Mike hiked the trails of the USA’s Colorado Rocky Mountains when he was a child, fostering an appreciation of the outdoors, open skies and beautiful forests.

After graduating from college, he carried his passion for free spirit and nature and trails to Japan where he found himself, by good fortune, in the rural countryside of Wakayama Prefecture teaching English at a small language school. He spoke no Japanese at the time but the friendly, welcoming, easy-going Kumano environment endeared him to the locals, and he stayed.

Mike worked for years in Japan as an English teacher, copy editor, travel article writer, and finally got the chance to put his knowledge of the local trails and history to use becoming a Wakayama prefectural licensed English guide for the UNESCO World Heritage Kumano pilgrimage (one of only two such UNESCO cultural designations for pilgrimage trails on the planet) in 2013, the first year it was offered.

Mike loves not only the people and the forests, but its secrets, its mythology, its goblins, legends and heroes. He loves the way it rains on the cedars, the laughter of the waterfalls, the glint off the roofs of old shrines and temples, the way snakes and frogs and freshwater crabs saunter along the volcanic hills, the way the clouds shroud the hills and rise like dragons in the early morning sun.

And at the end of the day, nothing is better than the taste of locally caught fish and homegrown vegetables and tubers, and to steep in the steaming waters of Japanese onsen hot springs.

Mike loves to share the sacred, ancient heart of Japan, with everyone he can.

In his free time, he has family-time, travel, reading and, for a few years, participation in the local “lion dance” festival, but nothing beats an early start on a good trail.

After more than 20 years living, working, and rearing a family in Japan, Mike is still exploring, still telling stories, still wandering and waiting for the next guest with whom to share a tale or two.

Mike Rhodes