April 11, 2017
It rained all night. Waking up this morning, looking out over the forlorn landscape and watching more rain pelting down on the road we would follow, there seemed little hope for a pleasurable walk.
We sat down for our Japanese breakfast in the dining room of Kobushi-no-sato, a feast designed to take our minds off the weather. While we grilled fish over the open flame of a tabletop brazier, nature was relenting…somewhat. By the time we had suited up in our foul-weather garb and exited the comfortable confines of our inn, there was barely a drizzle.
It’s not long before we strip down to t-shirts. Despite our breathable Gore-Tex jackets, our skin and clothes are as wet as the fields we pass through. Technology is no match for today’s high humidity. It is a relief to cool down, let our polyester t-shirts get wet under the light, recurring rain showers, then quickly dry during brief breaks in the weather.
Our route takes us south on quiet roads and highways paralleling the Iyoki River. This is a land of rice paddies, greenhouses and, on this late spring day, cherry blossoms making their last appearance before vanishing for another year. There is a brief pit stop at Nabura, a michi-no-ecki (or roadside market). Time for a refreshing ice cream. Time for a change in scenery as well.
Just beyond the market, our path runs into the Pacific Ocean. Raging waves pound the shore, exploding into a thick layer of white foam. Gone is any semblance of a benign world laden with delicate sakura blossoms. Here, nature is angry and vengeful. It is a threatening beauty.
The coast is not without its quirks and charms. Informal gardens filled with Pacific flotsam dot the shoreline. Little stands sell treats, like the delectable takoyaki balls we munch on this afternoon. And there are the endless stretches of sandy beaches, the Irino Pine Coast being a fine example. The waves are too furious for a swim but we have a pleasant stroll down a paved arcade of pine trees just behind the sand.
The Crown Hills Business Hotel in Nakamura is our destination. We reach it that evening after a lengthy but entertaining 37-kilometre jaunt. All that is left to do is bathe and eat. It’s late evening by the time we head down the street to the nearest restaurant, a brightly lit box that would fit in nicely on any North American mall parking lot. This is an izakaya-style place, serving shareable plates of yakitori, fish and sashimi, all washed down with a continuous stream of beer, shochu and sake. It’s a comfortable place with comfortable food, a good place to dethrottle after a long walk.