Barren street of Tsumago, mountains and trees.

Hiking from Magome to Tsumago: timeless Japan

Article updated on May 22, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

During the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), an ancient route called the Nakasendō, literally meaning the Central Mountain Route, connected the political capital Edo (today’s Tokyo) to Kyoto, home to the Imperial Palace. Samurais and merchants used to cover its 534 kilometres through mountains and valleys. Today one can still hike the historical trail, its most atmospheric stretch being between the villages of Magome and Tsumago to explore a rare and timeless Japan.

Keep exploring!

Rock eroded by drift ice, Shiretoko Peninsula, Japan.

Road trip in the wild northern island of Japan: Hokkaido

Article updated on May 25, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

While the Japanese train system is excellent and allows to traverse most of the country, driving is essential to explore the more remote areas of Japan, where public transportation is less practical.

Hokkaido is the second largest island of Japan, accounting for about 22% of the territory. The northernmost island is a lot less connected by public transport than Honshu, the Japanese mainland, and renting a car is a great way to explore its wilderness.

Keep travelling!

Wild salmon jumping up against a roaring waterfall, Hokkaido, Japan

Wild salmons of Hokkaido

Article updated on May 20, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Only a curtain of fog separates the Russian Kuril Islands from Japan along the narrow Nemuro Strait bordering the sea of Okhotsk. The Ainu people, an indigenous ethnic group of people who have inhabited Hokkaido (Japan’s second largest and northernmost island) and the Kuril and Sakhalin Islands belonging to Russia since the 13th century, call it sir-etok, literally meaning end of the Earth. Keep travelling!

Delicious home-made dinner with locally-grown ingredients, ryokan, Hokkaido.

Pampered in a ryokan: Japanese hospitality [plus tips & etiquette]

Article updated on May 12, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns. More than a place to sleep, they convey a lifestyle and tradition that is a must to experience for any traveller to Japan. In this article, read about a typical ryokan experience and learn about the etiquette to make your stay a success!

Keep travelling!

Tsukiji fish market and tuna auction [Tokyo]

Article updated on May 25, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

The fish market and tuna auction moved from Tsukiji to its new and sterile Toyosu location. However, there are still over 300 stores and restaurants in Tsukiji that has retained its character. Take a peek at what Tsukiji was like & make sure you visit while in Tokyo…

2:35 a.m. A soft knock followed by “hello, good morning”. I slowly emerge from my capsule. Keep travelling!

Life safety learning center in Tokyo: what to do after an earthquake. Step 1: protect yourself.

Earthquake in Tokyo!

Article updated on May 18, 2020
Text: Claire Lessiau

We are on the 4th floor of a building in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, just a few minutes after arriving in town. Seated at a table, suddenly, the ground under our feet starts shaking. We are hearing screams, the pieces of furniture are moving around Keep travelling!

A monk staring into the clouds from the summit of the sacred Ishizuchi mountain in Japan.

Hiking up a sacred summit of Shikoku: Mount Ishizuchi-san

Article updated on May 11, 2020
Text & photos: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau

A mountain so sacred that for centuries only men were allowed to summit it… Ishizuchi san, the highest mountain of Shikoku and Western Japan remains a very important place of worship and one of the major centres of Shugendō, a sect in-between Shintoism and Buddhism. Many pilgrims climb this mountain that still is forbidden for women every July 1, the first day of the climbing season. Whether you are an avid hiker, curious to see what a place so sacred looks like, there to take in the stunning views, or just up for a challenge, hiking up the sacred Mount Ishizuchi will leave you breathless – literally. Keep hiking!

Road trip on the island of Shikoku, Japan

Article updated on May 25, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

 

While the Japanese train system is excellent and allows to explore most of the country, driving is essential to explore Shikoku, the remote and off-the-beaten path island of Japan, where public transportation is less developed.

The road from Yawatahama, where the ferry from Kyushu lands, to Matsuyama is squeezed between the turquoise waters of the Seto Inland Sea Keep travelling!

Ancient tradition of cormorants fishing (ukai) in Japan: fishermen and cormorants by night.

Cormorant-fishing (ukai) in Shikoku: witnessing a rare tradition

Article updated on May 11, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

The setting sun colours the isles of the Inland Sea as we drive along the northern coastline of the off-the-beaten-path island of Shikoku in Japan. The close-by village of Ozu is one of the rare places where the ancient tradition of cormorant fishing still takes place, on the Hijikawa River. This way of fishing, Keep travelling!

Beautiful view on the forest from the Yamamizuki onsen, Kurokawa, Japan. Experiencing the traditional Japanese spa.

Onsen hopping in Kurokawa, Kyushu, Japan

Article updated on May 19, 2020
Text & photos: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau

In Japan, onsens are natural hot springs. There are many due to the intense volcanic activity of the country, and Kyushu Island specifically is famous for them: Beppu which is no less than the second hot spring district in the world after Yellowstone in flowrate, Yufuin, and Kurokawa are some of the most renown. Keep travelling!

A group of Japanese kids wearing the traditional outfit chats during the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival in Fukuoka, Kyushu

Spectacular festivals of Japan: The Hakata Gion Yamakasa, Fukuoka & more

Article updated on May 15, 2020
Text & photos: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau

Festivals are very important in Japan. In a very fast-paced and ultra-modern country, they are an integrant part of keeping ancient traditions alive and passing them on to younger generations. If they take place throughout the year, the best moment to witness most of them is the summer. Be warned: some are so popular that they make travelling and staying in the hosting cities difficult. Keep travelling!