November 12th. & 13th.
Michi no eki Ise-Shima proves to be an excellent shachuhaku spot. It is well away from the road, flat, with modern toilets and a large Plant supermarket, which has a good quality deli area, only five minutes’ drive away.
Yokoyama Viewing Point
Our first stop of the day is Yokoyama Viewing Point. The road, up to the viewing point itself, is steep and very narrow in places. In high season it may be better to park at the bottom (Visitor centre) and walk up as, I imagine, the congestion must be chaotic. We are there early on a Monday morning in November and by the time we leave the upper car park is full.
The viewing point does provide a marvellous vista of Ago Bay. This is a maze of inlets famous for cultivated pearls. Although it is almost mid-November, we are wearing T-shirts and the strong sunshine makes it too hot to sit for long to admire the scene. There are several viewing platforms and viewing points, so we can walk around. Also there is a café with an open-air section at looking out over the bay- Yokoyama Tenku Cafe terrace.
Onigajo, powerful rock site
From Yokoyama Viewing Point we drive out to Goza Shirahama Beach by R.260, but this is a disappointment so retrace our steps and embark on a long run to Onigajo. This turns out to be longer than expected as we make a serious navigation error and finally arrive as the light is dimming to dusk. The day after such a bright start has gradually hazed over.
Onigajo, or Ogres castle is a sight to behold; fantastic shapes produced by volcanic tuff eroded by the sea and uplifted by earthquakes over the eons. Unfortunately, only the first part of the walk along these cliffs is accessible due to typhoon devastation of the route. A heartily recommended site, nonetheless.
Route 169 to Okutoro michi no eki
From Onigajo, we set of for Okutoro michi no eki. This is deep in the mountains of Wakayama prefecture. We follow Prefectural road 34 to Nanairo Dam and then R. 169. As expected, this is steep, winding and narrow. Two vehicles cannot pass for long sections but at least in the dark you can see when something is approaching. Three deer take us by surprise as they dash off into the darkness.
About two kilometres from our destination, we are flagged down by an elderly lady who has missed the bus and needs to get to her friend’s house for a dinner appointment. This is apparently near the michi no eki, so we drop her off there, I half expected to find a neat pile of leaves on the back seat by way of payment.
Next to the michi no eki is the onsen. This is an expensive sort of place. You can tell because the piped music is jazz. The bath is excellent, and it is pleasant to sit in the outside bath in the now steady rain.
＊Okutoro onsen ; 600 yen / adult
Dorokyo, scenic and quiet 瀞峡
Okutoro michi no eki is a very good place. It is possibly the quietest place we have ever stayed. The parking area is huge and flat, the toilets modern and clean, with flower arrangements. And rubbish bins are provided. In summer, I suspect, it is a different story.
On leaving, we follow the Kumano river and stop to take pictures at Dorokyo. This is very beautiful place, even in the pouring rain. The towering cliffs with precarious cedars, the blueish river, the drifting mists and the sumi-e mountain backdrop are just magnificent.
All this is shattered by a sightseeing jet-boat roaring through the gorge. Vandalism. But still a great place after all.
Gotobiki Rock at Kamikura Shrine, scary steps 神倉神社
The rain puts a damper on the day as we follow the river. At Otonari we stop to see the view and at Shingu to have lunch. Here we climb the very steep, rugged steps up to the Kamikura Shrine. This is a short, but arduous, assent and on reaching the bottom again we note a sign we had missed. This advices seniors, like us, not to attempt it.
Coming down, admittedly, we did take the alternative “Ladies Trail” to avoid the steepest steps in honour of D.s vertigo. This is less steep but more of a scramble through the woods.
From Gotobiki, we drive into the mountains to check Takino Haitaro michi no eki. This is a very isolated spot that I feel is a good place to stay. The parking is flat, there is a Heli-pad and little else except a surprisingly modern toilet. D. does not want to stay in this place as she feels it is too remote and too early in the day. So, we check the nearby Ichimai-iwa, or one rock, michi no eki. This lies on the other side of the river from a massive rock that really is a massive rock but the michi no eki is not so good. It is really a lay-by with a primitive toilet.
On then, through the persistent rain, to stop at Susami michi no eki. This is large and busy but away from the main road. The modern toilet is fine but too small for such a busy place.
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.