Day 2 – Tochihara to Ise Kashiwazaki, 32km
Accommodation: Minshuku Idobata, ¥6000 including dinner and breakfast, 0598-89-4026
After a great night’s sleep and a delicious breakfast, I set off at 7.30am. After 1km of walking along a small road, the trail turned off the road and down some steep steps to a small tunnel under the road. Apart from a very faded arrow, it would be hard to know that you have to go through this tunnel and not the opposite direction through the forest, luckily Okajimaya-san told me about this tunnel last night. I was in the forest for about 1km before joining route 42 but then only briefly as small wooden signs often pointed off the highway and into the forest crossing streams on log bridges. I passed a lot more green tea growing in the beautifully manicured ‘worm’ hedges (this isn’t a technical term, I just think they look like giant worms!) I also walked down one street where the green tea was being processed and boiled and the smell was incredible. Okajima-san had told me about a cafe that was a short detour along route 42, so I followed his advice and sat with 4 retired men and had a delicious cup of coffee (I think it’s quite fair to say Japan doesn’t really do coffee and everyday until now the best coffee I’d had was from vending machines).
After 14km there were a couple of restaurants for lunch around Misedani station but I decided instead to go to the Michi-no-eki on route 42 (about a 300m detour), and bought some rice balls and the local chilled green tea. I didn’t stop for long as I knew I still had a very long way to go. The only pass today was Misesaka toge pass. It took me an hour to go up and down the pass with a short steep ascent and an initial steep descent, but it was lovely to be in the mountains and slightly cooler too than walking along a road in the hot sun. I can’t remember how many times I crossed the railway tracks, but it was a lot! After Misesaka toge pass, I walked past Takihara Nomiya shrine and thought how much it resembled Ise Shrine, then was told it’s an associated shrine. It was quiet and peaceful in the shrine grounds but unfortunately I didn’t have time to contemplate much other than how far I still had to walk! In the next village a local builder said hi and asked me where I was going, I told him the name of the village where I was staying and he said he was friends of the owner of the accommodation and offered me a lift which I politely declined then carried on walking.
The last few kilometres were hard-going and I think today would be better split into two days somehow. The Japanese signs pretty much ran out soon after Tochihara this morning (and I haven’t seen anything in English since I started) so I was looking at the map constantly and wondering why there’d been no effort to mark this path like the Nakahechi and even Kohechi routes. I was thinking about the Shikoku 88 Temple pilgrimage which was also a lot of road walking but with red henro stickers along the way so you knew you were on the right path… it’s only day 2 but I think the Iseji needs a special Iseji sticker showing the way. I was so happy to finally arrive at my accommodation and the owner was very welcoming. After a terrific dinner she asked if I wanted to go to a nearby onsen with her and I jumped at the opportunity so we drove about 5 minutes away and had a lovely soak.