Day 4, Kii Katsuura to Nachi Taisha via Daimonzaka then along the Ogumotori-goe trail to Koguchi, 25km
Accommodation: Shizen no ie, Koguchi, ¥9300 including dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch
I woke up early, went for a walk and came across the tuna auctions at the fish market by the port. Katsuura is famous for its tuna and it was included in my dinner set last night, but I felt conflicted being at the market and seeing all of the tuna… I don’t know how it’s caught but I hope it’s sustainably. On the way back to the Minshuku, I popped into the Family Mart opposite and picked up some onigiri rice balls and mochi sweets for lunch today then went and had my western breakfast.
There’s a bus and train from Kii Katsuura station to Nachi station but it was a nice morning and only 3km, so I walked from the minshuku east to the sea then along the seawall, across a bridge and along a lovely esplanade to Nachi station. From Nachi station, I then walked the 7.4km to Nachi Taisha shrine using the Japanese map that I was given yesterday in Shingu (there’s no English map for this route). Until Daimonzaka this route is mostly along small roads with one forest section but I thought it was nice enough.
Once reaching the entrance for the Daimonzaka slope, it was clear this was a popular section and with good reason. The 650 metre long stone path is surrounded by large cedar trees and is very picturesque. Lucky for me, the Daimonzaka teahouse at the beginning of the slope rents out Heian period costumes and I came across a group of Chinese ladies who had rented them so I was able to get some pictures of them as they climbed the steps.
Once I reached Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine (the third and final Grand Shrine of the Kumano Sanzan), I looked around, got my stamp, then made my way past the 16th century Seiganto-ji Temple (next to the Shrine) and downhill slightly to visit Nachi Falls – Japan’s tallest waterfall. It’s reportedly 133 metres long with a width of 13 metres. You can pay ¥300 to get a closer view of the falls and also taste the water.
It was just after 10am and it was time I started the next section of the day, the Ogumotori-goe trail. This trail is considered the hardest section of the Nakahechi route and my map said it would take about 7 hours including breaks to walk the 14.5km so I walked back up towards the shrine to pick up the trail which is between a souvenir shop and Seiganto-ji temple.
The first 4.4km was an uphill climb to reach Funami-toge pass at 868m and on the way there was a short side-trail for a terrific view of the Pacific Ocean and Kii Katsuura where I started from in the morning. The trail was beautiful but unrelenting and with the slippery moss-covered stones underfoot for most of the 14.5km, it was difficult to ever really walk with a decent pace. At Echizen-toge pass before I started the steep and slippery 800m descent to Koguchi (over 4.8km), there was a bilingual sign noting that,
“Even the famous poet Fujiwara Teika (1162-1241) was at a loss of words after walking this section, stating in his pilgrimage diary from 1201 that, “This route is very rough and difficult; it is impossible to describe how tough it is.””
Just before reaching Koguchi I had to wait for a snake to slither off the path, I think it was an Aodaisho, Japanese rat snake. Then I arrived in Koguchi and made my way to tonight’s accommodation, the beautifully converted old school called Shizen no Ie.
There’s really nothing better than soaking in a Japanese bath before dinner after a long day of hiking! I only saw about 4 people today on the Ogumotori-goe trail between Nachi and Koguchi (and everyone was walking the opposite direction) so I was really surprised to be eating dinner tonight with about 20 other people, and all foreigners. It was a fantastic evening with a delicious dinner and great company.