Day 7 – Odomari to Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine, Shingu, 27km
Accommodation: Guesthouse Fukuroku, ¥3240 including a small breakfast, 090-5093-6445
Breakfast was included in the rate I paid at Hotel Nami so I requested a Japanese breakfast rather than a western as a Japanese breakfast is more filling with the rice – (often a western breakfast is just a piece of toast and fruit). I left the hotel and walked back to the trailhead for Matsumoto toge pass and started up the Edo period (1603-1868) stone staircase and 15 minutes later I was at the top. At the top of the pass there was a tall life-size jizo statue with a bullet hole in the statue. The story goes that a farmer crossed the mountain one morning and before he came back in the evening the statue had been erected and when he saw it for the first time in the evening he thought it was a ghost so he fired his gun and that’s why there’s a bullet hole in it. Today was the first overcast day all week (I definitely got lucky with the weather), so my first view of the Hongu mountains and Shichiri Mihama beach was unfortunately quite grey and dull!
I descended Matsumoto toge pass into the town of Kumanoshi and was surprised not to see better waymarks being so close to this popular mountain pass and also knowing there was a tourist office in the town. After walking through the old streets of Kumanoshi, the trail was literally along the beach which was really difficult to walk along because of the giant pebbles! Along the beach there were warning signs for the kite hawks because they’re known to swoop down and steal food. (I actually had this happen to me years ago when I was living in Japan. I was sitting on the beach in Kamakura eating a Haagen Daaz ice cream in a cup and a hawk swooped down and stole it out of my hands!)
Walking along the beach I went past the Shishi iwa lion rock, a designated National Treasure, but it’s a bit hard to see the lion face from the angle where I was on the beach, the picture might’ve been better from the road. The next sight the trail passed was the Hananoiwaya 45m high rock which is said to be the gravestone of the mythological Goddess Izanami who gave birth to many Shinto deities. Opposite this rock shrine there was a michi no eki so I bought lunch and ate it there.
I must admit, I knew today was going to be around 27km but I thought it was going to be an easy day walking along a road by the beach. It actually became the most frustrating day of all! The path followed a sea wall for a few kilometres which was fine but then there was a lot of stopping and starting with the path along the sea wall suddenly disappearing and and having to rejoin the highway/forest path… then trying to find the path and waymarks. It seemed to take so much longer than it needed to. A few waymarks in key places would go a long way!!
I finally crossed a bridge over the Kumanogawa river and was back in Shingu and paying my respects at Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine. I was glad today was over but actually quite sad that I’d finished the Iseji path which (other than the last 15km) I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved walking along the old small roads through villages, meeting the elderly locals, all of the scenic mountain passes, the white sand beaches, the incredible hospitality and delicious meals each day at the accommodations, and the sense of adventure. It’s hard to recommend this path if you don’t speak or read Japanese which is a real shame, but I hope someone will mark the trail so more people can walk it.
In Shingu I went to the Tourist Office and asked for a recommendation for somewhere to stay for the night and they told me about Guesthouse Fukuroku where I am now. The lovely owner came and picked me up from the tourist office and brought me to her home where she has two rooms in her house that she rents out. I’m planning to head back to Tanabe tomorrow and pick up a map of the Ohechi route and start walking it in two day’s time.