It rained hard overnight and the valley was shrouded in mist when I awoke at 5 am to the sound of breakfast cooking in the adjacent kitchen. I dozed off till breakfast at 7 am, another feast of local ingredients.

Since most foreigners blush at the prospect of eating raw eggs, the owner had substituted it with an omelette although I would have been just as happy with tamago gohan (卵かけご飯)!

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By 8.30am the rain had eased off and before departing I took it in turns with the Japanese couple, who were also staying there, to take photos with the spritely 77-year-old proprietor.

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She followed us down the road as we left and gave a warm wave goodbye.

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Looking down the valley I could just about make out the steep ridgeline I would be climbing today, one of the hardest stages of the Kohechi.

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After crossing the Funato-bashi suspension bridge the trail immediately begins climbing uphill, passing an isolated farmhouse in the village of Miura, just below some beautiful rice terraces.

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Flagstones mark the beginning of the Miura-toge pass. A short distance further on a patch of ancient cedar trees, estimated to be 500 years old, stand out with their twisted gnarled branches.

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For much of the uphill section, a detour was required due to a landslide, the new path picking its way precariously through a freshly cut section of forest on the steep mountainside.

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Having gained around 700m of altitude, I reached the top of the mountain at 10.30am. Although there was a rest hut it was really windy and I didn’t want to dawdle so continued directly across the forestry road back into the forest.

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The trail descends gently downhill through a stand of younger trees. I stopped at noon beside the Yagura Kannon-do shrine to eat my bento, immaculately wrapped in patterned paper.

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Shortly before reaching the road, the trail passes a couple of decrepit houses, their wooden structures slowly rotting away with few signs of their former occupants. These places always make me imagine the lives that had been lived here.

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Back on terra firma, I began the two-hour hike from Nishinaka (西中) to Totsukawa (十津川) along the road running parallel to the Nishigawa River. I had to dodge a couple of diggers carving up the road.

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I stopped at a small store along the way to buy an ice cream and the old lady running it gave me an orange for free 🙂

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This was the only part of the trip I didn’t much enjoy since huge construction trucks were frequently rumbling past a little too close for comfort. It must be driving the local villagers crazy.

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After passing the large Subaru-no-sato (昴の郷) spa complex I walked through the old tunnel (to the right of the new one) and then crossed the river by way of a crazily elaborate and wobbly suspension bridge.

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On the other side, I bumped into a couple of old fellas who asked the usual questions about where I was from/where I was heading before returning to their companion who didn’t dare cross.

Having checked the entrance to the trailhead for tomorrow’s walk, I continued on towards my accommodation for the night at Ryokan Tabanakan.

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On the way, I bumped into the Japanese couple who had been walking the same route for the past three days. Since I was staying somewhere different tonight they had come to check I hadn’t gotten lost. Japanese people never cease to amaze me with their small acts of kindness.

The ryokan was a bit more expensive than I would normally choose but everywhere else was booked up. They had a traditional natural onsen with an outdoor area which I enjoyed before an elaborate dinner which was served in my room.

Information

Distance walked: 22 km / 32,400 steps
Overnight lodgings: Ryokan Tabanakan (田花館)

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