熊野古道 Kumanokodo Day 6

Friday the 8th of October 2021

I started the day slowly, as I had decided to finish the walk by yesterday. Being slow proved to be a bit of a mistake as I missed a train, and there was quite a bit of time until the next one. I decided to stroll through the quiet town of Katsuura for a while.

For those considering public transport to Shingu for visiting “Kumano Hayatama Taisha,” I would recommend going to Shingu on the same day after visiting Nachisan. Instead of staying in Katsuura, make sure to catch the last train from Nachi station, which is quite early, at 17:22 at the time of writing this blog. Then you might be able to put your feet in the ocean while looking at the sunset, and the next day you can walk to the shrine without carrying big luggage, leaving it at the accommodation.

However, I think walking the Kumano Kodo Iseji may not be a bad choice. Looking from the train window, the seascape was truly beautiful. I got off the train at Shingu station and headed to the shrine. It was another warm day that made me rather thirsty and uncomfortable, especially in that somewhat sleepy town. Yet, traffic was busy, and there were almost no pavements and no trees. Later, I realised that parallel to the street I walked, there is a pedestrian-only shopping street with a roof, yet it is actually quite pedestrian compare to the other livelier towns. The lack of historical buildings not only affects this town but many towns in Japan, creating a lack of character. As a tourist, I could not enjoy much and didn’t want to stay longer nor explore. The municipal government must understand how important it is to preserve and not disturb the good historical aesthetic, especially if they expect more tourism.

After visiting the shrine, I saw an old house, an Unagi (eel) restaurant, with a nice smoky aroma wafting out. I decided to have a slightly early but expensive lunch. While waiting for the food to be served, more customers arrived, and soon the small restaurant became full. Apparently, it is a quite popular place. I was lucky to get a table without waiting, but I felt somewhat unwelcome because I was alone and occupying a whole table. At the next table, there were two guys, quite large even by Japanese standards. They were almost inhaling the food and talking about what they were going to have next, either ramen or udon. Clearly, they were traveling by car, as I could see the car keys. I do eat slightly more when I walk or cycle I consume more than usual, yet people still need to eat when they drive. And these guys were clearly eating way more than I do. I think someone should find a way to generate electricity from excessive diet, so people can charge their cars. Converting my few thousand Japanese yen into energy, now I can walk to the station.

My plan was to go to Ise by train, then take a night bus to Tokyo. On the map, it looked like a simple one-train ride, but I had to change a couple of times. First at Kii-Nagashima station, where I had a chat with the station manager as he noticed my stick. He told me that he used to trail run, and Kumanokodo Iseji is beautiful with more old paved trails. Back in my head, I thought, “that’s more pain on my foot and knee,” however, it was a good chat, and the waiting time at the empty station passed quickly. Then, after I transferred at Taki station to another train to Ise, it was already dark.

I had never really been interested in hiking or walking trails. That does not mean I hate it. However, somehow I thought about walking the 88, and after that, I felt that I had to walk Kumanokodo.

People tend to think pilgrimage is a religious thing, I does relate to religion in most places. However, religion and belief are one thing; spirituality is another. So anyone can walk to open up individual spirituality. The 88 is a great pilgrimage trail, tough and designed very well over 1200 years, a glimpse of one life cycle. In contrast, I felt that Kumanokodo is after life. You walk through the calm, beautiful Kii Peninsula’s nature, and there is no clear starting point and end.





予定では伊勢まで電車、そこらか夜行バスで東京と思っていた、地図で見ると一本で行けそうだったが2回ほど乗り換えなければならなかった。一回めは紀伊長島、人気のあまり無い駅で駅長が話しかけてきた、杖を見て歩いているとわかったらしい、彼はトレイルランニングを以前にしていたらしい、伊勢路は綺麗な石畳が結構残っているとのこと、頭の中で結構足や膝に来てつらそうだと思いながら、そうですか次回は挑戦してみたいですと言う。 そして次に多岐で乗り換え、伊勢に着く頃には暗くなっていた。


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 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