5/13 – Got an early start this morning to catch the 8:36 train to Kii-Tanabe. The Kyoto train station was busy on a weekday morning.
When our train was called, everyone lined up in two rows, just like it said on the sign. The Japanese are an orderly people. I felt badly for the businessmen, dressed in their identical black suits and white shirts. With the glum looks on their faces, it was easy to imagine they were all on their way to an undertakers convention!
We passed some beautiful beaches on the way, with swimmers and surfers.
Two and a half hours later, we arrived at Kii-Tanabe, had a yummy pork and noodle soup lunch, and waited for a bus to Takijiri, where our Kumano Kodo hike began.
Here’s what you do while waiting for the bus.
It was already mid-afternoon by the time we arrived, so it was nice that the day’s hike was planned for only 3.7km/ 2.3mi. Here is the entrance to the trail. We will walk to visit three major Shinto shrines this week.
Pilgrims ritually wash themselves at the beginning of the walk.
The first part of the hike was totally uphill – climbing, climbing, then climbing some more!
We saw several small shrines in the forest,which is what the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage is all about. Several were Jizo, or Buddhist bodhisattva, which help travelers to attain enlightenment. The mixture of Buddhist and Shinto symbols is common in Japan.
We arrived at the Takahara Lodge at 4:30pm and were welcomed by the delightful owner. I had my very first Japanese communal bath – men and women bathe separately here. After sitting down on a little stool to shampoo and wash, we climbed into a deep pool, lined with stones, for a hot soak. It was lovely!
We went down to supper freshly washed and wearing our kimonos. The meal was amazing, with little bites of different vegetables, sashimi, grilled fish and Kobe beef cooked at the table, so tender it just melted in your mouth. Fruit sorbet for dessert. So delicious!
We met two couples from Australia who will be walking our route tomorrow. We retired to our room with the beautiful view of the mountainside. Tomorrow is a hiking day!