Friends of mine, one after another, have been luring me into joining their hiking trips in Japan in recent years.
Their reasons for going there are endless — enchanting trails, breathtaking scenery, excellent security, good food, no hurry to rush home, and so on.
Eureka! Absolutely right! Few years back I was walking up Mount Takao in Kyoto in autumn. It was so lovely to walk beneath those lovely fall maple trees. I wasn’t feeling tired at all.
In the middle of nowhere the ancient Buddhist Jingoji Temple appeared before my eyes. I felt much strengthened after visiting the peaceful spiritual site.
For travelers, I would advise that such trip would be more heavenly if it is not undertaken in the maple season when the mountain is full of walkers.
Lately I made a trip to Nara’s Mount Yoshino, which is the most renowned spot for viewing Japan’s cherry blossoms.
My itinerary this time happened to fit into the time after the peak bloom of the blossom. I was so thrilled to see the place swarming with fewer tourists.
For those wanting a rural experience, let me warn that Mount Yoshino gets big crowds again for autumn leaves viewing. Sometimes, the place can get as busy as Mong Kok streets in Hong kong during holidays.
Try your best to skip breakfast at your hotel when going hiking. Between the carpark and the starting point of the trail, I found many shops, food stalls and small tea houses.
With an empty stomach, you can fill yourself with wonderful local delicacies like stewed mushrooms, sushi, barbecue-grilled sweetfish, fresh bamboo shoots, tofu and soybean milk.
The prices were higher in these touristy areas, I bet, but never mind, the Japanese shops were still charging more reasonably than what Hong Kong shopkeepers would do in a similar situation.
More than anything else, hiking at Mount Yoshino was a perfect soul-cleansing opportunity.
While there, my top priority was to eat Mount Yoshino-grown kudzu. I had learned that the plant, from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, can help clear heat from the body and have strong medicinal effect on the digestive and circulatory systems.
The root of kudzu would be ground into kuzuko, a kind of starch powder dubbed as “longevity powder” in Japan. It is also an important ingredient in the cuisine.
For example, kuzumochi are transparent or cloudy white mochi cakes that are made of kuzuko and have a similar texture like konnyaku jelly. It is served chilled and topped with kinako, also known as roasted soybean flour. It is a perfect match to have the dessert accompanied by a cup of matcha or hojicha.
Another popular dish is kudzu starch noodles with kuromitsu, or brown sugar syrup.
During my trip, I found myself enjoying kudzu dessert dishes inside a small tea house on a cliff. The zen music was so relaxing and I felt calm and quiet as my mind and gut were thoroughly purified.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 17
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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