Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A Heavenly Hike Through Ancient Japan - WSJ

We did this pilgrim's walk in Japan in September 2014 and loved it. 
As Peter Neville-Hadley says in his last sentence: "our reward is a calm and beautiful rural Japan that few foreigners see."
It's a short, stiff climb on steps of tree roots and boulders to Wariji-toge, or Straw Sandals Pass. Here we are, all highly engineered walking boots, high-tech breathable fabrics and wrist-borne health monitors, catching our breath at a spot where pilgrims with few possessions would once have paused just to replace sandals shredded by the climb. Fresh footwear was always available from farmers en route.During the 11th and 12th centuries, Japan's emperors made more than 100 pilgrimages along this route to the Kumano Sanzen, the three great Shinto shrines on Japan's remote Kii Peninsula. At its late-16th-century peak the trek was so popular that "like ants on the Kumano pilgrimage" became a common description of crowds.