After a somewhat restless night in the tent, instead of retracing our steps back to the main road, we decided that because we were already so deep into the forest it would be more expedient to take a backroad and cut the corner off the trail.
The gentle shade of the forest, complete with the occasional startled deer crossing our path, made for a refreshing beginning to the day. In the end, it took us almost two hours to get to rejoin the Ise-ji trail near Kawazoe Station (川添駅).
While I’m normally a trail completionist, since I was with my wife and we had a long day of walking ahead, we decided to take the train two stops to Misedani Station (三瀬谷駅) which avoided a good chunk of painful road walking.
Near to the station, we ate brunch at Cafe Muku. The beautifully appointed traditional house was the perfect place to take a breather and the excellent pancakes provided ample energy for the walk ahead.
We continue following the river, crossing over to the other side via the dangerous-looking old Funaki Bridge where you’d be advised to stand well back from the low balustrades on either side. I doubt they’ll be letting people cross it much longer given there’s a newer bridge right next to it.
Whereas today the trail doubles back here, in times gone by pilgrims would have used a ferry to cross further upstream. You can still book the ferry in advance if you’re with a group.
As we approached the start of the Misesaka-toge Pass (三瀬坂峠), we saw a family of monkeys overhead, climbing on the underside of the expressway that carves its way brutally through the landscape.
The pass was the highlight of the day. It was a joy to walk up the steep path into the forest under the dappled light cast by the canopy. We didn’t pass a single soul the whole way.
The forest floor was much easier on the legs but after 2km it was over all too soon and we were faced with another long road walk. Chen opted to take a train the rest of the way while I decided to plod on a little longer.
The next point of interest was Takihara-no-Miya Shrine (瀧原宮), a sub-shrine of Ise Grand Shrine. It’s hard for me to describe the feeling of these places, but on an aesthetic level, it’s sort of a perfect blend of man-made forms with nature and from nature. Just think about all the effort that went into sorting and organising that gravel!
Further down the road, I encountered something I’d never seen before; a snake was in the process of trying to eat a frog. My presence disturbed it and the snake let down its guard allowing the frog to jump free. A frantic chase ensued and the frog managed to escape down a drain by the skin of its teeth. I had no idea snakes could move so fast!
Feeling physically spent by this point, I stopped at a convenience store to rest my legs and eat an ice cream before catching the train from Aso (阿曽駅) to Ise-Kashiwazaki Station (伊勢柏崎駅), bypassing about 6km of road.
After getting off the train, I found Chen further down the road sitting by the riverside, reading a book and watching a heron on the opposite bank. We walked together to the minpaku (a sort of homestay) we had booked for the night. We were badly in need of a shower but the owner was out so we gave her a call and waited outside.
Having washed and wolfed down a huge dinner of grilled buri, deer and an assortment of other dishes, the owner and her friend asked whether we’d like to try on the Japanese wedding clothes she had on display. We were shattered and just wanted to sleep but didn’t have the heart to say no so spent the next 45 minutes playing dress-up. I’m pretty sure this was more for their amusement than ours!
Only then were we finally free to collapse on the futons into a deep sleep.