Friday, 3rd November 2017
So after our slightly disasterous time for the 'easy' part of our walk we made different plans for today. Instead of walking from Chikatsuyu-oji to Hongu Taisha, we would instead tsake the bus to Hosshinmon-oji and walk to Hongu from there. This was a 7km walk instead of 25km and was also far less mountainous.
To get there we would have to take 1 of the 2 buses available that day so we caught the first one at 7:36am, otherwise we would have to wait until lunch time.
Breakfast at Minshuku Nakano was delicious, including scrambled egg, sausage, salmon, miso soup and the ever-present sticky rice.
The owner then took us to the bus stop, only a couple of minutes away by foot.
The bus ride took a while but we finally reached Hosshinmon-oji at 8:50 and started the second part of our pilgrimage just after 9. This walk was a lot easier, it felt much less like a hike as a lot of it was on paved roads going through small villages. There were still some climbs and bits through forests that gave it a bit more difficulty.
Since this went through lots of villages we saw a lot of small farms and many places had self-serve stalls out with oranges, plums and honey. Ben bought some local honey this way and we plan on finding some bread to eat it with later in the holiday.
We also stopped at a lovely rest area, where they served hot or cold coffee and a Japanese herbal drink called Shiso. They also had boxes of paper cones filled with 2 'Maid home cakes' in each for 150Y. We both bought a cone of cake and Ben had a Shiso. The cakes had something in them that we couldn't quite place so we asked, it was sweet potato, of course, it's always sweet potato!
Suddenly, a wild Osuzumibachi appears! Luckily Osuzumibachi didn't want to fight and flew away. This is a Japanese Giant Hornet or Giant Sparrow Bee as the direct translation goes.
Our host at the previous minshuku had made us a packed lunch to eat on the trail. It was 3 different flavours of rice balls (vegetable, fish & plum) beautifully wrapped in dried leaves.
We decided to press on because we didn't want to get stuck in the dark again, although it was highly unlikely since this walk was meant to only take 2 hours. In the end we did it in 2hrs 45mins, which I think was a good time and allowed for stopping at the rest stop, taking photos etc.
Kumano Hongu Taisha
Kumano Hongu Taisha is the final stop on the Kumano Kodo and a very lovely looking shrine. It was quite busy with queues forming for each bell to pray at.
They also have a postbox with a three-legged crow standing on top, the crow is a symbol for the Kumano Kodo. We wrote some post cards and got them specially stamped by the shrine office and they are now winging their way across the world.
Since we had completed our walking we then caught the bus to Yunomine Onsen, which has the only UNESCO World Heritage Onsen in the world. Unfortunately, that specific onsen was closed due to the typhoon but we bought tickets to another private onsen for 30 minutes.
It was lovely, the bath was plenty big enough for both of us and the water was so hot! We had to put cold mineral water in just so we could dip our toes without wincing. You do get used to it after a while and it was lovely just to lay back and relax, the minerals make your skin feel really soft and it soothes all the muscles you've used after all that walking. We thought 30 minutes sounded quite short but we couldn't last the whole time due to the heat - it can make you feel a bit lightheaded. We then realised we had no towels...
After the Onsen we visited the shrine next door and had our book stamped by the lady at the desk. Then we bought 2 eggs in a mesh bag with a plastic loop handle - these were for cooking in the public cooking onsen! Temperatures in this small square spring reach 90C and so after 12 minutes in the water you get a lovely hard boiled egg. To cook you basically lower your mesh bag into the water and then loop the handle around one of the nails around the outside, when the time is up you fish them out (without getting your hand in the water), rinse them in cold water and eat them.
We then travelled back to Hongu and checked in to Blue Sky Guesthouse. The room is a great size and we have our own bathroom which you don't often get in these traditional Japanese guest houses.
The host informed us that there is only 1 restaurant in town that opens late (until 7:30) and that you have to make a reservation, so we asked him to make us one for 6:30. Cafe Bonheur is a vegan restaurant with a fairly small menu, we both ordered the "Soybeens Hamburger" and an Apple Juice. I found the deep-fried freeze-dried tofu a bit strange as it was chewy but the sauce tasted nice and the small ice-cream sized scoop of mash was lovely.
Back at the hotel to relax, write some more blog and finally sleep.
Tune in tomorrow for our kayaking adventure!