Kumano-kodo Ohechi ; Nagaizaka 熊野古道大辺路；長井坂
A fine sunny morning with a strong, chill wind coming off the land not the sea. Susami michi no eki has a good view of the sea though this is not obvious from the car park. You must walk round to the other side of the building.
Kumano-kodo Ohechi, Nagaizaka course from Mirozu station
There are three sacred places in Kii peninsula, Yoshino, Koyasan and Kumano. These are linked by numerous pilgrimage route mostly for Shugendo, a mountain worshiping sect. The Kumano-kodo, however has been a very popular pilgrimage route for more than 1000 years. People, rich and poor, walked from Kyoto to Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha. Well, the poor walked, the rich probably rode or were carried. Of the original Kumano Kodo, 6 routes still partially exist. Kohechi, Nakahechi, Ohechi, Kii-ji, Ise-ji and Omine Okugakemichi.
Our plan is to walk Kumano-kodo Ohechi – Nagaizaka course . So, from the michi no eki we drive the short distance to Mirozu Station where we park. The station is a cute little café but the kind lady, who directs us to the trail head, is not concerned that we occupy one third of her parking area.
Crossing the railway line, we enter the trail which begins with long steep climb of over a kilometre. After that, it evens out and becomes easy walking along the ridge through the woods. In places the wood opens out and it becomes sunny and quite hot.
We are walking on the sea ward side of the ridge so sheltered from the wind. Mostly the sea can be glimpsed through the foliage but in spots there are clear views of the ocean. At one point there is a clear ridge to walk along that is obviously artificial. This ridge, or Hanchiku, was constructed in the Edo period to ease the way for the pilgrims. following this route.
After following the trail to within 600 metres of the end where we turn around and walk back. The last 600 metres are descending from the ridge and if we go down, we will have to wait a considerable time as the trains are few. So, rather than finish the trail, we decide to walk back.
Back at Mirozu Station, we pick up the car after an enjoyable walk of around 8 kilometres.
Susami michi no eki lunch
From Mirozu we drive back to Susami michi no eki where we have lunch overlooking the sea. This is the second time we have eaten in this michi no eki restaurant. They serve a good meal at a reasonable price. The menu includes the famous, local Inobuta (pig and wild boar cross) dish as well as seafood. Recommended.
Kuroiwa and Shirahama Sandanbeki
After lunch we drive on a few kilometres to Kuroiwa. There is a good view of the waves meeting but it not much of a spectacle. Next, we try to find the Phrenic Folding geological site. It features in the local tourist brochure but does not seem to be signposted, a least we could not find it. Disappointed we head for Shirahama.
Having visited Nanki Shirahama Senjojiki on a previous trip, and it is worth stopping for, we visit Nanki Shirahama Sandanbeki instead. This cliff is not much to write home about and is surrounded by a lot of tackiness. There is a elevator if you pay (1300 yen) that takes you down the stone wall to see the cave. We did not do this, but for the rest – best avoided.
Tore Tore no Yu
We take a bath at a huge and very commercial onsen Tore Tore no Yu. This has good facilities as you would expect. It also has an outside bath with a view of the sea and beautiful coastline. Unfortunately, this view is obscured by a massive flat screen TV. This is something I have never seen before and hope never to see again. I retreat inside and soak in the pink water of a soda bath feeling like a Roman senator ordered to commit suicide.
＊Shirahama onsen Tore Tore no yu ; 850 yen / adult
Kuchi Kumano michi no eki
From Tore Tore no Yu, we head for Kuchi Kumano michi no eki. This is at the back of the service area on the highway so is a little hard to find. You have to turn off the main road over a tiny railway crossing, at a traffic light. Then, drive up to and under the highway. It is a good place to stay and this is our second time here.
Since our first visit, a lot of signs have appeared – don’t do this, don’t do that. A michi no eki is for short term rest etc. So, perhaps, they have had problems with shachuhaku but, no one bothered us.
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.