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Kumano Kodo

Day 1 and 2

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The dinner table tonight

The dinner table tonight

Entrance to the Kumano Kodo

Entrance to the Kumano Kodo

I was impressed with the engineering on the bus ride to the Kumano. Lots of fencing along the highway to stop slips

I was impressed with the engineering on the bus ride to the Kumano. Lots of fencing along the highway to stop slips

There is some of the original paving stones left. They're quite slippery in the wet. I don't know how the original pilgrims got on wearing Kimono and socks and sandals

There is some of the original paving stones left. They're quite slippery in the wet. I don't know how the original pilgrims got on wearing Kimono and socks and sandals

Typical path on the Kumano Kodo

Typical path on the Kumano Kodo

There are marker posts every 500 metres along the trail. Handy for figuring out where your accommodation is and you can hardly get lost.

There are marker posts every 500 metres along the trail. Handy for figuring out where your accommodation is and you can hardly get lost.

Takahara Village

Takahara Village

View over the valley

View over the valley

I think some of the "natural" features have had a little man-made intervention

I think some of the "natural" features have had a little man-made intervention

There are loads of these little history boards all along the trail

There are loads of these little history boards all along the trail

Mossy bank. I think this means they must get a fair bit of rain. The bears were somewhere in there.

Mossy bank. I think this means they must get a fair bit of rain. The bears were somewhere in there.

Minshuku Tsugizakura - the accommodation house

Minshuku Tsugizakura - the accommodation house

My lovely Japanese style room with heat pump and under mat electric blanket. My bedding is in the cupboard

My lovely Japanese style room with heat pump and under mat electric blanket. My bedding is in the cupboard

I was told the cedars were harvested after 40 years. Seeing all these logs I wondered if they have the same problems with slash that we do.

I was told the cedars were harvested after 40 years. Seeing all these logs I wondered if they have the same problems with slash that we do.

Day 1
I left Shirahama to go one step up the line to Tanabe. I was just about to head onto the platform when I noticed a small sign telling passengers they had to reserve a seat. Japan railways are very efficient but also incredibly pedantic - there was no real reason I needed to reserve a seat for one stop but I joined the queue and a helpful young employee took me through the screens to get my reservation.

At Tanabe I had to wait for the bus to Takajiri-oji and the start of the Kumano Kodo trail. At the bus stop I had one of those nice encounters you often get when you're travelling alone. An elderly woman started talking to me and we communicated through my map and Google Translate. It was hard going but we kept the convo going for some time. At the same time an American guy walked past and asked me in English if I needed any help. I recognised him and said "aren't you the guy that does the YouTube videos?" He said yep he was just the talking head for the information centre. The videos were actually quite helpful.

The landscape on the way to Takajiri reminded me of the West Coast of the South Island - except with thousands more people. The trees came right down to the road and I was interested to see how much reinforcing there was to keep slips at bay. The first part of the walk was straight up but only a short hop to my first stop at Takahara. I'm staying in a little guesthouse run by an older couple - its a bit like staying in your granny's house- lace doilies and covers on everything. Dinner was excellent, very filling and came with a glass of homemade plum wine. I'm the only person here tonight.

I had a shower earlier and it was interesting to see inside an ordinary persons bathroom- rather than a hotel one. I couldn't figure out where the drain was at first but found a cover and lifted it up. There was the usual little stool and bowl but I just stood up and showered and tried not to spray the water round too much. There were three covers on the bath and when I lifted them up I could see there was hot water in the bath. Its a good way to keep the water warm.

Like many older Japanese men the host's husband is still working - and he is 75. I read an article that says many older Japanese men continue to work because of the cost of living and that they live exceptionally long lives in retirement.

I took a quick walk around the village before tea and couldn't get over how quiet it was. There are 2000 people living here but it felt deserted. No lawn mowers, no dogs barking, no music playing, no sound of TVs, no motorbikes. It was deathly silent apart from 2 small boys playing with a ball. Even the garage I passed had music playing very very quietly. Which reminds me when I've seen tradies working here, they dont have the radio up loud. It's not on at all.

It's dark now and super quiet - the dinner is sending me to sleep.

Day 2
It rained all last night and kept on raining today - mostly a steady drizzle so not too bad. Breakfast was another excellent meal - omelette with tomato sauce, lettuce salad with tomato and dressing, slices of apple and banana (all on the same plate). A small bowl of yoghurt, a piece of toast, 2 small croissants with jam. Coffee and apple juice. Plus, my hostess gave me a bento box for lunch. She was slightly anxious because the next woman staying was vegan and gluten free. I think when youre staying in remote locations like this, you have to be a bit flexoble. The local shops don't stock much. I said I would eat fish which I don't normally do.

The lady at the accommodation (I never found out her name) dropped me off at the start of the trail this morning. I was admiring the cedar trees and she said they cause huge problems with hay fever in Japan. I wondered if they caused problems during landslips as there seemed to be lots of logs lying on the ground.

Today I saw one person on the trail - a man carrying a plastic umbrella. I think he was Japanese but when I said "konnichiwa" to him, he looked startled. I left umbrella man behind and basically saw no one else, apart from some motorists at a little roadside cafe. On top of the ridgeline the wind got up and it was quite cold, but once I dropped down it was quite calm again.

Today was up and down, mostly on tracks but also partly on the road and through a few wee settlements. There was no one out and about but a few locals in cars waved to me. The signs for bears were back and in the dark quiet segments in the trees, it was a bit freaky. I kept my eyes peeled for bears who might decide to crash out of the undergrowth.

I was given quite a good map of the trail showing the elevations and details of each section. However it doesn't show you the topography so I never know if my accommodation is on the valley floor or up in the hills. Yesterday I had to drop right down to the river, today I had to climb. Some of the little roads were so steep I wouldn't like to drive on them in winter. The woman I stayed with yesterday said they use snow tyres in winter for safe driving.

This accommodation is a step on last nights although oddly is cheaper. I was offered a lovely hot bath when I came in - which I needed since I'd got cold waiting outside. I was then offered a kimono and jacket and shown to a very warm room - heat pump on. There is even an under mat heater like an electric blanket. The bed was made up Japanese style with a futon on the floor. I'm curious how comfortable this will be tonight.

The one downside of traditional Japanese houses is that sound carries. There are people in the room next door and you can hear everything. Plus, the toilets are in a public area of the house. There's 7 people staying here tonight - me, 2 Americans who don't seem to understand me, and 4 Japanese. Dinner was beautifully presented - about 9 courses although there was a bit much fish for my liking. I was trying to be flexible and said I'd eat fish.

Posted by Pepperismybaby 11:13 Archived in Japan

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Quite an experience so it seems!

by Ils1976

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