James wanted the alarm set for 7.20am and when it went off, he decided snooze would be good… We did get up around 7.40am as breakfast was being served at 8am and we were concerned that they may have been ready earlier than this (as they were 15 mins early serving dinner the night before). As suspected, there would be more rice and lot’s of little things including tofu and eggs <EN – In San was was concerned that I couldn’t handle so many rice meals in a row, it has not been a problem so far>.
We ate it all in 20 minutes and then headed back upstairs to get ready for our day ahead. We got a lift up the boring hill to Takahara where our next trail would begin. Of course, we needed to check out the only shop for snacks and opted for mochi balls with red bean inside, I was briefly tempted by trail bars but James put me off by saying the mochi would be better, it was only afterwards that he admitted the bars were JPY 374 (when the mochi was only JPY 100) <EN – I couldn’t just say that in front of the nice lady in the shop>.
The first part of the trail was quite uphill and we had very useful signs everywhere, they were so clear they even had signs telling you which trails weren’t part of the official route.
The route was quite mossy and there were a lot of things moving which I didn’t like, the spiders are definitely a lot bigger and scarier. <EN – In San is not enjoying the giant insects in Korean and Japan. Japanese people delight in pointing out to her when insects are crawling up her leg>
We stopped off at a rest point for our mochi break and then a giant bee came to join us, we decided to eat them on the go.
We walked past quite a few shrines and some cool tree roots. We walked and saw a particular Japanese lady a few times as we must have been walking at similar paces. She rather sensibly brought a plastic mat with her to sit on whilst eating her onigiri and when we stopped to look at an oji, she asked us where we were from. James always responds England and I have been requesting that he says London, to date he has still not satisfied my request. We made polite conversation which included mentioning how difficult the walk was and the word ‘sweaty’ also came up.
We kept on walking and saw a stick with mushrooms growing on it. This was pretty awesome to us so we took quite a few photos. At the same time, another walker was passing from the other direction and joined in on the mushroom watching. Another conversation was started with the classic ‘where you from’ question, although this guy was particularly friendly and he got out his map and we talked about the kumano kodo trail and which parts we were walking. There was obviously a lot of pointing at the various maps and gesturing during this conversation and when he realised we didn’t have an English version of his map, he went into his backpack and gave us one he was carrying around. I thought it was very random that he would carry a map for other people just in case but we were grateful as his one included information about snack breaks and may come in useful if we decide to do another part of the route in the future.
When we got to Chikatsuyu-oji, we decided to sit down for our bentos. They had a bit of everything including octopus, beef, chicken drumstick and two onigiri. They were nice but I didn’t like the pickled filling in the onigiri as much as James did. The pit stop had a cafe which sold ice cream, this wasn’t the official ice cream spot as indicated in our guide but we saw they had premium cones and couldn’t resist. We opted for one matcha one to share and at JPY 300 it was totally worth it.
We then made our way to Minshuku chikatsuyu where we would be staying for the night. As the walk was only 4 hours, we arrived too early to check in and decided to explore the area. There was a foot bath so we made use of that. We had hoped to have plum ice cream <EN – I was officially suggested in our guide that here was the place to get plum icecream> to eat whilst bathing our feet but the lady said they didn’t have any. We were very grateful for our matcha ice cream purchase a few kilometers earlier.
There was a random shop which had rabbits in cages. We did not put our fingers anywhere near them as there was a clear warning they would bite.
The other shops amused us for some time <EN – they were all rather high end but interesting to browse>, we found some orange juice and there was finally a vending machine that sold royal milk tea in hot rather than cold form. We also explored the A-coop supermarket to get snacks for tomorrow’s walk.
On arrival, we were shown to our room and the host asked us a few times if Japanese style dining would be fine and of course we said yes. Dinner would be served at 6pm and so we headed off to have a bath before then. We were very happy to amuse ourselves for a little bit as the humidity made it difficult to walk uphill, we are certainly not designed for warm climates.
We weren’t sure what to expect for dinner at a minshuku as it was a less excessive ryokan from our understanding. Dinner didn’t let us down. There was sashimi (oh yeah!), mushrooms <EN – Steamed fresh in front of us> with a yuzu sauce, and traditional rice with burdock and chicken. We later discovered the Japanese couple next to us got rice and fish instead so the hosts must have tailored the food for our Western palettes.
The host joked that we were given wasabi ice cream for dessert, I believed her until I tried it and it turned out to be melon. It was a nice way to end the meal. We carried on chatting to the couple next to us who were intrigued as to how we even knew about the Kumono Kodo as it’s only really popular in Japan with older people. I got the impression they may have thought we were old before our time.
We pleasantly surprised by how delicious the food was and look forward to the next stage of our trail adventure. Getting up for breakfast at 6:30 we are less keen about.