Day 1 – Takijiri Oji to Chikatsuyu, 13km
Accommodation: Minshuku Nakano, ¥9000 including dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch
I flew from London to Tokyo and took a few trains south to eventually arrive in Tanabe in Wakayama prefecture yesterday to begin my adventure on the Kumano Kodo. I booked my first night at Miyoshiya Ryokan in Tanabe and was greeted by Ken, the very friendly and English speaking ryokan owner. The ryokan is only a three minute walk from the station and they can hold your luggage while you’re off hiking so it was perfect as I’d brought an extra bag that I was hoping to leave behind (then fill with Japanese chocolate and other goodies before flying home!)
I popped into the Tanabe City Kumano Tourist Bureau yesterday after getting off the train as it’s right next to the station and I picked up some maps, the Dual Pilgrim stamp list and bus and train timetables that will probably come in handy over the coming 6 weeks. It was nice to put a face to the names and voices I’d spoken to on the phone when making some last-minute accommodation reservations for the trip.
Nowadays most people take a bus from Tanabe to Takijiri to start their walk, which is what I did today, but I did hear that there is a map in the making for this section and that over the next few months there should be some waymarks put up too. (Check back here in October for that post!)
So, day 1! The first bus leaves Tanabe station at 6.35am for the 36 minute bus ride to Takijiri, but I missed this (blame the jet-lag), and instead caught the 6.50am bus which arrived at 7.28am. There were French, American and Japanese people on the bus all kitted out in hiking gear, some with tiny daypacks and some with oversized backpacks. There’s a luggage courier along the Nakahechi which I was wishing at many points today I’d taken advantage of!
When you get off the bus at Takijiri there’s the Kumano Kodo Kan Pilgrimage Centre across the bridge on the right (open from 9am) and on the left there’s a souvenir shop with some convenient drink vending machines outside so I downed a nice cold coffee, took the obligatory selfie in front of the Unesco sign, visited the first of many Oji (Takijiri-oji), got my first stamp in my dual pilgrim credential and started up the picturesque steep, rocky and tree-root trail. The first 4km to Takahara were quite the baptism of fire but this was the hardest part of the day.
Takahara is a quaint village with lovely mountain views and crazy steep roads. I stopped at the viewpoint carpark (with wc and vending machines) and thought if I was walking this again then I would love to stay the night here in Takahara and chill out even though it’s only 4km from Takijiri! I also thought I would’ve missed the cherry blossoms and they were definitely over in Tokyo when I arrived yesterday, but I got lucky here in the mountains today.
From Takahara to Chikatsuyu I continued collecting stamps and marvelled at how stunning and varied the trail was… Sometimes moss-covered stones, sometimes tree roots, up and down, over streams, passing wildflowers and with the constant background sound of woodpeckers and nightingales. I met two fellow-Aussies and a group of French people and everyone was talking about how beautiful the trail is.
I arrived in Chikatsuyu around 3pm and found my way to my accommodation at Minshuku Nakano, which is about a 7 minute walk from Chikatsuyu-oji. I’ve just had a delicious feast of a dinner and although it’s only 8pm, it’s dark outside and I’m ready to hit the sack for double today’s distance tomorrow.