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 early, went for a walk and came across the tuna auctions at the fish market by the port. Katsuura is famous for its tuna, it was included in my dinner-set last night but I felt conflicted being at the market and seeing all of the tuna… I hope it’s caught 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 today’s lunch then went and ate my western breakfast.
There’s a bus or train from Kii Katsuura station to Nachi station but it was a nice morning and only 3km, so I walked east to the sea then along the seawall and esplanade to Nachi station. From Nachi station, I walked the 7.4km to Nachi Taisha Shrine using the Japanese map that I was given in Shingu (there’s no English map for this route). Until Daimonzaka the route is mostly along small roads with one forest section but 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 ancient cedar trees and is very picturesque. Lucky for me, the teahouse at the beginning of the slope rents out Heian period costumes and I came across a group of Chinese ladies wearing them so I was able to get some pictures 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. The trail starts next to 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 rat snake. Arriving in Koguchi I 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 (and everyone was walking the opposite direction) so I was really surprised to be eating dinner with about 20 other people, and all foreigners. It was a fantastic evening with a delicious dinner and great company.