Kumano Kodo: The cost of the Walk Japan Kumano Kodo tour for two: $6200. This is with a very favorable exchange rate; the rate helped to encourage us in making our third trip to Japan in 5 years. Overall, much agreement that the tour was as promised.
THB’s view: if you have a choice, this is your first time, would like a bit less walking in the forest, an easier walk (i.e., not as long or hard), and a bit a more time in open countryside and in cute towns geared to tourists, the Nakasendo is preferable.
So much depends on the guide, the size of the tour, who is on the tour, the weather, jet lag or not at the beginning, how long are the days on the trail, what you see each day, and on and on. This is THB’s slightly longer assessment of the Kumano Kodo (KK) tour:
1. What did THB like about the KK? a) Any time in Japan is good time. The shrines and temples and walks make a good excuse to get away from the big cities; b) being tested is a good thing, and THB was very happy with his accomplishment; c) the individuals on the tour were all approachable (if in different ways) and some were over the top supportive and 10 hikers seemed a reasonable number; d) the range of accommodations, from a monastery to a resort hotel, was also a plus (hey, we go to ryokans to get pampered!).
2. What did THB really like about the KK: The Stamps! Any hike loaded with places to get an official THB-was-here stamp is highly rated, worth the detour, extraordinary. The fact that THB had no clue how to match the stamp with the page it belonged on barely registered.
3. What did THB really really like about the KK: The weather! Did THB get lucky or what! The weather was awesome, cool enough during the hikes that you only got overheated from your own exertion.
4. What would make the KK even better: a) Getting in early enough every night to enjoy a soak and pre-dinner drink with the group; b) a bit more walking in farmland or rural towns; c) more time with the guide to discuss all things Japan; d) a sweeper that spoke English; Kyoko was great, except she didn’t speak much English.
Technology: THB was thrilled with the wifi router rental (if expensive) and actually even happier he never had to use the rented phone. Solar farms are more prevalent in the countryside and more bikers in the towns…the opposite of going hi-tech.
Napkins: We got a few real napkins and a lot of paper napkins, which 5 years ago was a never category.
Friendliness: Japan has always been kind to visitors, and the language barrier continues to come down as more and more Japanese speak English. In our first two ryokans the staff was downright cheerful (fully encouraged by YT). At The Earth, the service was impeccable and they also seemed very cheerful.
Last Impressions: Well, after 3 trips in 6 years, maybe THB should take a break from Japan. If all goes well, he will be here for the 2020 Olympics. That’s a long way off! We’ll see, there may be another confluence of big art shows, a good exchange rate, and more new and different areas to explore. The bottom line: Japan is an exotic first world country, which puts it near the top.