ultramarinus – beyond the sea

DAY 4 – PRELUDE OF THE KUMANO KODO, Tanabe (田辺市), Japan

It was a rainy day. Leaving Osaka’s Tennoji Station behind, the JR Kuroshio limited express took us southwards to Kii-Tanabe. The train ride took slightly less than 2 hours. The rain stopped by the time we arrived Tanabe in the afternoon. As planned, we walked to the souvenir shop beside the station to pick up the keys of our reserved timber townhouse, where we would stay the night. The host handed us a map and a leaflet of house rules. We put on our backpacks, stepped out the shop, and found our way into the winding streets of Tanabe. Situated along the southwest coast of Kii Peninsula, Tanabe is a fishing city in Wakayama Prefecture. Throughout history, Tanabe had been the traditional starting point of the Kumano Kodo where pilgrims turned away from the coast to enter the inland mountains. Through the mountainous trails eastwards, pilgrims would wind through the Kii Mountains and reached Hongu Taisha, the most sacred shrine in this pilgrimage area in about two days. This route is known as Nakahechi Route, and has become the most popular route among all Kumano Kodo trails today. We also chose to explore Kumano Kodo via Nakahechi Route. Tanabe, therefore, became the obvious place where we would spend the night before heading into the mountains. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at Kii Tanabe in the afternoon. 2We were intrigued by the minimalist house setback from the street on a narrow lot. 3No surprise, the seaside town of Tanabe is a great place for seafood.  We dropped in a local restaurant called Ginchiro Ekimae near the train station.   4The local dish in Tanabe includes the double-decked seafood rice bowl.  The lower bowl contained rice and small silver fish.5The upper bowl included sashimi, cooked seafood and sour plums.  6Community shrine.7Near the railway station there is a network of small lanes lined with restaurants and izakayas.  Two security patrols sat at the central intersection of the main lanes waiting for the night to fall upon.

11Finally we arrived at Konyamachiya Townhouse, the traditional two-storey timber house where we would spend the night. Konyamachiya Townhouse is a Machiya townhouse 町屋, a type of traditional timber townhouse found in much of Kyoto area.

8The house was tidy, spacious, atmospheric and furnished with handmade furniture.  The dining room opened to a small garden deck.  The kitchenette was neatly situated behind a wall of sliding panels, which could be fully concealed when not in use.9There were two tatami bedrooms on the upper level.  The traditional wooden structure of the roof was completely exposed.  It had been raining most of the day.  There scent of the bamboo mats was very strong when we entered the room. 10A neat lamp made of bamboo by local artisan was a decent feature in the bedroom. 12A long and winding yellow street connected the neighborhood of our Konyamachiya Townhouse to the town centre.13The yellow-painted street passed by shops of various kinds.14Traditional shrines and temples were very well maintained in many cities in Japan, including Tanabe.15This shrine near our Konyamachiya Townhouse offered a sense of peacefulness in an already relaxed fishing town. 16At last we stopped by a traditional soba (蕎麦) restaurant for dinner.  It was already quite late in the night.  The chef prepared us whatever left available for us. 17A simple soba dinner, including tempura shrimps and vegetables, was one of the most special meal for our trip.  No tourist menu, and no sample images.  A simple and unpretentious effort from the chef just before the restaurant closed its doors gave us an unforgettable pleasure of a local dining experience in a small Japanese town.  18From the dike of Aizu-gawa River, we looked back at the end of Konya-machi, the street where our townhouse stood.  A quiet night in the sleepy town of Tanabe, we awaited the arrival of the beginning of our hike the next day.

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Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino 
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka

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