June: Fresh Green
June 01, 2022
Bringing lush greenery to the views of Japan, shady forests and riverside walks are the perfect refreshment as the days get warmer. Whether visitors want to climb high along mountain roads or wander deep into ancient forests, the opportunity to breathe in the scent of growing leaves and sprouting grass is truly revitalizing.
In Wakayama prefecture, the Kumano Kodo is a network of pilgrimage trails with centuries of spiritual significance. Kodo means ‘old ways’ and refers to the routes used by generations of pilgrims visiting the sacred areas of the mountain range. Perhaps the most well-known of the area’s three main shrines, Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine is the home of the symbolic red pagoda backed by the impressive Nachi Waterfall. The trails form a part of the spiritual experience and were often very challenging, with pilgrims tested on their route to worship. Today, the routes are much more manageable, with many paved sections and transport options between them, like a special bus or rental bicycles. Stepping among the towering cedar trees is an almost other-worldly experience, with the significance of their history impossible to ignore. Visitors can choose to hike small or longer parts of the trails, with an opportunity to try shinrinyoku, the art of forest bathing, possible in the quiet routes. Focused on connecting with nature and truly experiencing its presence without distraction, the relatively recent art is good for mind, body and soul.
After a day’s walking, there are a delicious variety of local dishes to try. For the religious experience, many temples offer shojin-ryori: a simple vegetarian cuisine created to enhance the spiritual focus of both the chef and the diner. Another ancient option is mehari-zushi: a simple rice ball wrapped in pickled mustard leaf, called takana in Japanese. Considered to be Japan’s first fast-food, it was a great portable snack and is vegetarian. Alternatively, Wakayama Ramen is a popular noodle dish, with each shop creating its own style but often using pork broth and the local soy sauce. The nearby town of Yuasa is believed to be the home of Japanese soy sauce, and its rich depth adds an incredible flavor to the delicious noodles.
Further northeast in Toyama Prefecture, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a surprising summer highlight. Breathing new life into the famously snowy scenes, the warm weather brings rushing rivers, green hillsides and an incredible array of flora and fauna.
A popular sight is the melted snow water rushing from the lake held by the Kurobe Dam, best viewed from the many Murodo area hiking routes. The impressive scene has been recreated in a local dish—Kurobe Dam Curry. Made with spinach to reflect the emerald green waters and with rice shaped carefully into an arch, it is a delicious dedication to the view and is available at the rest house closest to the dam as well as many local restaurants.
With views of the Tateyama mountains in the background, the Mikurigaike route also offers impressive views of Mt. Tateyama on the pristine surface of the lake. In June, snow is often still visible in this area, offering an unusual contrast between the fresh greenery of summer and the pure white of winter. Another popular area is Shomyo Falls, the tallest waterfall in Japan. At 350m it is breathtaking, with the appearance of the 500m Hannoki Falls during the snowmelt season. The surrounding gorge is a nature lover’s haven, and for a higher view, the Tateyama Caldera Observatory is a half-hour drive, with stunning views along the way. For those seeking the snow, it is still possible to visit the Otani snow wall, with the long-running local festival held until late June. Still over 10m tall, the snow wall is free to visit during this season and is considerably less crowded, with a special walking section available.
The local dish of Toyama Black Ramen is a hearty filler making use of an unusually strong soy sauce broth. Despite the intense coloring, the dish can actually be remarkably light in flavor, like the recipe of Ramen Iroha where fish broth brings a lightness to the dish. The winner of Tokyo’s annual ramen competition for five times, their Toyama Black Ramen is a dish worth trying after a day of intensely beautiful views.
Opening up ice-covered paths and bringing greenery to the inner depths of ancient forests, June is a month to travel deep into Japan. Whether it provides a chance to forest-bathe and relax into nature or to be amazed by the striking waterfalls and stunning contrast of snow and greenery, it will bring a fresh perspective and leave long memories of Japan.
For more details, contact DMC Japan to discuss ideas, locations and rates.