Japan 2019 Nakahechi

Day 2: Tsugizakura to Hongu

I slept well, woken by the rain and coughing in the neighbouring room – the walls are very thin! I was up at 6.30 and there was yet another feast for breakfast, where the chef has combined a European breakfast and Japanese breakfast, served in the Japanese way.

After paying for the beer I had for dinner, and use of the washing machine, as well as photos of the chef and his wife and her cat (which they seemed to expect to be taken) I was on the road by 8am.

I passed a group, who I later found out were from Estonia, a Spaniard and the English lady from yesterday. There are three climbs today, for a total of 780 m, all relatively short, but all very steep. I caught up with the Belgium couple who stayed at the same Minsyuku. Two blokes, one 73 and the other 41, so the upward climbs are a bit slow, but still impressive. He’s done the Camino twice, starting in Belgium.

Coming down the first climb, there was again a stretch of stone pavement, again slippery. I took a lot of care and was proud I didn’t fall today. The younger Belgium told me that he had seen two girls fall and one of them was pretty cut up. On the way up I passed a group of active Japanese pensioners, and on the way down a second group. I followed them for 10 mins and spoke with the guy at the back, who spoke some English. I took their photo.

I met them again when I was at the shrine in Hongu, I said to the man who spoke English, that they were very quick. He laughed and said he was 80 years old, so they had a bus waiting for them. I would never have guessed they were that old, and it was a steep climb!

There isn’t much to tell about the walk itself, more forrest, lots of trees, streams at the bottom – pretty much as yesterday – and I saw my first snake. There were a couple of detours due to the impact of typhoons.

I made good time and reached Hosshinmon-oji as the bell at the shrine 7 km away rang for 12 o’clock. I had ordered a packed lunch from last nights Minsyuku and decided to eat it here. Even Japanese packed lunches are something else.

The rice balls are filled with salmon, black bean and minced meat. Very nice and very filling. There was so much to eat I had a 30 min break for lunch. The chef had told us that it would take just as long to get to Hongu, as day one had taken. And it was true, I arrived at Kumano Hongu Shrine, at 14.00, it took 6 hours, just as day one had.

Hosshinmon-oji was where I had walked to last year when I visited this area, and then walked the Akagi-goe leg, which starts there. That is no longer possible after the tortential rains last autumn washed away the path.

Kumano Hongu Shrine was well visited, just like last year, but beyond taking a few pictures, probably the same ones I took last year, I didn’t hang around. I walked down the many stairs and went to look at the world’s tallest torii gate.

As I passed the bus station, I saw the bus to my hotel would leave in 10 mins and the next an hour later, so I only got a picture at a distance.

Back at the hotel I took a hot bath, as has become a custom, and planned ahead for tomorrow with ca. 1 km up in one stretch. Dinner was hot pot, sashimi and buffet – not quite up to yesterday’s standards. But I was the last man in the restaurant as there was good coffee and cake – what could you want after a hard day walking.

Today I walked 22 km on the route, 30 km in total. Total ascent was 940 m and descent 1,440 m. (This doesn’t mean I walked upwards for 940 m. How far I need to walk to cover 940 m, depends on how steep the mountains are. Today I would estimate I walked upwards for 6 – 7 kms). Finally my watch just informed me that I have never burnt as many calories as I have today, over 4,000!

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