Yamanobe no michi
Busy, early on a Sunday morning, Kudoyama michi-no-eki was quiet during the night. An excellent place to stay with good facilities and rubbish bins provided.
Our plan today is to walk half of Yamanobe no michi. So, we take the Keinawa Highway, as it is toll free, to Sakurai Station to park our car.
From Sakurai we take the JR line three stations to Yanagimoto Station. From this station it is about a 10 min. walk to join the Yamanobe no michi. We plan to walk back along this route to Sakurai.
The Yamanobe no michi is an ancient route dating from the 7th. Century. For centuries it was an important commercial, as well as a pilgrimage road. Shrines, temples and burial mounds are dotted along the way.
Chogaku Temple and Tomb of Emperor Sujin
First, we come to Chogaku Temple. This is very busy with large numbers of walkers tangled with numerous cars vying for very limited parking space. Due to the crowds, we turn away from the temple and start our walk past the tomb of the Emperor Sujin.
This is a thickly wooded mound surrounded by a murky moat. Entry is not permitted to this sacred site. No great loss as it did not look very inviting.
The walk is generally very pleasant, especially so, on such a beautiful day. The path winds through orchards of persimmon and mikan and there are stalls here and there selling these and other fruit and vegetables. Some of the more impressionable hikers, load themselves with this extra ballast.
We drop into various shrines and temples and note the shrine (Sumo jinjya) where sumo is supposed to have originated. At Hibara Shrine a young priest is playing a haunting flute.
Oomiwa Shrine 大神神社
At first, as we approached Hibara Shrine, we thought it was the usual tape playing but were pleasantly surprised to realize it was a rare live performance.
From Hibara shrine we walk through the pine woods following the cobblestones until we arrived Oomiwa Shrine.
At Oomiwa Shrine, apparently, one of the oldest shrines in Japan, D. has her Goshuin book signed. There is a lot of activity to celebrate Shichi go san, that is, children of 7, 5 and 3 years of age. Families in Sunday best, are towing small children in elaborate kimono, taking picture after picture. Here we also get to sip sake from a barrel.
Oomiwa Shrine is the shrine for Sake Brewing.
The nearby Byodo-ji is a tasteful little temple, worth a quick look.
Oomiwa Shrine offers another choice to start a hike along Yamanobe no michi. You can park your car in front of the shrine and then take a train from Miwa station to Yanagimoto station.
By the time we are back at Sakurai Station we are a little weary after a 9km. walk. The last section through the streets is wearing.
We head out of the city to Udaji Ouda michi no eki. This is not very good for Shachuhaku. The toilet is primitive, but it will have to do.
The nearby onsen, Akino no Yu, is a bit pricey at 800 yen but quite good. It is busy on a Sunday night.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.