"The air was humid, the road was rocky, and the path just seemed to keep going uphill. I was hiking Japan’s “Samurai Trail” (on Mountain Travel Sobek’s Walking Japan trip) but I felt like a peasant. Sweaty, thirsty, dust-covered, I arrived with my group at the village of Hirasawa, a drab collection of concrete buildings linked by a tangle of telephone wires. It hardly seemed the right reward for a difficult day of hiking. Little did I know this unassuming destination would become a surprise highlight of our trip, a gold-medal payoff we’d be talking about for years."