Sunday 1st April
Day 49 - 500 metres to the Spar
Sunny Sunday cricket
night was interrupted by what seemed to be every two-bit scooter
owner and his mate driving around. Paul and Tom slept through it
but I just tossed and turned, though it did give me an opportunity
to pop out for a moonlit pee. Tom bounced out of bed at 6.30am and
was determined that Paul and I joined him. Tom has been brilliant,
though I still like abiding by the student code of not getting up
unless hungry. The day was spent sunbathing, swimming, resting and
playing "Jedi cricket" with a rock and a stick-come-light sabre
we found. On the whole we did nothing which was just what we needed.
personal note from Ben: "I've been walking for just over a
week, at times it feels like it's all I've ever done, and sometimes
I still feel like the new boy. Apart from the physical struggle
which hurt a lot this week, every day brings a mind battle. 2 or
3 times I've been close to tears thinking of those I have left at
home. At any other time in my life, if I missed someone I could
pick up a phone and call, but it's so isolated here. I know this
walk is worth it though, even if we never see the minefields we
clear, we will know that we`ve done it."
Monday 2nd April
Day 50 - 45km
Welcome to Shikoku
sent off this morning under police escort, as the guy who owned
the land we had camped on had complained about our riotous behaviour
(french cricket). Serious mileage today, passing gorgeous beaches
and crossing huge bridges. The longest was 4km. We had made it to
Shikoku. It had been our longest day by far, so in celebration we
bought a mass of pork, beef and chicken. We camped on a patch of
rough grass and squeezed into the two man tent in an effort to be
discrete. This was pointless however, as the smoke from our barbeque
soon attracted the neighbours.
Day 51 - 29km
a cramped night we all felt a little unenthused by morning. The
highlights of the day were meeting a Japanese pilgrim who was walking
1000km to see Shikoku's 88 sacred temples, Ben knocking a roof tile
off a house with his head and being given 3000 Yen by on old man
for the charity. We camped in an old shack and crashed out on its
Mount Ishizuchi (1982m - Mt no.8)
Wednesday 4th April
Day 52 - 18km
2nd time lucky, and a bedroom with a view.
great night's sleep for all was interrupted by an earthquake in
the early hours. On our way up Paul and Ben found some great rocks
to climb which they drooled over. We ate lunch in the lower, forested
part of the trail. Most people start the climb at 1300m where the
ski runs are. We tied rope round our shoes to get a better grip
on snow and ice and began climbing the 3 sets of chains up the 30-70m
rock faces. But these were covered in ice and impossible to climb
without crampons and ice axes. We took the easier route to the summit,
and despite the icy conditions, camped, as it was late and the views
Thursday 5th April
Day 53 - 32.5km
Clean at last!
slept under the stars - the nutter - and though it dropped to nearly
-5 degress we all slept well. Off the mountain, we stopped for lunch
and sunbathed by a crystal clear river. On the way into the village
I (Tom) stepped on a snake which disappeared before we could tell
if it was poisonous or not. In the village we met Mat, an Aussie
English teacher, who offered us a shower, our first real scrub in
10 days. His boss then offered his restaurant to sleep in that night.
Friday 6th April
Day 54 - 40km
morning trek took us along a river with some more great boulders
for climbing. Ben and Paul spent lunch trying to conquer a tricky
overhang. The rest of the day was spent walking by an enormous dam.
A recent landslide meant that we had to take a ridiculously bendy
detour. We pitched camp by the river running into the dam.
Saturday 7th April
Day 55 - 33.5km
hot day and none of our legs were working. We found a great lunch
and swimming spot and Paul demonstrated his dive-in-get-out-before-you-can-say-how-cold-it-is
routine. After lunch we saw monkies running across the roads and
into trees, and a reclusive beastie called the Japanese Serow. By
evening we had found a campsite on a pebble beach next to four bridges
and stayed up late playing cards.
Sunday 8th April
rest day. More playing on rocks, sunbathing, fishing and swimming,
though Paul was forced to go shopping as we had run out of his beloved
Paul wrote this one...
Monday 9th April
Day 57 - 46km
day started with a massive breakfast which included an experimental
gruel. We are always trying to find what food will be suitable for
the Alps. It consisted of breadcrumbs, hot water, condensed milk
and pineapple. It smells a lot worse than it tastes.
we spent most of the morning eating. Upon leaving camp we came across
a basket with different packets of food for 100 Yen. So we put our
money in the available box and took some food - the trust in honesty
here is astounding! At about 9.30 we were stopped on the road by
a tough-looking truck driver who pulled from his cab a basket full
of goodies and told us to take as much as we wanted.
rest of the day was all walking, aiming for a campsite we never
actually found, after turning down two offers of lifts to it. However,
we had a very comfortable night's sleep on a baseball field.
Tsurugi-san (1955m - Mt no 9)
Tuesday 10th April
Day 58 - 18.5km
most British looking mountain so far as its summit was covered in
grass. Bamboo grass though, which because of the season was in places
waist high and covering the track. Tsurugi-san is a big rolling
lump but it was a beautiful day and a most enjoyable climb. Our
route took us over an ancient vine bridge which excited Ben as he
had been talking about them since he arrived. We camped earlier
that evening feeling we deserved it after 46km yesterday and three
peaks today. We all bivied under the stars once the fire had died,
next to a locked hut.
Wednesday 11th april
Day 59 - 34km
says we must be getting old, as we all enjoyed the beauty of Japan's
famous blossom which was out in force on the pass we climbed. We
also enjoyed the oranges and tea given to us by some friendly picnic-ers.
Many people were out to see the blossom ( this watching the blossom
is called 'Hanami' ). Today was the third day that we had to suffer
food from the village store and the second day that we had HAD to
eat gruel for breakfast- its edilble, almost enjoyable!
Day 60 - 40km
biggest excitement today was getting to a supermarket with a good
past-the-sell-by-date bread bin and free tasters. Another long day
of walking and we camped in Tokushima`s central park on the top
of a hill, next to a temple. With the city all around us and an
impractically-long-cooking, but rather delicious, vegetable stew
on the stove, we talked about the differences between walking in
the city and on the major roads between. The city is more dangerous
as you share the pavements with a multitude of cyclists going in
Friday 13th April
Day 61 - 35km
Polite Policeman, painful policy!
of the aims of this walk was to link the Hyakumeizan in a continuous
trek, using as little public transport as possible. Crossing the
Eastern bridge to Shikoku is illegal by foot and we couldn't play
the misunderstanding-gaijin-card as all the signs had pictures.
We backtracked to a local police box and pleaded our case but, despite
his conversation with the Road Agency, he wasn't going to break
the law for us. Turning a blind eye doesn't exist here. We pleaded
another couple of times and finally gave in. Then the policeman
said he would give us a lift to the appropriate bus stop. We walked
'til late that evening to make up for lost time faffing.
Saturday 14th april
Day 62 - 44km
Ben`s Saturday Aches
the third week running Ben suffered a vicious ailment on a Saturday.
First hip trouble, then a sore shin, now a dodgy knee. We still
got a good amount of ground covered though - down the coast, through
towns. We camped on a run-down summer swimming spot called Sun Beach,
and fell asleep under the palms with the sounds of the waves lapping
in our ears.
Sunday 15th April
Day 63 - 0km
fishing, sun bathing, letter writing, a game of BOLF (a mix of golf
and baseball invented by Tom) interspersed with plenty of food.
We met a young and in-love couple on the beach in the afternoon
and they joined us for coffee. Ben was greatly touched when the
girl offered to take a polaroid of him to send to his sweet Danielle.
The day closed with a beautiful sunset. Just what a rest day should
split - ben, tom, paul
Day 64 - 43km
Bridging the Gap
quick march in the morning saw our arrival at the bus terminal on
Awaji, overlooking the water between us and Japan's 2nd biggest
connurbation - Kobe/Osaka. We could also see our second defiant
bridge - despite being big enough for 6 lanes of motorway there
was no room for backpackers. How strange it is to be back in streets
full of people and cars. By the end of the day we had made good
progress towards Osaka, and finally managed to find a lovely little
playground to sleep in. The city never sleeps, but we curled up
on the park benches and snoozed our way through to Visa day.
Day 65 - 35km
be or not top be?
we are asking the powers that be if we can stay in Japan to complete
about the dawn chorus, the Japanese seem to work all night long.
We awoke to the strangest sight: Park Maintenance, not council workers
in big yellow jackets, but 6 or 7 middle-aged women busying themselves
with brush and pan - at 5 in the morning! Then as a final measure,
to ensure that we didn't forget the park in a hurry, a fellow parkbench
dweller sang hymns as we ate breakfast - good old man.
we made our way through the main streets of Osaka in search of the
Immigration Office we baked in the heat and became slightly apprehensive
about the imminent renewal of our stay here. Yet within the hour
and a half of arriving at the offices, we were the proud owners
of three new born visas. All we need to do now is to register as
high spirits we head off in search of a Tabehodai (eat all you can)
restaurant, and a campsite.. On the way we were accosted by a bloke
who basically wanted to make friends with us so that he could get
our address for his daughter to visit us... very strange, not to
mention time-consuming. What is more annoying is that we didn't
notice the Tabehodai just 200m from our tents - noodles again.
Day 66 - 35km
Red, Red tape
- How many Japanese does it take to say you can't register as an
- Answer below.
packing up our riverside campsite, we strolled into the city ofice
of Tondabayashi (30km south of Osaka) to register orselves as aliens.
Afer our success the day before, we expected this to be a piece
walked out of the office two hours later, having been told by a
gang of 6 ladies that we needed to register in the town in which
we are living. Needless to say this puts us in an interesting position,
as our tents don't quite count as a fixed address. The rest of the
day was spent brainstorming to try and find a solution to this problem.
Day 67 - 35km
Birthdays, Burgers and Baths
come but once a year. Baths are only slightly more frequent.
and Ben decided to perforate my eardrums at 5.30 am with a rendition
of Happy Birthday. Candles were blown out, cake was eaten, and we
set off for the next town, to buy four day's worth of food which
we would need to tackle the next 2 mountains that we would be climbing
in the Kii peninsular. After shopping, we found a McDonald's which
was selling burgers for 65 Yen. After eating 18 burgers between
us we left Oyodo town and stumbled across an Onsen (hot spring bath).
We jumped at the chance to get clean again for the first time in
two weeks, despite the hefty 800 Yen charge and the disgusted look
given us by one of the ladies behind the counter. Afer a long soak
and a lesson in foot massage from a drunk Yakusaka (gangster), we
set off up the pass towards the mountains.
Hakken-ga-take (1915m - Mt No 10)
Day 68 - 35km
After being accosted by a tourist official,
they wade bare-chested through snow to sunbathe on the summit
joy of stashing heavy bags and walking unburdened along a forested
ridge under the blazing sun is beyond the description of words.
we had powered into the hills after our bath, we still had about
20km to reach the trailhead. Stopping for a short break at the final
village before the hills proper, we were accosted by a man in the
information centre next door, who demanded walk and contact details.
As of yet (written sun 22nd) we have not been phoned, and are hoping
a helicopter hasn't been scrambled to find us.
a steep ascent to the ridge, we dumped our packs and sauntered the
final 6km to the summit of Mt No 10. Hakken-ga-take, going much
of the way topless to work on our tans. The going was easy along
an undulating forested ridge until the final 1000m, where we were
confronted with steeper slopes and rotten snow. Walking became somewhat
annoying, as we all regularly fell through the knee-deep snow. The
summit was snow-free however, so serious sunbathing could be happily
camped that night high on the ridge by a small patch of snow that
we used for water, having been advised by two competent-looking
Japanese climbers that the spring we were aiming for was dry.
Day 69 - 27km
women admitted on Holy Mountain
to pass up the opportunity (being in the area), we took
a short detour to an extra mountain, a sacred 'man-only' peak, before
then heading on towards Mt No 11.
is one peak on a ridge some 40 km long. So we spent Saturday morning
picking our way along a really enjoyable section, which involved
chains and ladders, various other peaks, and the spring which we'd
been told didn't exist. it rained all day, but wasn't particularly
by the bra's strewn about the trees, there are some women who are
unhappy at the fact that in today's day and age, Sanjo-ga-take is
still officially off-limits to Women. Past
the official notice banning women in Japanese and poor English,
such demonstrations disappeared. Within the team there is still
debate as to how many women have actually been to the summit.
is apparently a cliff over which people are dangled, but we only
saw the summit's temple, a massive pair of steel sandals, two smelly
loos and, sadly, a whole heap of rubbish.
temple is only alive in the summer so, after commenting on how big
it was, and looking around, we headed back to our bags and the valley
what we saw, Women aren't really missing much at all.
it continued to rain, we bivied that night under a roof which was
probably a buzzing BBQ spot at some point in the year. It was a
lovely find down a wrong turn.
Day 70 - 11km
Small walk. Big wind
of us wanted to walk on a rest day, but it saved a big next day.
where we were, it would have been a 52km Mt day on Monday - not
a pleasant thought at any time - plus the Lonely Planet description
of Mt No 11 made it sound pretty rugged. Consequently we packed
our bags and moved on. A rest day...
was a pleasant walk, winding first along a dam, then up a crystal-clear
river, under a bright blue sky. By early afternoon, the wind had
picked up, making it difficult to pitch the tents on the gravel
beach that we had chosen. Much of the afternoon was spent in the
tents, simply to escape the wind, which was a pity as the sun still
shone. Many clothes were given much needed washes however, which
was cause for much rejoicing.
was also the day that we discovered that our pay-as-you-go cards
only lasted for 30 days, and not the 3 monthes that we had been
told. Unfortunately this meant that we suffered 2 weeks radio silence,
and missed a couple of newspaper callbacks. Working order has since
Summary: Again, a week of two definite halfs. The tiring and ultimately
frustrating first half until Thursday, dealing with immigration
and red tape. And then the second half improving rapidly with Onsens
and Gangsters, Mountains and villages.
Hide-ga-take (1695m - Mt No 11)
Day 71 - 32km
saying that we got the wrong dam sound very unprofessional?
spent much of the morning muttering about the inaccuracy of the
Lonely Planet map. The weird thing was that it wasn't totally wrong
though. We were walking on the right side of the dam, we did follow
a crystal clear river, there was a mountain hut on the river (if
in the wrong place), and the path branched off along the river in
basically the right place.
had left camp at 6:30am mentally prepared for a hard 15hr mountain
day up gorges, past waterfalls and over slippery rock. We were back
into camp sunburned at 3:30pm having spent a good hour after lunch
working on our tans!
was only as we charged up an easy forested track that seemed to
climb at about 1 degree, that we realised that perhaps we were not
on the path described in the Lonely Planet guide. It is scary how
similar the dams look on the map. We just presumed it must be the
dam we were heading for, as our dam was much closer to the mountain.
11 was taken easily and gave us a good taste of what climbing season
in Japan will feel like. Crowded. Our path meandered upwards through
the forest to break out onto a mountain road at about 1400m. The
road brought us to a veritable village of mountain huts, visitor
centres, bus stops and toilets. There was much activity going on
as the Mountain officially opened in two days time. From the village
it was a 2km stroll along gravelled paths to the summit. On the
whole it was a bit of a let down, with the view alone being impressive.
we had walked on Sunday, we just crashed in camp on return and roasted
marshmallows that night over a camp fire.
Day 72 - 40km
No Longer Our Man
of the morning was spent walking back along the far side of the
dam. On the map, which we had looked at on the side of the road,
it looked as if it would be the shorter route. For some reason however,
none of the switch backs had been marked on properly!
finally coming to the end of the dam we rang our man in Tokyo (Thom
James) just to let him know we were still alive (following our little
problem with the phone). Sadly he can no longer be our man on the
ground, as his internet cafe has closed down. We will all miss him!!
rest of the day drifted by along rivers, through small villages
and a spot of drizzle towards the end of the day. That evening we
camped on a picnic spot, ate dinner at a table, ate some of our
breakfast as a starter, and talked late into the night.
Day 73 - 35km
very dismal, gray and rainy morning was brightened by Ben's happy
face. Nothing could dampen his spirits after having finally got
through to his beautiful Danielle.
did however rain all morning, so we had a second breakfast under
a shelter to keep our spirits up. Lighting the stove in public gets
some wonderful expressions out of passing public. People eating
in public in non-picnic spots is not a common sight - we figure
we are doing our bit to internationalise Japan. The day did brighten
up by mid-day and a small number of MacD's hamburgers helped us
through to our spicy pickled cabbage sandwiches at lunch.
is the weak link as far as food is concerned. We are all getting
bored of the 100Yen section (packets of confectionary for 100Yen).
Most make Ben feel physically sick.
looks as if we will be able to use Lynne Donaldson's address for
Alien Registration. After a good look at our website, she realised
we are not as disreputable as we must have sounded when ringing
her out of the blue to ask for her help.
Day 74 - 40km
Blatant Burger Bonanza
was very cold under our bridge when we woke this morning, so we
stayed in bed for a bit longer! Finally, sun-warmed, we crawled
out of our bags and started a morning of towns and cities.
about mid-morning Ben popped the question; 'how many hamburgers
do you think you could eat in one sitting?'
challenge set, we skipped morning break and sunk our lunch money
and some pocket money into trying to answer the question. The lady
behind the counter actually thanked Tom when he put in our initial
order of 21 hamburgers - must have been a slow morning! Tom stumbled
at 7 but had wisely opted for bottomless coffee with a packet of
biscuits in addition to just burgers. Paul and Ben hit double figures
(10 and 12 respectively) before they realised just how unsatisfying
a hamburger actually is and decided not to waste any more money.
Ben reckons he could break into 20's before pain set in.
one sense the whole activity wasn't a waste - we won't be rushing
back to MacD's even though the hamburgers are on sale for 65 Yen
at the moment.
Day 75 - 35km
Space age toilets
camped the night before in what will no doubt be a housing estate
at some point in the future. Roads, flat land, water and thankfully
the village Tannoy system. Consequently we were able to hear the
morning news (a fairytale the previous evening) and the morning
walked well that sunny morning, making town by 8:30, then had to
sunbathe for an hour and a half whilst waiting for the supermarket
to open. The alternative was a very late lunch. Sometimes one just
has to sunbathe. We then got a good hour and a half of walking in,
making 3hrs for the morning, so stopped for lunch and promptly fell
asleep! An hour later we woke to some very strange looks from a
couple who had come to see the waterfall we had stopped beside.
got his first experience of a toilet that will clean and dry your
bottom for you.
evening we got a call from Lynne. Apparently Monday (the day we
had planned to get registered) is a public holiday. She very kindly
said that we were welcome to stay at hers until the Tuesday. There
was much rejoicing; two days off and the opportunity to get internet
Day 76 - 30km
morning trudged away under a blazing sun and km after km of Strip
walking. There was much misery. Spirits hit a slight high as we
sat slumped outside a convenience store during our break and a 'rude
boy', puffing on a massive cigar, strolled out of the shop and handed
us a 2L bottle of mineral water! He never said a word.
afternoon was much more pleasant as we left the Strip and headed
towards Japan's biggest lake - Lake Biwa. Our route took us through
some of the most flat, most agricultural landscapes we have yet
experienced - a veritable plain. That evening we decided to stop
early at a 'swimming beach', as we were going to have to walk on
Sunday anyway. The day ended with a beautiful sunset, more roasted
marshmallows and us crashed out on the lake shore.
Day 77 - 15km
has long since decided that Tabehodai (Eat-as-much-as-you-want)
restaurants do not actually exist. His expectation was raised to
extreme hights though when we actually found one which served lunches
from 11:30am onwards. However, after an hours forced wait by the
lake side (roasting the few leftover marshmallows), his unbelief
was redoubled as we all walked away disappointed by a non-Sunday
found us an hour earlier than we had arranged, sitting huddled outside
the local mall, eating lunch out of the rain which had suddenly
started. The afternoon was then spent clogging up her washing machine
and shower with dirt! That evening we watched some crazy Japanese
dating games on TV whilst eating a lot of food, then dozed in front
of Star Wars Episode One. Civilisation!
Summary: It has been a strange week internally for all of us. A
kind of lethargy set in and breaks gradually extended throughout
the week. We must all be getting stronger though as decent distances
were covered in shorter times than previously. There was a time
when we would have to utilise all the day to pull a 35/36km day.
If we set our minds to it an average of 40km a day is now well within
our grasp. The week started with a mountain day that was much easier
than anticipated, and has ended with us in position to make a second
attempt at getting Alien Registered. If this fails we will have
to take a quick trip to Tokyo. Let's hope it won't come to that.
Note on Injuries: Many people have been kindly asking about how
our bodies are holding together. Thankfully we can all report being
fairly sound in body and mind! Blisters still sometimes rear their
ugly heads and probably will for the entire length of the walk,
but no one has been in real painful discomfort through blisters
for a while. We have all suffered from cracked feet - one downfall
of sandals. Tom's big toe probably carries the worst crack, but
his pace has never slowed. Paul's legs often feel a little stiff
in the mornings but he's bearing such annoyances manfully! His knee
and ankle, which caused problems earlier on, have not caused any
suffering for the past month. Ben suffers aches in various parts
of his legs every now and then, but they come and go. In general
all is well.
Monday 30th April
Day 78 - 0km
Internet and a whole heap of food.
- "After a breakfast at Lynne's which included, for the first
time in many weeks, toast and cereal, we spent the morning wandering
around Hikone Castle, one of Japan's 4 remaining original castles.
Lynne knew of an Italian restaurant that offered an eat-as-much-as-you-like
salad bar and antipasta, we ate a light lunch, and then logged on
to the internet bigtime. The afternoon galloped by in a frenzy of
reading and replying to emails.
you to every one who has written to us. Cat and Tim (2 other JETs
in the Hikone area) joined us for dinner and the evening was happily
spent laughing a lot, and returning many times to the salad and
anti-pasta bar. Ben finally believes in Tabehodai.