Trekking through the Typhoon


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Asia » Japan » Wakayama » Tanabe » Nonaka
August 24th 2018
Published: May 22nd 2019
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Ready for the TrailReady for the TrailReady for the Trail

Kiri-no-Sato Takahara Lodge, Takahara
Hello my fellow travellers!

I slept well last night despite the storm raging outside. I woke up once due to a loud signal, I don't know if it was a warning or an all-clear signal but I had no problems going back to sleep afterwards.

My day started early with a sturdy breakfast before I set out on the road again. I left together with the Hawaiian couple I met yesterday but since they were using the luggage transportation service they were able to move considerably faster than me and soon pulled away from me.

When I came to two small sculptures of Jizō at the end of the village I bowed before them and wished for a safe journey today. For the time being it wasn't raining, but I had a feeling that the typhoon wasn't quite done with me yet. Along the trail where I walked there was a small stream flowing, it's waters were wild with the extra influx of the rainy day and night. Even it was a small one I hoped that I wouldn't have to cross it further down the trail.

As I expected the skies soon opened up and a
Praying to the Kumano Sansho GongenPraying to the Kumano Sansho GongenPraying to the Kumano Sansho Gongen

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
heavy downpour began, soaking me completely and slowing my pace considerably. For what it was worth I at least didn't have to cross the stream as it came to an end in a small pond but the downpour showed no signs of easing up on me.

When I rounded the small pond I came to the first wayside shrine on this part of the trail, the Daimon-ōji. The typhoon hadn't treated it well and post at the entrance to it was broken. The small shrine itself still remained standing though. Here I caught up with the Hawaiian couple and was in turn caught up by a couple from Italy, Natascha and Stefano. We talked about the shrine and the meaning of it's name for a while before the Hawaiian couple continued on their way.

I stayed behind and offered up a prayer to the Kumano Sansho Gongen before I left together with Natascha and Stefano, we sort of shared the road on and off, sometimes I was ahead of them, sometimes they were ahead of me and sometimes we walked together, depending on our respective pacing.

While we were walking Stefano found a large grasshopper sitting on
Broken Post at the Daimon-ōjiBroken Post at the Daimon-ōjiBroken Post at the Daimon-ōji

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
a tree and we both proceeded to photograph it before we continued on our way. They are an appreciated insect in Japan for their beautiful melodies and are considered good luck.

A little bit further down the road we found a small resting point and decided to get out of the rain for a while and eat the lunches that we'd been given by our respective accommodations. While we were resting we were joined by the young Dutch couple that had started out later than us. We were eating and looking at the maps to figure out how much we had left while we were joined by another large grasshopper.

It was cute but freaked out the Dutch girl so me and Stefano cornered and caught it and released it outside. The Dutch girl didn't want to linger though so the couple soon left. I remained for a while together with Natascha and Stefano though before we decided to leave as well as the rain certainly wasn't subsiding. Along the road we passed a small restroom and I decided to use the facilities while Natascha and Stefano continued onward.

Next I came to the Jūjō-ōji, or rather
Large GrasshopperLarge GrasshopperLarge Grasshopper

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
the site where it used to be, all that remains there is another memorial stamp. That means that so far two out of the four of these wayside shrines have proven to not actually be shrines at all anymore, that doesn't bode to well for the road ahead as I had been looking forward to seeing all the shrines along the way.

Not to far from there I came across a small statue of Koban Jizō. It was placed here in memory of a man who died in this spot in 1854 during his own pilgrimage. During his final moments he put a koban, a gold coin, in his mouth, mouth likely due to fatigue and hunger.

It was food for though, it might have happened some 150 years ago, but this path claimed the life of a man doing the same journey that I am. This thought was enforced as I came to a narrow path, no more than a few decimetres wide, with a drop down into the stream below. I could see that part of it had washed away during the typhoon, uprooted trees was lining the fall down towards the stream and what remained
Getting Slightly Tired of the Constant RainingGetting Slightly Tired of the Constant RainingGetting Slightly Tired of the Constant Raining

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
of the path was cracked and ready to plummet down as well.

Even so, others had passed here ahead of me today so I figured it should hold one more and made my way across safely. But it certainly kept me on my toes so to speak and I was looking forward to getting my feet on more solid ground again.

A little further down the more stable road I found a sign that informed me that this was the site of the home of a man named Akushiro. Aku means "evil" but apparently he wasn't called so because he was evil, but because of his valour. The mountain behind his site is named Mount Akushiro after him and there was markings for going up there as well, which would be about 30 minutes according to the sign, but I decided to skip that and focus on the main path.

Further down the road I came to another sign, this one informed me that this used to be the site of the Uwadawa Tea House and it told me that tea houses used to be an important part of this pilgrimage trail. I wish that they still
Nakahechi RouteNakahechi RouteNakahechi Route

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
were as I would have loved to be able to get out of the rain and enjoy a cup of warn tea right now.

There are no remains of the actual tea house left, nature has reclaimed it all, even though it was apparently used as a residence up until the early 1900's. There's supposed to be a small graveyard located nearby but under the current weather conditions I wasn't too keen to go around looking for it.

But even without any grand remains to view this trail is really lovely to walk (I would have enjoyed it more without the constant raining though). The old lore is ever present, not only in the informative signs that dot the road, but in the road itself, the old moss-covered trees, the roots that entangle the ground and the humble statues whose gaze reassure you as you walk. One sign that I came to told me of the three-fold moon, a phenomenon that was witnessed by a young ascetic on top of Mount Takao on the 23rd day of the 11th month.

He told the villagers of this and told them to go there and worship for the next
Watching the Tsuge RiverWatching the Tsuge RiverWatching the Tsuge River

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
time. Despite their disbelief they did so and was met with the same sight and ever since the three-fold moon have been worshipped in the region as a manifestation of the Kumano Sansho Gongen.

After walking for a while I came to the Tsuge River, it's small but it's waters was very rapid from all the heavy raining. There is a small, but slippery, bridge across it and once I crossed the bridge I came to the Ōsakamoto-ōji, or rather a sign and a memorial stamp that told me that it used to be here. This really seems to be a trend of this route, the absence of the small wayside shrines that I had been looking forward to see.

I then had to cross the river again on another small bridge to continue on the path and here I met a middle-aged couple from the U.K and we talked and walked together for a while. We then came to a small stream that connected to the Tsuge River. This one was quite rapid and didn't have a real bridge, just a few wooden boards laid out in the water.

We helped each other to cross the
Watery PathWatery PathWatery Path

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
small stream because the boards was overflowing with a strong current and the waters was even gushing down the path, turning it into an extension of the stream itself, making the two of them almost indistinguishable from one another.

After this I picked up my pace and continued ahead as I knew that there would be a resting point a bit up ahead once I came out of the forest and onto the main road and I really needed to get out of the rain for a moment and get some food in my belly.

I still had to cross the Tsuge River twice more on small and slippery bridges, but after that I finally came to a clearing and I could see the resting point ahead of me. The sight of it renewed my vigour and I pushed forth the last bit and finally slumped down on a bench under the roof that extended out from the resting point. Here I met Natascha and Stefano again, they had gotten there maybe 10-15 minutes ahead of me so there hadn't actually been that much of a distance between us even though we hadn't seen each other at all
Crossing the StreamCrossing the StreamCrossing the Stream

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
since we split up at the last resting point.

We sat down and enjoyed some light food together and it was nice to talk to them again. They told me that this was also a bus stop and that they were thinking of taking the bus to Nonaka, which is the destination for both them and me today. There is another village between us and Nonaka called Chikatsuyu which is also a popular resting point and I guess all of us were wishing that we'd chosen that village instead.

I must admit that I did check out the time table for the buses but I still decided against the bus, I was getting close now and I figured that even with the this relentless rain it shouldn't take me more than two hours to reach Nonaka, in good conditions I would probably be able to do it in less than an hour. To be honest, with this relentless rain it felt like I had been walking for an entire day to get here when in reality it had only been roughly five hours since I left Takahara, but it does take a toll to just be walking alone
The Path is Turning into a StreamThe Path is Turning into a StreamThe Path is Turning into a Stream

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
in a constant rain with a backpack that feels like it's getting heavier by the step.

They also decided to go on foot and left a few minutes ahead of me due to another call of nature on my part. I guess I still only spent maybe 15-20 minutes in total at the resting point, because by now I just wanted to get to my accommodation in Nonaka and settle in for the day.

After I left the resting point the trail continued upwards and after half an hour or so I came to the Hashiori Pass and the Gyūba Dōji Statue and a stone carving of En no Gyōja. The Gyūba Dōji Statue was made in remembrance of one of the first imperial pilgrimages (the Nakahechi route used to be the imperial pilgrimage route). The retired emperor Kazan who lived between 968 and 1008 made a pilgrimage and along the route he stopped here to eat.

He plucked two kaya reeds to use as chopsticks but they were bend and reddish in nature. The retired emperor then turned to one of his followers and asked "blood or dew?"or "chi ka tsuyu?" and since then the village
The Path is Turning into a StreamThe Path is Turning into a StreamThe Path is Turning into a Stream

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
below has gone by this name while the pass has gone by the name hashiori, literally "bent chopsticks". The Gyūba Dōji Statue depicts Kazan as a young boy, riding a horse and a cow at the same time. That's why that statue is called gyūba dōji or literally "cow-horse boy".

En no Gyōja was an ascetic and mystic who lived between 634 and 707 and he's the founder of Shugendō, the ascetic and syncretic mountain religion that fuses Shintoism and Buddhism. His real name was En no Ozunu but he's usually known as En no Gyōja or "En the Ascetic". Shugendō literally means "the path of training and testing" and the religion was officially forbidden by the Meiji government in 1872 due to it's amalgamation of Shintoism and Buddhism. It was revived again after World War II when religious freedom was introduced to Japan.

Behind the statues stands a small stone hōkyōtō, or treasure pagoda, that dates from the 12th century. All-in-all this is a beautiful little area and was worth the additional walk from the resting point despite the weather.

Not long after the pass I came to the a lookout where I was rewarded with
Tsuge RiverTsuge RiverTsuge River

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
a beautiful view down over Chikatsuyu. I stayed here for a while and admired the view as it also gave me a little bit of shelter under a small pavilion. While I was there the couple from the U.K caught up with me and they were kind enough to take a picture of me with the beautiful backdrop. Seeing this village in fron of me and knowing that Nonaka was only a couple kilometres beyond it gave me new strength and I descended path the extremely slippery stone path until I came to the village itself.

Amongst the first structures I came upon was the Chikatsuyu Cherry Minshuku. A minshuku is a form of guest house and sometimes even home-stay accommodation which is very common along this route. There was a sign that welcomed travellers inside and I decided to go inside and get out of the rain for a few minutes. As I entered I was welcomed by a lovely lady and I excused myself and said that I wasn't there to check in and asked if it was okay if I just stayed in the hallway for a few minutes to get out of the rain.
Small BridgeSmall BridgeSmall Bridge

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe

We came to talking in Japanese and she asked where I was staying for the night and I told her that my accommodation was the Minshuku Nonaka Sansō in Nonaka. She then called out to her husband who came out and kindly offered to drive me there.

I was really moved by this gesture and honestly didn't have the heart to say no so I accepted their kind offer. I walked around to the back of their house where the man was waiting with the car and we stowed away my wet backpack and I apologised for my wet and muddy appearance but he was really sweet about it. He even stopped on the way so that I could visit the Chikatsuyu-ōji, or rather the stone memorial and memorial stamp that stands in it's place. There used to be a large pavilion here but it was dismantled in 1906 due to an imperial edict.

The typhoon had blown down the saisen-bako, the offerings box, that stood in front of the stone memorial. The first thing I did was put set it back in it's proper place before I offered up a prayer and thanked the Kumano Sansho Gongen
Happy for a Snack and a Few Minutes out of the RainHappy for a Snack and a Few Minutes out of the RainHappy for a Snack and a Few Minutes out of the Rain

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
for my safe arrival here and for sending this kind man my way.

With this I returned to the man who was patiently waiting by the car and then he drove me towards Nonaka. On the way I saw Natascha and Stefano and asked him to stop and I asked if they also wanted a life. But they were almost at their accommodation which was located at the beginning of Nonaka while mine was located at the end of Nonaka, a kilometre or so down the steep hill that runs through the village.

It took the kind man a little while to find my accommodation but once he did he dropped me off and refused any form of compensation on my part, a true act of kindness and I thanked him dearly before I entered into the Minshuku Nonaka Sansō.

I was welcomed by an elderly lady and I sat down in the entrance to start the arduous task of getting out of some of the wet clothes to hang them up to dry. Unlike at Kiri-no-Sato Takahara Lodge there was no drying room available so I had a feeling that nothing would be dry tomorrow. I'm
Stefano in the Resting PointStefano in the Resting PointStefano in the Resting Point

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
not exaggerating when I say that I emptied out at least one or two decilitres of water from my water-proof hiking boots.

The lady brought me newspapers and paper towels to help dry out my boots so I stuffed them time and time over to get out as much water as possible from them. I hung up my jacket and poncho and then she showed me to my room. The floor was tatami mats so she asked me to not put any luggage on it. I asked her if she could bring me plenty of coat hangers so that I could hand all my clothes up to dry on the small rack available by the door so she did that.

After that I emptied out my backpack and hung up everything inside. Nothing inside was dry except for my shuinchō which I keep inside two plastic bags and it's own plastic cover. My sutra had also fared well as I keep it inside a plastic folder but other than those two nothing was dry. I imagine that when the company designed these water-shield for the backpack and the water-proofing for my hiking boots they didn't keep a typhoon
Gyūba Dōji Statue and a Stone Carving of En no GyōjaGyūba Dōji Statue and a Stone Carving of En no GyōjaGyūba Dōji Statue and a Stone Carving of En no Gyōja

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
in mind.

Once every piece of clothing was hung up I decided to charge up my phone and transfer my photos from the camera to my laptop. There was only two problems, my phone wouldn't charge because of moist in the charge-slot and the screen on my computer had gone completely black. It was running, but I couldn't see even a hint of imagery on it.

Now I also noticed that moist had made it's way into the camera and any picture I took looks like I'm inside a deep mist, this was hard to notice on the trail due to my glasses being constantly covered in water. I hoped that this would pass by tomorrow if I just left it alone. The laptop I knew had run it's course now, it was an old one that I got from my mother a few years back and the only thing I really use it for is to watch anime/movies/series and to store photos on when I travel.

I figured I'd still bring the laptop home with me and discard it properly there, but I'll make no effort to fix it unless necessary to get the photos already
Hōkyōtō (Treasure Pagoda)Hōkyōtō (Treasure Pagoda)Hōkyōtō (Treasure Pagoda)

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Tanabe
stored inside it. Just in case I can't get them out of the camera when I come home.

The most pressing issue was to get my phone back up and running, all my maps and navigation are inside it, not to mention that it will likely have to function as my camera from here on out. I was down to just a few percent of battery so I got online and went to Samsungs Facebook page for advice. I got the suggestion to restore it to factory setting in case it had been stuck in defending against moist.

It was a good idea, but it proved futile, the phone still wouldn't charge and now I had no contacts or apps on it. I re-downloaded some of them and got in touch with my parents, they always come up with good ideas in pinch situations and my mother suggested that I use a hair-dryer on the phone. It would be risky as I might overheat it, but if lucky it might work. I figured it was as good an idea as any so I went down to the lady and inquired about a hair dryer and she told me
Enjoying the ViewEnjoying the ViewEnjoying the View

Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage Trail, Chikatsuyu
to see if there was one in the bathroom.

I managed to find one and then I spent the next hour or so gently drying the phone on and off while trying to connect it to the charger. By now the battery had died completely and I was beginning to lose hope when all of a sudden, on the 51st or 101st try I know not which one, it all of a sudden popped into charging!

With a sigh of relief I gently put my phone down, returned the hair dryer and then went to take a bath. I couldn't find the plug for the bathtub so I inquired about it with the lady but she told me it had been lost. She also told me that there had been an official notice from the Kumano Travel Agency that the typhoon (which is #20 for the season I learned) had collapsed the road ahead of me in a landslide and they requested that no one walks tomorrow and instead take the bus from Chikatsuyu or Nonaka to Hongū.

I wouldn't be discouraged though, the first thing I did was to rummage through the bathroom until I managed
Together with a Helpful ManTogether with a Helpful ManTogether with a Helpful Man

Minshuku Nonaka Sansō, Nonaka
to finally find the plug and then proceeded to take a bath while contemplating the day. I had already ignored the official advice once at the start of this walk and it had turned out fine, but it had been rough. I had now spent two days walking in the typhoon and it didn't seem to want to slow down.

I figured that perhaps I should just accept my fate this time and go for the bus tomorrow, for all my stubbornness I'm still not to keen to be trapped in a landslide.and if the road is really completely useless I might find myself having to double back and not make it to Hongū in time tomorrow. Tomorrows stretch of the pilgrimage is also the longest of all the parts, roughly 22 kilometres with an estimated 8-11 hours walking time under normal conditions compared to today's 13 kilometres with an estimated 6-8 hours walking time.

Despite the weather I managed today's stretch in about six hours, though I imagine that without the lift at the end it would have been closer to seven hours instead. Judging from that I would probably be able to to tomorrow's stretch in
Notice Telling Me to Take the BusNotice Telling Me to Take the BusNotice Telling Me to Take the Bus

Minshuku Nonaka Sansō, Nonaka
9-10 hours, however if I found myself at a collapsed road that I couldn't traverse at all after 3-4 hours I simply wouldn't be able to make it back to Nonaka in time to catch the bus to Hongū.

So, I leaned back and decided that I'd go for the bus tomorrow. Even with the bus I would still walk more of the pilgrimage than what it usual. From what I understand most people go for a 2-3 day walk on this pilgrimage and then use a bus for the other parts.

Very few people do the full six day walk like I was planning to, it still feels annoying to not complete a part of it but sometimes you just can't control the circumstances, I figured that I can always come back another year and complete the missing part. Besides, it's not the first alteration to my plans so far. And, to be honest, I could use the rest.

After the bath I went back to my room and I realised that I haven't seen another guest at all here, I'm literally the only guest at this minshuku, and it's a actually a fairly large one,
Mangled FeetMangled FeetMangled Feet

Minshuku Nonaka Sansō, Nonaka
more of a guest house than a home-stay. I bandaged up my mangled feet and then I went down to the dining area to eat a very welcome dinner.

When I came back to my room after dinner I started up my phone only to find a notice from the Kumano Travel Agency that the typhoon had not only knocked out the road, but also the pump house at the Yunomine Onsen, the historical onsen that's my destination in Hongū so the bathing facilities at my accommodation there won't be serviceable tomorrow, lovely.

Still, my phone was at least alive again, my camera however shows no signs of improving so I think I can probably count it as dead now. You can tell which photos are taken with my camera and which ones are taken with my phone in this post.

So, tomorrow I will go by bus to Hongū so I imagine that I will have an abundance of time there. I just hope that the weather will be better in Hongū or it will be a pretty boring day if I have to spend it all at the accommodation without a functioning onsen.

Well,
Welcomed DinnerWelcomed DinnerWelcomed Dinner

Minshuku Nonaka Sansō, Nonaka
no point about worrying about that now. For the time being I'm out of the rain, I have warm food in my belly, some warm tea to relax me and I at least managed to save my phone. All things considered life is good and courtesy of the typhoon I now have a light day ahead of me tomorrow, who knows, perhaps this is a blessing in disguise!

Until tomorrow I wish you all peace and happy travels!


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24th May 2019
Nakahechi Route

Trekking in Japan - looks nice
Too bad that you had such dreadful weather. But other than that it looks nice to trek in Japan. We'll definitely consider it in the future. This summer we will be trekking for about one week ourselves. I'm sure it will be a good vacation. /Ake
11th June 2019
Nakahechi Route

Trekking in Japan - looks nice
It was, despite the weather, hope yours will be good as well and with better weather. =)
27th May 2019

Rain
Blimey, what a rainy day! You must indeed have been drenched! I'm glad your phone survived, but sorry to read about your camera and laptop. Well done on making it though! I was part-glad to read that you'd be having an easier day the next day, with a bus to take you the next stage. I feel that indeed you deserved a rest and an easier day at this stage.
11th June 2019

Rain
I must admit that I also feel like I deserved it at that point lol

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