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Tips on Travel: Ready, Set, Go, Time to Visit Japan

Japan is wonderful. The people are friendly. The landscape is beautiful. The food fantastic. The history fascinating. The culture captivating. In the past year I have had the good fortune to visit several times. As I traveled in large cities and out in the heartland, I jotted down some tips to help when you travel to Japan.


ENGLISH LANGUAGE FRIENDLY
As Japan prepares for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Summer Olympics, English language signs can now be found in the subway and railway systems. In busy transit centers in the cities, uniformed guides are also available to help English speaking travelers.

That being said, if you want to explore the heartland outside of the major cities, Japan is not especially easy for English-speaking travelers. If you have the resources, it is best to hire an English speaking guide and, if possible, a driver.
When looking for a guide, understand there is a vast difference between “English proficient” and “English fluent” guides. Ideally you want a gu…

Hike a Forested Pilgrimage Trail and Escape to a Hidden Shrine in Japan’s Mie Prefecture

I’ve been writing a lot about the Japan I have come to love, the Japan outside of Tokyo and Kyoto, the Japan of the heartland prefectures.

For my latest trip, I visited the Shoryudo Region of Honshū, Japan’s main island. Made up of nine prefectures stretching between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, Shoryudo is known for its rich agricultural land, spiritual landscapes and majestic mountains, including the iconic Mt. Fuji.


I explored Mie Prefecture on the eastern edge of the region. Bordering the Pacific Ocean and Ise Bay, the prefecture is home to pilgrimage trails that cut through ancient forests and lead to the most famous Shinto shrines in Japan.
The Route Magose-toge Pass on the Kumano Kodo Iseji Route
Trucks and cars jockeyed for position as they sped up the steep hill on busy Route 42 (Kumano Kaido). We pulled off the highway as quickly as we could to avoid the traffic and parked at a trailhead where there was room for about a dozen cars.
During Japan’s feudal era, travel b…