After a good nights sleep at Sekisho-in temple, I got up early to attend the 7 am morning prayer service. It was cold to the bone in the main hall which I was surprised to find packed to overflowing with adherents and curious bystanders like myself. I sat next to a mother with her disabled son who had a special prayer said for him.

Immediately after the service a simple breakfast of rice and tofu with pickled vegetables was served by the monks. Most of the other foreigners picked it over with somewhat confused expressions but I ate as much as possible to save energy for the hike ahead.

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I headed outside and began walking along the leafy path through the enormous cemetery that leads to the Okunoin (奥の院), the site Kōbō-Daishi’s mausoleum.

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In contrast to my last trip here, which had been rather hurried, it was much more relaxed this time and I was able to enjoy the morning sun illuminating the unending rows of solemn tombstones in peace.

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Back at the temple, I packed my bag and then walked for about 10 minutes to the trailhead where the Kohechi begins. The entrance is a little off the main road; follow signs for Kongō Sanmai-in (金剛三昧院) to find it.

If you’re planning on doing the same I recommend picking up the official map from the tourist information office nearby, it includes a huge amount of useful information to help plan ahead. They can also be downloaded.

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The morning took me across a flat-topped ridgeline shaded by trees. At around 1000m it was chilly but not unpleasant while walking at a brisk pace.

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After around 5km the trail dips down into a valley in order to cross the Odonogawa river. On the other side, I passed through a tiny village with a small cluster of traditional houses and a solitary post box.

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Shortly afterwards the trail joins the Koya-Ryujin Skyline (高野龍神スカイライン) for about 2km before heading steeply up onto the Tainohara-sen forestry road.

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I stopped and sat on a log overlooking the valley to eat my bento lunch. Only one other hiker had passed me the whole morning and it was blissfully quiet.

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Further down the road is a lookout point with a covered picnic bench which would make a good spot to camp. Golden susuki (ススキ) pampas grass glistened in the sunlight, gently swaying in the breeze.

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It was here that I spotted the first sign warning of bears in the area. I reluctantly got out my bear bell and attached it to my backpack. As much as I hate the noise it’s better than a Revenant-style encounter.

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Looking at the map I noticed that reaching my accommodation for the night was going to require doubling back on myself if I followed the official route. Hoping to avoid this I spotted what appeared to be an unsignposted shortcut that led down the valley side.

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My gamble paid off and I reached Minshuku Kawarabi-so (かわらび荘) around 2.45pm. Nobody seemed to be around so I explored a beautiful patch of autumn foliage beside the river, crossed by a rickety red bridge.

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Wooden planks had been placed on the bridge to prevent anyone plunging through the rusty mesh but the planks themselves had become rotten so it was with some trepidation that I crossed over.

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After a short while, the owner of the mishuku arrived and I was able to check in. Before dinner, they drove me a short distance down to road to Nosegawa Spa (ホテルのせ川) where I relaxed in the onsen before checking out the small shrine next door.

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Here I bumped into a friendly retired Japanese couple who were staying at the same place and walking in the same direction. We got chatting over a nutricious dinner of Japanese hot pot and discussed the route ahead. I lamented about Brexit which was being talked about on the TV news broadcast.

Overall it had been a fairly gentle hike which I was please about because I knew the hardest section was yet to come.

Information

Distance walked: 22 km / 32,000 steps
Overnight lodgings: Minshuku Kawarabi-so (かわらび荘)

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Comments

  1. Sandy yu says:

    I really want to come with you. Your hiking experience is everything I am looking for. I live in a small town with nothing nearby. I think I could bore to death one day. I wish I can do as much as you. I guess I have to wait for the next lifetime

    • David says:

      Hey Sandy, maybe try to look at your town with fresh eyes, I always find beauty in the everyday overlooked things 🙂

      Sometimes to achieve your dreams requires a leap of faith and taking risks so don’t give up!

  2. Margaret says:

    Fantastic pictures David – the absolute peace and quiet must be incredible (hard to find these days). Love the grasses shots and the beautiful autumnal foliage. Another publication perhaps??

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