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 2

I got up at 5:30, had breakfast, and got lunch Onigiris from the Minshuku. Then I began my day just after 6. The moment of decision making. For the past couple of days, I was thinking whether I should walk two sections, as the second section of Kohechi is only 15km but with a 1300m Toge/mountain pass. The 3rd section is only 20km, but another 1000m Toge. I got up early, my legs felt good, so I thought I could walk two sections all the way to Totsukawa Onsen.

mist moutains

The morning was slightly misty, I walked down along the river, and I looked up, mist were vanishing in the morning light. I crossed a bridge and got back into the forest, I started climbing up, my mind fell into concentration.


I was nearly at the top of the mountain when the pass was diverted due to a landslide. The diverted route was no longer the pass but rather a mountain ascent through the trees, marked by fluorescent pink tape. At some point, I couldn’t see the marker for quite some time. According to the map the diversion shouldn’t be that long. The trees weren’t that tall, so the peak couldn’t be that far. I saw a break in the trees and a sign for the peak, Obako Toge. At the top I stood still for a while, trying to cool off, looking at the vista which should have been there, but instead, clouds were flowing rapidly sideways. This was the first Toge, so I must keep moving.

I descended the mountain and came upon a rather quiet village, if I hadn’t planned to walk two sections, I might have stayed here. I had a short lunch break where there are space and public toilet. The sun was strong, and the temperature rose, my feet were also heating up. Time was running out, so I pressed on for another 1000m Toge, followed by a long descent to Totsukawa Onsen.

After crossing Miura Toge, I looked for a place to have a short break, but I couldn’t find a comfortable spot to sit. I passed ruins of houses and decided to have a sip of water and something to nibble. It wasn’t a particularly comfortable place, there are not much light and quite damp. So, I decided to keep walking while eating a banana. Then, all of a sudden, I experienced a shockingly sharp pain in my left hand, the hand holding the banana, which I dropped. I had to scream. I didn’t see any insects because it was rather dark. I walked very fast for a while, thinking it might have been a hornet, and wondered how far I was from the nearest road. At the same time, I got frustrated. By the time I reached the tarmac, I started to think it was a horsefly, although I got swell but it is not getting worse. Then I got even more up set. I had dropped my banana, and I hadn’t managed to kill the horsefly.

The normal road was rather dull. I tried to walk as straight as I could to shorten the distances. By the time I reached Totsukawa Onsen, it was just getting dark, and I was exhausted. I entered the Minshuku, and a lady asked me to fill out a form and if I came by car. I said I got here on foot, she seemed not to quite understand, which struck me as somewhat contradictory given the name of the accommodation, which means ‘Practitioner’ or ‘pilgrim’s onsen of the Sun.’

I had a good room with amazing view, which I’ll show in the next blog post. From the onsen/bath, you could also see the same wonderful view. The only problem with that accommodation was the many stairs for walkers. It shouldn’t have been much of an issue if I had been walking over 30km every day, as I did on the 88, but this was only my second day, and my first 35km. The last thing I wanted to do was go up and down the stairs in tiny vinyl  slippery slippers. Dinner was once again botan nabe and fish from the river, along with many other dishes. It was wonderful, but there was far too much food. I managed to eat it all, but this could be a problem as it might hinder my sleep. My body would use a lot of energy to digest rather than recover from fatigue. After the meal, I went straight to the futon.

Kumanokodo Kohechi Section 2&3.  35.78km Taiyo no yu 








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