Iseji Japan 2019

Day 19: Kii- Katsuura and Shingu

I was up early as I wanted to visit the fish auction at 7am. It was beautiful weather as I strolled over to the port and to the visitors section on the second floor. I have absolutely no idea how it works, but fish were inspected carefully, by cutting into the fish near the tail and inspecting the fish meat. Some took pictures and sent them and waited for an answer. To put it in proportion, the fish in the first picture are between 1 and 1,5m in length, and the first picture shows ca. 10% of the fish being auctioned,

It is primarily tuna fish that are caught, and from what I could see you bid by putting a lap of paper on the fish you wished to purchase. But how the bidding works, I’m not sure, as one doesn’t bid for each fish individually. The while thing takes a couple of hours.

These fish are amongst the most sought after in Japan as they are not caught by net, but by long line (see below for an explanation) and therefore evidently have a higher quality.

I walked back to the hotel for my 8.00 breakfast. The food at the hotel is extremely good, and that includes breakfast where you get pretty well as much as you do for dinner.

After breakfast I decided to go take the train back to Shingu where I ended yesterday. When I completed the walk yesterday the last kilometer was along the river up to the first bridge over the river. In the old days there wasn’t a bridge, so the pilgrims sailed across, so I decided to walk these few kilometers. [Outside the hotel in Kii-Katsuura].

The route turned out to be of little interest, but there were three shrines. The first, Kamikura-Jinja Shrine is an old shrine located halfway up Mt. Gongenyama, where the gods are said to have first descended to earth, and is reached by climbing 500 steep stone steps, 500 very uneven steps. Coming down was one of the scariest things I have done on this vacation.

At the top of the steps is a large, sacred rock called Gotobiki-iwa, which is revered as the dwelling place of one of the shrine’s deities. The shrine is built just below the boulder.

There was a nice view over Shingu and the Kumano-wan bay. I walked down close to a Japanese guy. We smiled at each other and exchanged pleasantries that going down was hard work. At the bottom, he got into his car and drove off, then reversed to ask me if I wanted a lift anywhere. I thanked him, but told him I wasn’t going anywhere in particular, just being a tourist.

I walked across town towards a second shrine,  Asuka. In general I love the Japanese countryside and scenery, it is a beautiful country. But there is nothing at all to see in the towns – one doesn’t walk around a Japanese town to enjoy the architecture. And Shingu is no exception, beyond the sites, there is absolutely nothing to stop you in your tracks and say “wow”. I walked down the covered street that at one time must have been the busiest street in town – it was deserted and half the shops closed.

I went into a book shop that sold music as I wanted to purchase some music of Ryuichi Sakamoto (he starred with David Bowie in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, for those old enough to remember that. He also wrote the music to the film). There was lots of J-pop and international pop, but not what I was looking for.

Asuka shrine is said to be oldest shrine in Kumano (rebuilt several times). A number of images have been found of the shrine, dating back centuries.

I walked through the small streets with many houses to the the first shrine that the pilgrims met when crossing the river, Hama-oji.

When walking on Sunday I saw a powder version of my favourite drink in Japan, Pocari Sweat, somy last goal of the day was to find a supermarket to purchase some to bring home. I had all but given up finding a supermarket by the time I reached the station. As there was an hour before the next train, I walked around and found a large supermarket hidden below a parking garage. I bought some lunch and looked for the powders, without any luck so I went to pay, and there they were next to the till.

Back in Kii-Katsuura, I took a foot bath and later took the boat to one of the hotels and gad s hot bath in a cave with fantastic views across the islands. By the time I had finished, there was an hour until dinner, so I sat on the port and called home and enjoyed the great weather.

Dinner was yet again excellent, this is really a hotel to visit if you enjoy good Japanese food – and there were 4 or 5 more dishes, including soup, plum porridge, tofu and melon.

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