See a different side of Japan on these walking tours


  • Travel
  • Friday, 25 Oct 2019

Travellers on the Kunisaki and Yufuin Walk, which overlooks the Seto Inland Sea. Photos: Walk Japan

A good way to explore the Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita, Japan is to go on a walking tour. Walk Japan offers such tours, focusing on lesser-known regions in the country.

Nestled on the island of Kyushu, the Kunisaki Peninsula is relatively undiscovered. This quiet haven is largely untouched by the modern world. For many centuries, it was an important centre of Shugendo – an amalgamation of the indigenous, animistic Shinto religion and Buddhism, which came from China and Korea. Although Kunisaki’s once powerful religious institutions are gone, the region is still dotted with temples and wayside shrines.

There are three walks worth checking out and each of them includes enriching experiences with Walk Japan’s community project.

This long-term sustainability project established in 2007 includes providing local employment, undertaking farming and forestry, refurbishing empty properties into accommodation or offices to give them with a new lease on life, maintaining communal land, creating and sponsoring community events and encouraging travellers to visit the area.

It is led by Osaka-born Takahiro Ito who gained an interest in sustainable tourism development and community revitalisation when he visited the rural region of Surin in Thailand.

Kunisaki and Yufuin Walk

Touinryo Gallery, an old sake brewery that has been restored and given a new lease of life as a gallery and cafe, is one of the sites visited during the Kunisaki and Yufuin Walk.
Kawanaka Fudo is a giant rock carved with Buddhist deities set in the river, seen during the Kunisaki and Yufuin Walk.

This five-day, four-night tour starts at Fukuoka’s Hakata Station and ends at Yufuin.

The fully-guided tour focuses mainly on forest trails and provides an introduction to the Kunisaki Peninsula and Yufuin, one of Japan’s elegant onsen thermal hot spring resorts. It focuses mainly on forest trails and follows in the footsteps of monks who have walked the mountains for more than 1,200 years. The ancient walking trails pass through sleepy hamlets and verdant forests, along craggy ridges and tower over surrounding valleys.

Travellers will get to meet local farmers and spend time chatting with them.

They will also pass by stone Buddha statues of various sizes and caves where monks once found shelter and meditated.

Some highlights include the Usa Jingu shrine, Tashibu, a village in a bucolic setting, as well as climbs to two ancient Buddha relief carvings on the face of a towering cliff.

Travellers will have the opportunity to stay at two different inns and experience onsen thermal hot spring baths. One is adjacent to Fuki-ji, one of Japan’s most beautiful temples.

This is a Level Two walk which means that participants must be in good health and able to handle their own luggage, climb stairs and walk approximately 10km each day. Walks last between two and four hours.

Kunisaki Retreat

walking
Yoga session in progress during the Kunisaki Retreat.

This seven-day, six-night tour starts at Hakata Station, Fukuoka, and finishes at Usa Station on the Kunisaki Peninsula.

This mind and body tour of Serene Kunisaki focuses on spiritual well-being where travellers get to enjoy Japan in a relaxed fashion while interacting with the friendly people. Travellers can participate in yoga and meditation sessions as well as stroll through rural scenery each day. On most mornings, the young abbot of Fuki-ji leads a meditation session, and a local instructor also leads daily sessions of yoga and other forms of bodyworks.

Healthy meals are based on local produce and include rice, soba, soybeans, wheat, vegetables and fruit, as well as locally-caught fish.

This tour also includes activities such as soba making, ikebana flower arranging, Japanese taiko drum playing, and taking part in a chado tea ceremony.

This is a Level One walk so participants must be in reasonable health and able to walk up to 5km each day. Public transport and private-hire vehicles are also used.

Kunisaki Trek

Cherry blossoms at Iwatoji Temple during the Kunisaki Trek.
A sanmon gate, the most important gate of a Japanese Zen Buddhist temple, seen during the Kunisaki Trek.

This 10-day, nine-night tour that starts in Fukuoka and finishes in Yufuin is designed for experienced trekkers. The route follows in the footsteps of monks who have walked through the mountains of the Kunisaki Peninsula for more than a thousand years. Mine-iri is the practice of traversing sacred mountains in prayer and has been a part of religious life in Kunisaki since the ninth century. Although rare, this is one of the places where it still occurs. The route takes travellers through ancient trails with stone Buddha statues, forests, towering cliffs and caves. It concludes in Yufuin, a small upmarket town sheltered by the imposing dormant volcano, Mount Yufu-dake.

Many onsen hot springs and ryokans are found here.

This is a Level Four walk. Participants must be in good health and used to a reasonably active lifestyle. They must be able to walk between 15km and 25km each day. Daily walks last between four and six hours.

For more information, visit walkjapan.com/.


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