dinner so we wouldn’t be rushed with our activities. That is the perfect compromise!
I will be writing my final article tomorrow as soon as I wake up. Thank you to everyone that has been reading and supporting me! There are many more adventures to come.