The Kumano Kodo Trail - Day 3 - Hongu

A heavy rain was falling when we woke up on Day 3 of our self-guided tour, and Walt's knees had not recovered from our steep descent on the day before. Our destination for the day was Hongu - site of one of the three Grand Shrines along the trail. Our hiking instructions offered three options ranging from 4 miles to a laughable 14.9 miles. We decided to go with a fourth option - the local bus.

After bidding a fond farewell to the gracious innkeeper who had rescued us from the highway rest stop, we donned our rain gear and headed into town. The bus was not scheduled to arrive for over an hour so we had plenty of time to visit the tiny but impressive Kumanokodo Nakahechi Museum of Art before leaving for Hongu.

We disembarked at the splendid new visitor center and Walt settled in while I climbed the many uneven slippery steps to the shrine. The rain was unrelenting, and there were a limited number of sheltered options where I could stand to take pictures without drowning my camera. It was kind of nice, though, to experience the shrine without hordes of other people.

The huge torii gate in the picture on the left below can be seen from the visitor center. Standing at over 108 feet high and 137 feet wide, it is the biggest torii gate in the world. It stands at the entrance to the sandbank where the Kumano and Otonashi Rivers meet. Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine was originally located on the sandbank, but was relocated to its current location in 1889 after it was damaged by a flood.

The picture on the right is a tiny frog that was sitting on the railing near Walt at the Visitor Center.

We boarded a bus to the town of Kawayu Onsen where we would spend the evening in another delightful inn run by two elderly sisters. The rain had continued falling steadily throughout the day. On the bus we saw a young guy who Walt had talked to previously. When we confessed that we had given up on hiking, he told us that was the smart thing to do. He had slipped on the muddy trail and fallen down an embankment, ripped his shirt, cut his arm, and seen a poisonous snake.

Here are some pictures of our inn, Kameya Ryokan.

We were served a cup of tea and a cookie in our room when we arrived.

This is the Oto River which runs through the town. Besides the cedar hot spring bath at the inn, there is a nearby spot in the river where you can can bathe wearing a swimsuit. No one seemed to be interested in bathing outside because of the bad weather so I tested the water temperature with my hand and found it to be pleasantly warm.

Our final feast on trail did not disappoint.