It's become a tradition of mine to go for a nice long walk in the countryside during Golden Week, and this year was no exception. I walked a 4 day leg of the Iwami Mandala Kannon Pilgrimage. I have been calling it the Iwami 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, but apparently they added another ten temples and changed its name.
The first day was the section from Kawamoto to my own villlage, and for logistical reasons 1 walked it in reverse. A good section was following the Gonokawa, a quite beautiful river, the longest in West Japan, but mostly unknown to anyone other than locals. The rest of the day was in and out of the mountains to visit a temple. In the mountains I found this wild boar skeleton. I had driven down this road less than 2 weeks ago and it wasnt there then, so it has been picked clean in a very quick time. It was quite a long day, clocking in at 35k of walking.
Day 2 was from my village to Arifuku, an onsen resort in the mountains halfway between Gotsu and Hamada. For the first couple of hours I followed the Yato River and then went up Nagatani (Long Valley) before going over the pass and then following a tributary of the Uya River down to Arifuku. What was most noticeable was the damage from last summers storms. There were many landslides, embankments of the river washed away, even a bridge totally destroyed. A very pleasant 25k jaunt.
Day 3 was Arifuku to Yasaka, much higher and further inland. Just outside Arifuku I discovered a couple of old style potteries that I hadnt known about before dropping into the main valley of the Uya River. Heading upstream I passed several tunnels and half-built bridges that were going to be for a rail line running from Hamada to Hiroshima. It never got built. At Kanagi I stocked up with food and drinks as for the rest of the day there would not even be a vending machine. For a few k I Had to follow the main Hamada to Hiroshima road, but soon cut off and headed across the mountains. I topped out at 450 meters before dropping down into Yasaka. I spent the night at a friends guest house. He is a hunter, so wild boar was on the menu for the evening meal, washed down with home made doburoku, the tastiest sake I have ever drunk. an exhilarating 35k walk.
On day 4 I headed from Yasaka to Mito through sonme nice, remote country without a single vending machine for 25k. There were some serious ups followed by downs, but for some reason the older I get the less difficult I find it. At the top of one remote valley I found a wonderful mountain shrine. The tengai was old, suggesting they no longer do kagura there, but the shrine was still looked after. What I noticed most on this day was that Golden Week is pretty much a city thing. In the mountains people are far too busy to go off on mini vacations. There were many people working in the paddies. I mnet one old guy with a great collection of bamboo shoots he had dug out of the forest. I saw another couple picking wild food from the roadside, one man tending his bees, and another old gentleman pushing a wheelbarrow filled with firewood for heating his bath. I aarived in Mito Onsen as a festival was under way and enjoyed the reassuring beat of the kagura drums. Another excellent 27k walk.