Kumano Kodo, Day 1

I wake up early. The visitor’s center doesn’t open for a couple hours. I want to get a map before the hike plus I need to ship my backpack to the last hotel. I’ll be stuck with only my tiny day pack for the hike.

I’m waiting and drinking tea, for a woman who’s also going on the hike. She mentioned taking the bus and I wanted to ask her about it. Maybe go to together but I don’t know… maybe she went for breakfast? This is silly.

I do find convenience stores in town, but yesterday I was in the center of the lack of stores. I didn’t walk far enough in either direction to find one. I choose the one near the beach because how can I be this close and not go to the beach? It goes against everything. I’m so excited! I would like beaches to be on this journey of mine but it hasn’t worked out so far. Anyway, I go to buy snacks for the hike and spicy chicken nuggets for breakfast. I’m killing this nutrition thing.

It’s chilly. There’s some people fishing and others walking their dogs. I look for shells. I stay awhile until I remember that I have a bus to catch.

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I pick up my things and go to the welcome center. I get a map and buy my bus ticket. I just missed the bus too. The center gives me a paper translation of how to fill out the form for the luggage forwarding service. There’s a Family Mart a few blocks away that offers the service. IMG_9718

It’s taking longer for me to walk than I thought it would. I wonder if I’m on the right track. A man notices me, perhaps lost, so he asks what I’m looking for and where I’m from. I can’t remember now but I think he traveled, too, to the States or some other places. He told me to keep going as it was around the bend. And it was.

At the Family Mart, I pay for my backpack and pick up some last minute provisions. Nothing but snacks in my day pack, ha.

I make it on the bus without issue. I arrive at my first stop. I check the map to see where I am to where I need to go. The bus driver is concerned and checks with me and points the way. There’s a large welcome center as there is a famous shrine,Kumano Hongu Taisha, here as well. I figure this is the last bathroom I’ll see for awhile. I look over some of the displays. There’s another foreigner here. I’d like to see if he’s going the same way but I’m too shy. I leave to walk through a shrine and toward the trail.

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I cross the street. I’m getting closer…

Not this way…

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But that way. IMG_9723

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The trail leads uphill between private property. There’s a woman tending to her yard. I greet her to be polite and she stops to point out the right way, which looks straight forward. She seems to give some warning. I nod and repeat a word or two along with “hai.” (I fool no one, I’m sure.) Kind of seems like yes, go right or something like that. She leaves me to it and I’m alone on the trail. IMG_9724

I’m not going into wilderness. I start at one small town and walk to the next. It’s uphill at this point and despite two months of walking including all those damn stairs in China, it makes no difference. I should not be so lame. My legs, lungs should be awesome.

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Eventually it starts leveling out then goes down hill toward the town. In the middle, I reach a point where I stand for a few minutes listening to absolute silence. I assume I would have a Ghibli moment and am disappointed when none appears. IMG_9728

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It’s not much farther now to Yunomine Onsen. A small shrine, a few steps and I’m in back of someone’s home. I walk toward the main road, the only road, toward the smell of sulfur.

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A small stream parallels the road and I assume is the source of sulfur. A source of water, too. It’s a hot springs town of course. Spirited Away comes to mind but there’s no large bath house, nothing so ominous. IMG_9739

The water isn’t the only source of sulfur. There’s a spot sectioned off of the stream where I see people waiting. They are boiling eggs! I’m so pleased.

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I check my reservation for the name of the onsen and look for it in town. I recognize other options I had but not the one I’m looking for. It’s tucked behind the main road, on a small side street. I can’t even call it a street. I’m being generous by calling it a town. I find the onsen. At first I think I’m the only guest but really I’m just early. There are slippers waiting for me. The hostess is kind and shows me around the onsen and then my room. It’s so cute! There’s tea and cookies waiting for me, too. I gush over simple things. Untitled

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There’s still plenty of daylight so I go walking on another trail. But first! I stop at what may be the only grocery store. I figure it’ll be closed later. I, of course, buy snacks such as some cracker topped with cheese and almonds. I debate buying eggs to hard boil but figure I could do that in the morning as a nice lunch.

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It seems I could have come a different way, on a longer hike but I didn’t realize it in time. Some of the rocks are slippery with my shoes and I make note of that if it rains. (Spoiler Alert: Yes.) The map says there’s a ruin up ahead and I try to move quickly. From the top of the hill I spy another structure in the distance. I wonder what it is.

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I keep going for awhile but we know how it’ll end up if I keep going– I’ll walk back in the dark. That won’t work well with slippery shoes. Trail runners do not work with rocks.  I turn back without reaching the ruins. I backtrack to town.

I’m not ready to go back inside. The return was much quicker than the walk up. I go back on the trail from this morning. I missed a shrine! It has its own stamp, too. 🙂 IMG_9760

There’s another trail that mentions a waterfall so I go explore.

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The trail is overgrown… and dried up? I turn around and return to the onsen.

There are many slippers awaiting more guests. They’re not here yet. There’s time before dinner so I wash up. This onsen has two private baths. I like this but it’s perhaps not as convenient if you have to wait for someone to finish. I crack open a window to have some cool air flow in. My attempt to soak in a hot bath is a failure. Like how does one mess this up? The water is too hot. Impossibly hot. Like can someone really submerge themselves in this?

There’s a tap and I turn it on. The water is cold but I would need a lot of water. I don’t know if that’s appropriate. This has never happened before. What to do? I get dressed in a yukata (!) and walk upstairs to my room.

I drink tea while reading about onsen etiquette. Apparently, there are cases of water being too hot and and in this case I could add cold water. I plan to go again after dinner.

Dinner! I walk downstairs but am unsure of where to go. It seems the other guests have started already but the door is closed so I wonder if I’m eating elsewhere? I don’t want to interrupt if that’s private. The hostess comes out of the kitchen and leads me inside. There’s three tables. The family (?) is at one and I’m placed at another. Talk about the losers table.

The hostess keeps bringing out small plates and I don’t know where to start. Everything looks so good. I start with the sashimi but it seems so cold almost icy and so I leave that to try another dish. I think the hostess thought I didn’t like raw fish, that it’s okay if I want to cook it on the little candle stove. She’s sweet. I make my rounds sampling everything. I can’t understand the lively conversation from the other table. Their energy is comforting but at the same time exasperating.

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I’m last to finish dinner. I stack tiny dishes on to bigger dishes and thank the hostess for a lovely meal. I run into one of the guests (the father?). He asks the usual, where I’m from and if I’m traveling alone. People are usually surprised by this.

In my room, I shuffle stuff around because I’m a dork who wants a photo in a yukata. I check my phone for things and overall stick to the thirty minute rule of no swimming right after eating. IMG_9774

I check the baths but they’re occupied. So, I go back to my room and write some messages. I have more tea and check my route for tomorrow. The baths are finally available. The water is much cooler this time. I would have hoped for hotter water. Ha, never the right temperature! It’s still relaxing nonetheless.

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One Comment

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  1. Great, descriptive post and photos! The hikes you went on look absolutely magical. Thank you for sharing!

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