Accommodation: Ise Guesthouse Kazami, ¥2600 for a dorm room
After spending 4 nights in Koyasan, I walked back to Hongu along the Kohechi route (now I have my trail legs) but the landslides were getting worse and it wasn’t any easier the second time around. I made it to Hongu and took the bus back to Tanabe then walked the Nakahechi route again from Tanabe to Hongu (basing myself at Hongu Backpackers for 2 nights and taking the bus to Chikatsuyu where I stopped on the first day). I then walked from Hongu to Nachi along the Kogumotori-goe and Ogumotori-goe trails (the opposite direction to when I first walked), and onto Shingu. Sorry for not blogging but it was repeating trails I’d already blogged about.
Today I took the first limited express train from Shingu at 6.20am and had a four minute transfer in Taki, to arrive at the JR Iseshi station at 8.44am (2 hours and 24 minutes, ¥4,420 – non-reserved seat). Last night I booked a dorm room at Ise Guesthouse Kazami which is about a 3 minute walk from the station, so I went and dropped my pack off then went back to the station and waited for the tourist office to open at 9am. I’ve been to Ise before and on my last visit in 2007 I travelled around the coastline and visited Toba to see the Ama pearl divers, so this time I’m only staying one night and will start walking the Iseji path tomorrow.
Before coming to Ise, I had enquired at the Tanabe, Hongu, Shingu and Katsuura information centres for any information they had on the Iseji route and no-one had any information because the route travels through the neighbouring prefecture of Mie and not Wakayama (the end point of Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine in Shingu is in Wakayama but that’s it). That’s why I decided to come to Ise and start walking south-west from here (like people traditionally did) rather than walk north-east from Shingu where I was… I was hoping Ise would have some information about the walk that starts in their town! The information office at Ise station gave me a large Japanese sketch map book of the route but couldn’t help with anything else and didn’t know about accommodation options.
So I tried the next tourist office, this one opposite the Geku (outer shrine) entrance and explained that I wanted to start walking tomorrow and asked if they had any information about the accommodation options. A lovely man working in the office called Nakamura-san was intrigued that I wanted to walk this route so I showed him the rough 7 day plan I had and he said he would try to help me find accommodation. He told me to come back in a few hours after I’d visited Ise Shrine.
You can take a bus from the station to Ise Shrine (the inner Shrine called Naiku) or it’s a 4.5km walk. I decided to walk. After 4km I turned onto the street that approaches the entrance to the Shrine, called Oharaimachi and it was like walking through a samurai drama film set with many traditional wooden buildings. Even better for a hungry hiker were the dozens of restaurants and cafes selling delicious Japanese snacks. The following pics are just some of the snacks I ate 😉
Then onto Ise Shrine which is considered Japan’s most important Shinto shrine because the sun-Goddess Amaterasu-omikami (Japan’s most revered mythological God) is enshrined here. There is a popular and ancient saying in Japan,
“Seven times to Ise and three times to Kumano, Ise ni Nanatabi Kumano ni Sando“
Walking through the wooden torii gate and across the Ujibashi bridge into the Shrine complex, along the long gravel path with the sound of the crunching of gravel underfoot, the birds singing and the breeze… marvelling at the enormous cedar trees and simplicity of the wooden shrine buildings, feeling completely encompassed by nature. It’s easy to understand why in ancient times people came from all over Japan to visit and pray at this shrine and they still do today.
Feeling energised from tree-hugging 😉 I walked back to the tourist office outside Geku (the outer shrine) and met Nakamura-san who handed me an A4 sheet of my rough plan turned into a complete plan with all accommodation booked! I think I was expecting to be handed a list of possible accommodation options that I would call and make the bookings myself, but he said he was ashamed that there wasn’t any information in English and he wanted to try and rectify this, so my 7 day plan could become an example plan for future people wanting to walk this route. What a great person to meet, thank you so much Nakamura-san!
Feeling excited, I left the Tourist Office and went to the family mart convenience store to photocopy the map-book I’d been given – it’s an A4 sized book and too cumbersome to be holding while walking so by photocopying it I can have each day’s section in my shoulder bag and it will be easier to pull out and look at. I then went back to the guesthouse and my luck continued when I was offered Japanese curry for dinner by another guest who had made a huge dinner for everyone staying there, it was a great night.