Day 5 – Koguchi to Ukegawa along the Kogumotori-goe trail then onto Hongu Taisha and Yunomine Onsen (Dainichi-goe), 19.5km
Accommodation: Minshuku Teruteya in Yunomine Onsen, ¥8200 including dinner and breakfast
For once, jetlag is working on my side! Breakfast is usually served between 6-7am which is when I’m waking up and dinner is served early (by most standards) between 5.30pm – 7pm and but that’s also perfect because I’m falling asleep by 8pm! There’s not much else to do in these small mountain villages once it gets dark!
I had a hearty breakfast of grilled salmon, miso soup, rice, seaweed, omelette and yoghurt (set breakfast) and was given a packed lunch, then was on my way. The path from Koguchi starts by going through a few front gardens and I wasn’t sure at first if I was on the right path but a local waved me on and told me I was. It was a beautiful morning with a short steep climb first thing, up and over a road tunnel (you can opt to walk through the tunnel instead). The path was much wider and easier than yesterday’s Ogumotori-goe section and after about 3 hours I arrived at one of Wakayama’s 100 top sunrise/sunset viewpoints called Hyakken Gura. I sat and ate lunch while admiring the view.
I arrived at the trailhead in Ukegawa and decided to continue a further 3km along the road into Hongu so I could visit the Hongu Heritage Centre to see if they had some information on the Kohechi trail (that I’m starting tomorrow). There’s a footpath for part of this section and a small section where the footpath runs out and you’re walking on the road but it wasn’t too bad. The Hongu information centre is terrific and has a small library of English and Japanese books, as well as an exhibition on the history of the Kumano Kodo and a movie playing on a loop. I picked up a map for the Kohechi and a map showing how to get to tomorrow night’s accommodation in Totsukawa Onsen then walked the 3.4km to Yunomine Onsen along the Dainichi-goe trail – a steep moss-covered stone and tree root path that I wouldn’t want to walk on in the rain!
I found my minshuku in Yunomine Onsen and after dinner I bought a timed ticket to enter the Tsuboyu onsen – an onsen in a hut in the middle of the river in the main street and the only World Heritage listed onsen in the world. The timed ticket allows you 30 minutes in the onsen, which is tiny! I had a lovely quick soak and then started going over tomorrow’s maps for the Kohechi route.