Wednesday, the 6th of October 2021
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.
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