熊野古道大雲取越 Kumanokodo Ogumotorigoe Day 5

Thursday, the 7th of October 2021. 


It had rained earlier, and a patch of blue sky appeared with the morning sunlight, and mountains were exhaling mist.

Just 500 meters from the accommodation, steep stairs suddenly appeared at the side of the road. There was always an invisible border or barrier between the regular tar road and the trail. With one deep breath and a firm poke of my stick into the ground, I crossed the border. Endless green stairs followed, one after another, gradually leading into the clouds. It was quiet, the only sound I could hear, was movement of myself. I felt that I was inhaling the fog, and my body was perspiring, making the fog even thicker. There were several rest areas, but I did not take a break as the benches were either damp or in poor condition, so I continued walking. I lost track of my altitude and sense of time until I reached the viewpoint, Funamijyaya. It must offer a magnificent view of the sea on clear, sunny days, but all I could see were clouds. The bench there was also in bad condition, therefore I did not stop for a break either. Afterward, the trail descended, and while I typically descend quickly on trails, stairs are a different story. Descending stairs is quite challenging for my feet, so I tried to walk alongside them as much as possible.

The trail eventually merged with a road and entered a large park with a spacious car park. There were hardly any people around, I finally decided to take a lunch break as I could see decent benches there. After lunch, I walked through the park and re-entered the trail briefly before reaching Nachi. Whenever I hear the name “Nachi” and see the symbol of a Buddhist temple, my inner childish dark side conjures images of Dr. Strangelove, Peter Sellers. The iconic three-storied pagoda and Nachi Falls came into view. Clouds were moving swiftly on the mountain above, and I was walking beyond those mountains. Thankfully, I didn’t get lost or end up on the other side of the waterfall.

At Kumano Nachi Taisha, I saw a Miko dance. Miko are female workers for the shrine, and I can not quite describe those music and dance whether it could call it rhythm, speed, or slowness, it is unique tempo. That is a ritual they perform at specific times of the day. However, I rarely have the opportunity to witness these dance, which is intended for the gods and the otherworldly.

After spending some time on a bench in the shrine, I decided to walk to Katsuura. I didn’t have a clear plan for what I was going to do, I had contemplated taking a train from Katsuura to the Shingu area, perhaps even having bit of splash at the beach, but I wasn’t sure if I’d make it in time for the infrequent trains. I could have taken a bus since it was no longer a trail but simply a road. However, having become accustomed to walking, I didn’t feel like checking the bus schedule and waiting. Therefore, I made the choice to spend the night Katsuura.

Kumanokodo Ogumotorigoe.  27.08km Katsuura





View from the room where I stayed in Katsuura

熊野古道小雲取越 Kumanokodo kogumotorigoe Day 4

Wednesday, the 6th of October 2021

kumanokodo Yunomine onsen

Breakfast was rice porridge and pickles. As soon as I left the hostel and stepped onto the street, I was greeted by a mystical sight. The steam rising from the hot spring river merged with the morning mist from the mountains, creating an enchanting atmosphere.

Opting for a shortcut from Yunomine Onsen to Kokumotorigoe Pass via Kawayu Onsen, instead of going back to Hongu area via Dainichigoe. I found the Kawayu area to be even more mystical. Hot spring water gushed from the white gravel in the river. The clear, blue-green water looked rather cold but it is warm ish.

I reached a larger road, which was part of the Kumanokodo Kokumotorigoe. Shortly after, there should be an entrance to the old mountain pass. I was on the lookout for a shop to purchase lunch before getting into the forest. Unfortunately, there weren’t many stores around. There was a convenience store, but it had closed down. I thought I might have to go back towards to Hongu area to find food. Fortunately, there was a very small grocery store just across the street, and they also sold Bento. Fully prepared to enter the mountains, or so I thought, I missed the entrance to the pass. It turned out to be a narrow stairs in between houses. Instead, I followed the road along the river, which eventually ended in a residential area. Spotting a lady, I had asked if I was on the right path. She told me I had taken a wrong turn, and while there was a pass to Kogumotorigoe from there, it was seldom used and overgrown with grass, making it less than ideal for walking. She kindly offered me some steamed sweet potatoes.


pon returning to the correct pass entrance, I walked to the summit in one go without break. The weather was pleasant, with clear skies and dry conditions. As I neared the peak of Toge, I looked for a spot to have my lunch, even though the map indicated no designated seating areas. Just after the peak of Toge, I discovered a spot with a breathtaking vista, with a kind of place I can sit on. About halfway through my Bento, I suddenly heard a loud, deep buzzing sound and saw a giant hornet right in front of me. It was my first encounter with one of these creatures. I remained still until it flew a short distance away, then quickly packed up my meal and vacated the area. Some 20 minutes or so later, I came across a table and benches and decided to stop and finish my Bento. Another person was also taking a break there, he had a traditional umbrella hat. When I walked 88, I had worn a similar hat, but it was very cheap one. These old school hats are not only tradition for the pilgrimage but in general. They provide excellent protection from both the sun and rain, as they do not directly touch the head, allowing for better ventilation. Their only drawback is their vulnerability to strong winds. Apparently, his hat was made in Kiso, and there are only a few artisans producing them. I would like to get one if I ever go on another trail walk. He asked me if I had completed the 88 pilgrimage, noticing my walking stick. He turned out to be an occasional professional guide for Kumanokodo.

kumanokodo kogumotorigoe

After the break, the trail descended rather steeply, which I quite enjoyed as I can go down faster almost like skiing as long as there are no stairs. By 3 o’clock, I arrived at Koguchi, where I would spend the night. The accommodation was rather unique, the building was a school before. The room I stayed was quite spacious as it was a class room, but due to its large windows facing west, the afternoon sun hit directly. For some reason, I can’t recall if the air conditioning was unavailable or not free of charge, so I had to leave the windows and door open for a considerable time. Dinner turned out to be quite an interesting experience as well. There were several guests, all of whom seemed to be pilgrims. We all sat in rows, much like in a classroom. Perhaps it was due to the ongoing pandemic, but no one engaged in conversation. Instead, we all faced one side of the room and silently enjoyed our meals.

Kumanokodo Kogumotorigoe.  20.27km Koguchi





熊野古道小辺路 Kumanokodo kohechi Day 3

On Tuesday, the 5th of October 2021, I found myself struggling to get a good night’s sleep, perhaps due to either too much food or simply the fatigue accumulated from the previous days. My hand still throbbed and swollen from that horsefly bite.

Totsukawa onsen kumanokodo

Just before sunrise, I opened a window, and I saw an astonishing sight, I thought it is quite artificial. It resembled the vibrant images in some Asian restaurant’s walls, or the overly saturated photo prints on the staircase of Yodobashi Camera. Nevertheless, the tranquillity and the cool moisture in the air gave a sense of depth upon this landscape which I felt that almost falling into. I have enjoyed the view for while but when the sun light hit the magic dissolved. There were some time till breakfast so I had tried to sleep little bit more. 

Totsukawa onsen morning bus stops at a busstop

My departure was later than my usual schedule, I walked out of this quiet village, and crossed the red bridge which I saw from the window, and returning to the trail, then I began climbing towards Hatenashi Toge. It was sunny and steamy when I walked through the tiny village, which has an iconic view of Kohechi. I wasn’t particularly intrigued by the view, I just wanted to enter the forest pass to escape from the heat.

For the past two days, I didn’t encounter many people on the trail. However, as I got closer to Kumano shrine, I saw more people. I reached the peak in about two hours from the starting point, a bit too early for lunch, so I pressed on. After coming down from the Toge, I arrived at the river that I had seen from the summit. I walked along its banks, looking at the murky yet vivid blue water, wondering why it is so vivid, water should not be so deep, almost as if someone had spilled paint.

I reached a parking area “Michinoeki”, offering not only a “park view” with cars and motorcycles but also a river view. There were seating areas, toilets, and many vending machines, as is often the case. It was the perfect time for a bento lunch. After lunch, I walked on the tarmac for a while, only to realise that I had missed the right turn to rejoin the trail. Backtracking was always painful, especially on foot. It was merge point with the “Nakahechi,” the most common route. From there, the trail changed, looks like more “Kumanokodo,” a gentle downhill path through cedars and ferns leading to Kumano Shrine.

The old shrine, once stood on an island in the river, had been washed away in a flood long time ago. Now, only the gate remained, it is new, and metal. It was still quite impressive, especially after several days of walking to reach this point. I couldn’t spend too much time at the shrine, also I didn’t want to walk around too much, as I had to walk the “Dainichigoe” Pass which is not long, and the shortest route to reach Yunomineonsen, where I had booked a hostel. Glancing at the sun, and I was thinking how much time I have, once the sun goes down, it will be difficult to see the ground in the forest so I was rushing. When I got to the peak which is not high but I was greeted by the sunlight filtering through the trees. I guesstimated that I had about 15 minutes left, and when I got out from the trail in to someone’s back of hose, dusk was settling in.

The hostel featured an outdoor onsen bath, no view but really nice. Yunomineonsen area lacked nearby restaurants, so I bought small curry from the reception. It was a lighter dinner compared to the  previous two nights. It was just 3 days, but I felt that I had walked for a week or so.

Kumanokodo Kohechi Section 4 & Dainichigoe.  Approx 20km Yunomine Onsen








熊野古道小辺路 Kumanokodo kohechi Day 1

It took me a while to process the images, even though raw data never matures inside of a hard drive. 

On Sunday, the 3rd of October 2021, I have started Kumanokodo from Mt. Koya. The reason for starting from there was simple, I had completed my 88 pilgrimage there, and it is the easiest access from Tokyo via a night bus to Namba Osaka, arriving at 6:20 am. From there, I took a train to Mt. Koya. I am a typical Tokyo village people, beyond the area where I live in Tokyo, my knowledge of Japan was quite limited, therefore Osaka is definitely foreign to me, finding a train to Mt Koya is challenge,  even though this was second time.

The entrance to Kumano Kodo Kohechi wasn’t very conspicuous, there is a rather small sign. As I enter the pass, I swiftly shifted into walking mode, aiming to maintain a faster pace. While Kohechi is reputedly the most challenging of the three major routes to Kumano, it may not be so tough for someone who has completed the 88 pilgrimage. After all, each section is less than 20 km. I immediately sensed a difference compared to the 88. The pass exuded a positive energy, not only because of the weather or the soft earth underfoot, but perhaps due to its unique location.

熊野古道 小辺路 Kumanokodo landscape path river bridge

During my walk, I often felt that someone was walking behind me, while my mind always strides a few meters ahead. Could the person behind me be another version of myself from a slightly different timeline? Also I often felt that something is hiding and watching at the next corner, perhaps and hopefully charming little spirits?

熊野古道 小辺路 Kumanokodo landscape path mountains pine trees

Smooth walk in the morning, predominantly through well maintained forests. Towards to noon the temperature got higher, I saw only one person walking in the opposite direction, where  just before the pass intersected with a road. Then after I had quick lunch break where there were three off road motorcyclists having a break. They seemed well prepared, with mesquite repellent incense. Fortunately, I had not have issues with bugs during my 88 journey, perhaps it was the season.

熊野古道 小辺路 Kumanokodo road mountains pine trees

I reached an inn / Minshuku just after15. Just before reaching the inn, I noticed a dog leashed to a traditional Japanese dog house, barking rather fiercely. Then I saw two more dogs leashed to dog houses next to the inn, they were also barking loudly. After a refreshing bath, I hung my hand washed, damp clothes by the window to dry in the strong westerly afternoon sun.

The innkeeper called me over, that dinner was ready. I was the only guest that night. The meal served was “Botan Nabe,” a dish I had never tasted before. It was typical of the region, a hot pot featuring wild boar and various vegetables. The innkeeper sat beside me while I was having the meal. He was quite talkative, sharing that he is also a hunter. The three dogs  are his hunting dogs, the most aggressive one stays bit far from Inn which is the first one I saw. In Nara, hunting deer is prohibited, so they predominantly hunt wild boar. Usually, he hunts in a group, the dogs chase the boars towards to hunters range. If he can not join the group for any reasons, he let two dogs to join but not the most aggressive one, it is untameable for other people apparently.  He was sort of complaining how strict the regulation and expensive to keep renewing his licenses.

He mentioned that they have to meticulously record the number of bullets they own and used.  He also mentioned that it is not so profitable to sell meat in the market. They have to follow specific procedures and deliver the prey within the designated time to the licensed meat treatment centre.

18 km for the very first day, on top of not sleeping well on the night bus, I felt tired. So, I had to say thank you and good night to the very talkative owner of the inn, and then I went straight to my futon.

Kumanokodo Kohechi Section 1.  18.44 km Minsyuku kawarabi

熊野古道 小辺路 Kumanokodo landscape vista mountains pine trees