Japan's fascinating culture is one of the main reasons to visit but sometimes the culture can seem a little impenetrable to outsiders and it is easy to make some cultural blunders on your first visit. Don't worry though as Japanese people do not expect outsiders to be aware of all the complex cultural rules they abide by and allowances are made. However, some basics are expected to be followed - the two main 'danger areas' concern footwear and bathing. If you get them wrong, can cause great offence so please read on!
Always remove your shoes when entering someone's home / guesthouse and leave in the baskets or shelves provided at the entrance. It’s customary to change into the slippers provided when entering a Japanese home or a guesthouse, and not uncommon in traditional restaurants, temples and, occasionally, in museums and art galleries. If you come across a slightly raised floor and a row of slippers, then use them; leave your shoes either on the lower floor (the genkan) or on the shelves (sometimes lockers) provided. Also, try not to step on the genkan with bare or stockinged feet. Once inside, remove your slippers before stepping onto tatami, the rice-straw flooring, and remember to change into the special toilet slippers if provided when entering the toilet/bathroom.
Read more about other cultural pointers in Japan: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/japan/culture-etiquette/#ixzz3G0EkgwQq
The best time to trek the Kumano Kodo really depends on what you like and what you are looking for. The Kumano Kodo trail can be walked year round but the weather does vary quite dramatically depending on when you go.
March / April is spring and an extremely popular time to go as it is cherry blossom season in Japan. October / November is also a popular time to visit as it is autumn and the colours throughout the forest are stunning. In spring and autumn, you can expect daytime temperatures of around 10-15C. May and September are also lovely months to visit with warmer and longer days - daytime temperatures range between 18-24C. June / July / August is summer so you can expect much more humidity and higher rainfall but on the other hand scenery is beautifully green and verdant.
During summer you can expect up to 25-30C in temperature. December / January / February is winter and there is a small chance of snow on the Nakahechi route. Trails are open year round but due to the cool weather and reduced hours of daylight we recommend this time of year for experienced trekkers only. Most accommodations close during the Christmas and New Year's holiday period.
Kii-Peninsula is one of the wettest areas of mainland Japan and you should be prepared for some rain year round and bring adequate rain gear. Please note that the period when you are most likely to experience Typhoons is during August - early October period and if a Typhoon makes landfall on the mainland then there is often disruption to travel plans as all transport shuts down during a Typhoon and people stay indoors. Depending on the damage caused there may also be temporary trail closures - though usually things return to normal fairly quickly. If you are travelling with RAW Travel we will keep in touch with you about Typhoon events and assist with any changes to the walk and your travel plans.
Walking the Kumano Kodo is similar to preparing for any multi-day walk, with the exception that your wet weather gear may be needed more frequently!
This is just a suggested packing list:
- Blister kit, rehydration salts, first aid kit, any personal medication you use and mosquito repellant
- Alarm clock and LED head torch/flashlight
- Water bottles or hydration pack (1-2 litres recommended)
- Sunscreen, hat and high UV sunglasses
- Comfortable daypack (if taking luggage transfers on RAW Travel trip)
- Waterproof bags for rain protection while walking
- Well worn in boots with ankle support
- Several pairs of walking socks
- T-shirts (lightweight quick drying tec fabric) or long sleeved trekking shirts
- 2 pairs of shorts and at least one lightweight trousers
- Warm fleece, sweater, hat, gloves (colder months of Feb- March, October- November)
- Waterproof & breathable jacket and overtrousers - essential as this is the wettest part of Japan
- Walking poles - good for balance, stability & taking weight off your knees on descents
- Snacks that you'd normally bring on a hike
- Optional: umbrella!