Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Drive Up and Down the Mountains

From Katsuura, where we had a fabulous tuna lunch at a shokudo near to the first market, it’s a quick 20 minutes car ride up the mountain into Kumano Nachi Taisha, one of the three holy shrines in the Kumano region and part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s an enjoyable drive with the many twists and turns through the narrow roads lined with beautiful cherry blossoms, with the small town right underneath the temple offered the perfect spot to park, rest and shop before we made a small hike up to the temples.

The Nachi Taisha complex actually comprises of multiple heritage buildings inter-connected by leisure footpath. One could easily spend half a day walking around, but since we were lazy asses, we spent a bit less than that. The Nachi Taisha Shrine (熊野那智大社) is the main building up in the small hill through the giant red torii gate. Was a bit disappointed that the whole temple was covered up in scaffolding for renovation, but the ground outside was pretty with trees and flowers.

At a short distance away is the Seigantoji Temple with the iconic pagoda shape, and the Nachi Falls further back. Nachi Falls was said to be one of the tallest waterfall in Japan with waters rushing down near vertical for 133m from the mountain, and the perfect vantage point for that was either right outside Seigantoji Temple (if you want the pagoda in your picture as well) and on top of it, which we went with a small admission charge. It’s not particularly known as the cherry blossom viewing spot in the prefecture, but actually we had the best picture with the waterfall at the background.

After that, we decided to make a quick detour before heading to our final destination of Kawayu Onsen. Making a brief crossover into the neighboring Mie Prefecture and through the even narrower roads, we reached Maruyama in the late afternoon for a view of the famous rice field terrace (Maruyama Senmaida 丸山千枚田). It’s totally worth our detour and the tricky drive to the middle of nowhere, seeing literally hundreds of small, irregular patches of rice paddy field along the hillside slope for the most picturesque nature view. At the time of our visit farmers were preparing the field for planting in late spring so the fields were filled with water for irrigation. The reflection from the water made the fields looked like shiny mirrors – I could only imagine how this might look came fall harvest season when the fields turned all golden. And this would have been the perfect spot to see the sunset – such a pity we couldn’t stay long enough for that.

(Part of the Wakayama Travel Series)

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