Wonders of Japan
  • Japan Is Actually Not That Beautiful and That Is Why I Love It

    Oct 2022

    I love Japan and I love living in Japan even more. But I do not think that Japan is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. It does not compare to countries like Switzerland, New Zealand or Norway in terms of the majestic and picture perfect scenery. It is not a country where the surroundings are so flawless that you may often think of yourself as a character in a Tolkien novel or even in a Miyazaki anime. Japan is a country where the love for concrete is strong.

  • Journey to Goto Islands and Beyond: a Matter of Faith or Religion?

    May 2022

    When I first watched the movie Silence by Martin Scorsese, the only thing that I could think of—besides the oppressing but wildly beautiful scenery—was "trample, trample, please just trample." Why would not people, the Hidden Christians of Japan, just step on the fumi-e, carved stone featuring the image of Jesus Christ or Virgin Mary, to avoid death by torture? Were these symbolic gestures linked to religion or renunciation of it more important than human life?

  • Letters from Japan – Autumn 2022

    Sep 2022

    After a long but a very long wait - 2.5 years - Japanese government has finally decided to re-welcome the foreign visitors without any visa, tour group or a guide requirement if you are from a country, which was included in a visa waiver list prior to COVID-19 Pandemic. 

  • Daisetsuzan Hikes: Asahidake to Naka Dake Loop Hike

    Aug 2021

    Daisetsuzan National Park is the largest national park in Japan and home to Hokkaidos`s highest mountain - Asahidake. I spent five days in the park exploring the various trails each with a unique but equally splendid scenery.

  • Yakushima: Land of Beautiful Hikes

    Apr 2021

    Planning a trip to Yakushima is very easy thanks to the abundance of the high quality websites focusing on the island and its hiking trails. Even a quick browse through those various sites is sufficient to ensure you that Yakushima is the right choice as the sense of attachment the page owners feel to this mystical island jumps out of almost every page of their websites.

Featured Articles
  • The Outer World: Cappadocia of Turkey

    Apr 2022

    I don`t want to go to Cappadocia – said no one ever. Cappadocia is my favorite region in Turkey that I visited more than ten times. It is home to valleys, hundreds of ancient churches and intriguing rock formations shaped by volcanic activity. The dramatic landscape of Cappadocia is a result of volcanic activity but what truly makes it special is the remains from the earlier civilizations in the region that are today still present in all their glory and open to visitors. You can visit churches carved into stone by early Christian communities, underground cities and endless valleys.

  • Best Books About Tech Start-Ups and Their Origin Stories

    Jul 2022

    Books about the origin stories of some of the most influential tech start-ups of our generation always make for a thrilling and fun read with the drama that they involve.

  • Farewell to Fuji – Back to Canon

    Aug 2020

    Farewell to Fuji, I today sold my X-Pro II and lens set - my main camera for the last 4.5 years and probably the most beautifully designed camera ever but if we can talk of chemistry between cameras and humans, we sure did not have it. I went back to my old full frame Canon.

  • I Don’t Like Airbnb

    Apr 2021

    This may be my most controversial post up to date as I will declare something that will be despised by many independent travelers and which will turn me into a less cool person immediately: I don’t like Airbnb. I would prefer staying at Hilton (even worse – probably even at Holiday Inn or Travelodge or Ibis) rather than staying at an Airbnb place. I prefer most of the hostels/hotels over an Airbnb apartment.

  • Books About Everest: In the Footsteps of Modern Day Explorers

    May 2021

    I enjoy reading any book that I get my hands on on Mt. Everest. Something has always kept me extremely interested in the highest place on Earth. It started long before my visit to Nepal nearly a decade ago. I was always amazed with the personal stories of sherpas and the non-professional climbers whose desire to conquer the highest place in the World seems to lie somewhere between obsession and reasonable ambition.

Destination Tips
  • Shikoku Pilgrimage Route covering 88 Temples is one of the best known pilgrimages in the world along with Camino de Santiago. The route covers all four prefectures of Shikoku, namely Tokushima, Kochi, Kagawa and Ehime and takes on average 6-8 weeks to complete.

  • Although the temples are biggest draw of Shikoku Pilgrimage Route, I think the small towns along the route are at least equally rewarding, if not more. Some of the towns along the course offering a good range of accommodation and dining facilities in a cozy small town environment are Aki, Sukaki and Ashizuri in Kochi Prefecture and Hiwasa in Tokushima Prefecture.

  • The accommodation along Shikoku Pilgrimage Route is one of the most discussed topics in relation to this journey. There are all types of facilities along the route including free temple stays (tsuyado) or locally funded accommodation (zenkonyado), paid temple stays (shukubo) and various other paid categories ranging from hostels to high-end hotels. Here are some of my accommodation suggestions suitable for o-henro/pilgrims all located in Tokushima and Kochi prefectures. 

    Kochi no Ya located in Aki in Kochi Prefecture, Ichi the Hostel in Hiwasa and Shimanto Riverside Hideaway near Shimanto were among my favorite stops along the Shikoku Pilgrimage Route.

  • Shikoku is the only island in Japan not served by country`s high speed rail system – Shinkansen. However, the island is served by many airports in addition to fairly well established local train network making up for the lack of high speed rail. You can read more about your options on how to get to Shikoku in my related post. 

  • While keeping your luggage is essential to fully enjoy the walking experience in Shikoku, there is still nothing better than reading a few pages after a long day of walking to relax before you shut your eyes for the night. The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue is a wonderful account of a century old pilgrimage by a young women in Japan that makes a great companion for your walk.

  • If you will be covering only parts of Shikoku Pilgrimage Route, one not so expensive way of reducing the weight of your luggage is to use TA-Q-BIN services offered by Yamoto Transport. with TA-Q-BIN you can send your luggage/heavier pack between any destination for relatively low rates starting at 1000 Yen. I often benefit from this service during most of my travels in Japan. I pack one smaller bag with two days worth of staff and a bigger one that I move around with TA-Q-BIN between my main stops.

  • Hiwasa town in Tokushima makes a perfect base to explore some of the most scenic temples along the routes. The town is easily accessible by train from Tokushima (served by an airport) – Hiwasa town hosts Temple # 23 – Yakuoji. It is a small town by the ocean, which no longer feels sleepy thanks to the young entrepreuners reviving the tourism scene.

    There are two hostels in the town opened by young Japanese who moved into the town from big cities of Japan. Both hostels had their own pub or cafe section which attracted not only visitors but also locals in the evening. There are also good range of eateries. I unfortunately only spent one night here but I definitely want to return for more. It is also the gateway to famous Minamiawa Sunline Route (that I walked the next day) which will take you to Minami town in less than 4 hours (on foot) following the Pacific Ocean and great views all through the way. It is a vehicle route but the traffic level is usually very low.

    More about small towns along Shikoku Pilgrimage Route.

Where To Sleep

My Favorite Hostels in Japan

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Japan to Reopen Its Borders!

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Accommodation Along Shikoku Pilgrimage Route

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I Don`t Like Airbnb

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About Me

I am Burcu. I was born in a town of chemical engineers— including both my parents—near Istanbul on the winter solstice of 1980. I think this has a lot to do with my undying love for winters and cold destinations such as Norway, Alaska, and Hokkaido, but it hardly explains why I am asleep by 9 pm every night. I spent most of my youth in Istanbul, first at a boarding school and then with family, although I was also fortunate enough to spend few years of high school and university abroad, at an age young enough to admire other cultures, places and people before prejudices sink in and the world goes crazy. As for the job department, I am a lawyer and, after spending thirteen years in a law office, I now have a part-time arrangement that allows me location independence and happily live in Japan. In my blog, you will read a lot about Japan, Norway, and Switzerland—three of my favorite destinations with astounding nature. I also write articles for magazines and websites

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Favorite Travel Habit

If I am in a city, I love to walk around during morning rush hour. That is the only time a city cannot hide its truth and pretend to be nicer than it is. I am sorry to report but Istanbul that you see during rush hour (ouch!) is what living in Istanbul feels like.

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Hotels or Airbnb?

Definitely hotels. I like the transitional feel at hotels, that temporariness. It makes me feel lighter. Airbnb on the other hand makes me feel suffocated being surrounded by someone else`s life/decoration choices. I wrote more about Why I Don`t like Airbnb. Another post inspired by my love of hotels/hostels is the Favorite Hotel/Hostels list.

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Favorite Destinations

Japan, Norway, China, Alaska and Switzerland and I think Barcelona is overrated whereas Germany does not get what it deserves as a travel destination.

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Where I live

Well, not in a bathtub or in an onsen but you probably still get the clue – in Japan. More specifically in Tokyo, in one of its very laid back eastern wards, Shibamata of Katsushika where the wonderful Mizumoto Park is located. I love it.

More Japan Destinations
  • Letters from Japan – Spring 2022

    Jul 2022

    Good afternoon, happy belated Ramadan to all who celebrate and to my home. I love all the events surrounding Ramadan and what, at least once, the season culturally meant for my country.

  • Cape Ashizuri in Shikoku: Japan`s Wild Cape and Most Beautiful Temple

    Feb 2022

    We have a long trip from Tokyo to Cape Ashizuri, or Ashizuri Misaki in Japanese. We first need to take the plane followed by a hopefully scenic train journey before we get on the car for the final leg.  We barely make it to our plane out of Narita bound for Kochi due to the train line suspensions caused by power outage.

  • Aoni Onsen in Aomori

    Nov 2020

    If it was not for the promise of surrounding fall colors and an onsen only lit up with oil lamps, I would not find my way to the wonderful Aoni Onsen in Aomori and finally connect with the onsen experience. Aoni Onsen was like a scene from one of the novels of Tanazaki with its very traditional feel with each guest perfectly playing the part.

  • A Different Japan – All White This Time

    Jan 2015

    You are probably familiar with Hokkaido if you are a Murakami fan. That is the region in Japan that Murakami’s characters will either think of or actually travel up to just to leave behind the busy Tokyo. I can now understand why Hokkaido is always mentioned in Murakami’s books in one way or other. Anyone who has been to Hokkaido and who is emerged in some sort of art form or literature would probably not be able to get that place out of their minds.

  • Shikoku Accommodation

    Apr 2021

    The accommodation along Shikoku Pilgrimage Route is one of the most discussed topics in relation to this journey. Along the route, there are various types of accommodation including free temple (tsuyado) or locally funded accommodation (zenkonyado), paid temple accommodation (shukubo) and various other paid categories ranging from hostels to high end hotels.

  • Walking Kumano Kodo: UNESCO World Heritage

    Mar 2021

    It is 5 am in the morning. I will shortly start hearing the footsteps of the monks and their students. The preparations for the morning pray start at 5.30 am. The prayer room, which is decorated with hundreds of lanterns, needs to be heated up.  The temple where I am lodging in is located in the temple town of Koyasan sitting at the altitude of 800 metres surrounded by the eight peaks of Mount Koya. Joki-in Temple is among 117 Buddhist temples of Koyasan. 52 of these temples, which all belong to Shingon school of Buddhism - originally born in China and introduced to Japan by Kobo Daishi 1200 years ago - open their door to overnight visitors.

Explore More
  • Gobekli Tepe: Interview with Excavation Team

    Apr 2021

    There is no question that Turkey is an archeological wonder and home to magnificent sites such as Ephesus and Pergamon in the Agean region. While we are very proud for hosting such extraordinary sites on our own soil, we are never short of imagination and the ability to “manufacture” stories associated with these sites. I reached out to German archeologist Jens Notroff, who is part of the crew of the archeologists running the Tepe Telegrams to discuss the story of Gobekli Tepe.

  • Farewell to Fuji – Back to Canon

    Aug 2020

    Farewell to Fuji, I today sold my X-Pro II and lens set - my main camera for the last 4.5 years and probably the most beautifully designed camera ever but if we can talk of chemistry between cameras and humans, we sure did not have it. I went back to my old full frame Canon.

  • New Orleans: City of Ghosts and Jazz

    Apr 2018

    New Orleans is a city, which is much older than its own country. This makes perfect sense once you get to spend a few days in this amazing city that is geographically and politically part of USA but is mentally million miles away.

  • The Outer World: Cappadocia of Turkey

    Apr 2022

    I don`t want to go to Cappadocia – said no one ever. Cappadocia is my favorite region in Turkey that I visited more than ten times. It is home to valleys, hundreds of ancient churches and intriguing rock formations shaped by volcanic activity. The dramatic landscape of Cappadocia is a result of volcanic activity but what truly makes it special is the remains from the earlier civilizations in the region that are today still present in all their glory and open to visitors. You can visit churches carved into stone by early Christian communities, underground cities and endless valleys.

  • Urfa and Göbekli Tepe – the Hill That Changed the History

    Jan 2016

    This time, the reason I wanted to visit southeastern Turkey, which I find more and more impressive with each trip, was to visit the Göbekli Tepe Archaeological Site, widely regarded as one of the biggest archaeological discoveries of recent times. On our drive out of the nearby city of Urfa, I keep asking, “Is this it?” every time we pass a hill, until we finally arrive at the picturesque historical site situated on a lowland.

  • Beijing: Silently Rewarding, Relentlessly Commanding

    Jun 2013

    Beijing is loud, quite, funky, serene, poor, rich, modern, undeveloped, over--developed, dirty, green, it is everything all at the same time. It made me feel so alive.

  • Dancing in Kenya

    May 2021

    It has been almost two years since one of my best friends whom I have known since age 11 and I went to Kenya. I have posted numerous photos but never wrote a proper post. So here we go. The idea of going to Masai Mara in Kenya got into me when I was traveling in a region which is the complete opposite of Kenya: Alaska. I still remember the moment when I was riding on a bus in Denali National Park (certain areas are only accessible via buses in order to protect the wildlife - Nat Geo of this month (Feb 2016) has an amazing article on this very specific point).