Schauwecker's Japan Travel Blog
by Stefan Schauwecker, webmaster of japan-guide.com

This blog is intended to record some of my travel activities in Japan.

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2012/02/28 - Kumano half a year after Typhoon #12

Half a year ago in early September 2011, the Kii Peninsula (the large peninsula south of Kyoto and Osaka), was hit by Typhoon Number 12, one of the most destructive typhoons in recent decades in Japan. The typhoon's unusually slow pace caused abnormally large amounts of rain to fall onto the mountainous peninsula, causing rivers to swell into monsters that flooded towns, triggered innumerable land slides and killed over 50 people in Wakayama Prefecture alone.

The Kumano Region at the southern tip of the peninsula, famous for its World Heritage shrines and pilgrimage trails, was among the worst hit areas. Many major roads remained closed for weeks, and the situation did not start to normalize until October. This week we paid a 2-day visit to Kumano to check on its state half a year after the other big natural disaster that hit Japan last year. Starting and ending in Shirahama, we visited the three shrines of Kumano in a circular route.

Nakahechi

Nakahechi is the inland route leading from coastal Tanabe to Hongu Taisha, one of the three Kumano shrines. For an entire month, the important road connecting Tanabe with Hongu was closed to traffic, while the pilgrimage trail, which runs parallel to the road and is a popular 2-day hike among tourists, is still partially closed (for about a quarter of its length) to this date. The good news is that the trail will be fully reopened on March 10, 2012.

With the reopening of the remaining section of the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail, most popular pilgrimage trails will be accessible to tourists again with the exception of the challenging trails to Koyasan and Yoshino.

Construction sites were still a common occurrence along National Route 311 between Tanabe and Hongu
With the full reopening of the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail, most popular trails will be walkable again

Hongu

The area around Hongu Shrine experienced heavy flooding as the water level of the Kumano River reached heights that most locals have not seen during their lifetimes. The main buildings of the Hongu Shrine - built at a higher elevation because of repeated floodings in past centuries - escaped damage unlike the town at the foot of the shrine, which was submerged by the river. However, most clean-up and repair efforts have been completed in the meantime.

We spent the night in the wonderful, historic hot spring town of Yunomine, one of three hot springs in the vicinity of Hongu Shrine. Yunomine did not suffer major direct damage from the typhoon, but its main access road remains interrupted due to a damaged bridge, making it impossible for large buses to reach the town. Cars and smaller buses, including free shuttle buses to/from Hongu, can reach Yunomine via two other, narrower roads.

On day two, we checked out Wataze and Kawayu, the other two hot spring towns near Hongu. Wataze's Watarase Onsen claims to have the largest outdoor baths (rotemburo) in Western Japan, which I enjoyed alone in the morning sun. Two smaller pools were closed for repair works, but that did not have any negative impact on my visit.

Kawayu suffered some damage from the river, which it lines and is named after, but most ryokan in town have reopened in the meantime. During the winter months (December through February), a large hot spring bath, called Senninburo, is digged alongside the river. Unfortunately, the bath was damaged earlier this month by heavy rainfalls (unrelated to last year's typhoon) and closed for this winter a few days ahead of its scheduled season end.

Hongu Taisha was not damaged
The shrine's torii gate (the largest in Japan) was partially submerged by the river...
... as shown in these photos exhibited near the shrine that were taken a day before the worst flooding
The Kumano Hongu Heritage Center was the only tourist facility we encountered that was still temporarily closed
Yunomine Onsen
Tsuboyu in Yunomine Onsen is the world's only bath dedicated as World Heritage Site
Tsuboyu from the inside - the hot water bubbles up directly into the tub
Watarase Onsen's large outdoor pool in the morning sun
Kawayu Onsen
Unfortunately Kawayu's Senninburo closed a few days prematurely for the season due to recent heavy rain

Shingu

Next we drove down along the Kumano River from Hongu to Shingu at the ocean coast. The important road between the two towns suffered damage along its entire length and remained closed for more than a month. Even half a year later there was ample of evidence suggesting how incredibly large and violent the river must have grown during the typhoon. At the mouth of the river, the town of Shingu also suffered flooding, but the main buildings of Hayatama Taisha, another of the three Kumano shrines, escaped any damage.

Damage is still visible along National Route 168 between Hongu and Shingu
Damage is still visible along National Route 168 between Hongu and Shingu
Damage is still visible along National Route 168 between Hongu and Shingu
The main buildings of Hayatama Taisha suffered no damage

Nachi

Along the road to the last of the three Kumano shrines, Nachi Taisha, we drove through some of the worst hit areas, bringing back memories from our visits to the tsunami hit Sanriku Coast. When the Nachi River left its usual river bed, it destroyed numerous buildings and left behind a sight of destruction that remained quite visible even half a year later.

The shrine itself was hit by a landslide, but the main building escaped major damage. Nevertheless, some repair works were still going on around a side building, but they had almost no impact on the visit, as all other shrine and temple buildings were in good shape.

Nachi Waterfall, the tallest in Japan, also grew in size dramatically during the typhoon, causing some erosion damage around its base. But most of the infrastructure there has been reopened to tourists in the meantime, as well.

The Nachi River caused a lot of damage along the road leading to Nachi Taisha
The scenery brought back memories from our trips to the tsunami hit Sanriku Coast
Nachi Taisha and neighboring Seigantoji Temple were as beautiful as always.Repair work was ongoing just on one building next to the shrine's main hall.
Famous view towards Nachi Waterfall from Seigantoji Temple
The upper observation decks at the base of Nachi Waterfall escaped major damage and were open to visitors
The water caused erosion damage to the forest and parts of the lower observation deck at the base of the waterfall

Although reminders of the natural disaster were still visible, we were able to confirm that the Kumano Region has fully re-opened to tourism. All major roads, bus and train lines were back in service, and all sights and most accommodations and pilgrimage routes have reopened. During our entire trip, we encountered no major inconveniences caused by the typhoon.

Plums are among Wakayama's most famous products. Their blossoms are now starting to open.

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List of Posts:

2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017

2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/11/10 - Crossing Kyushu half a year after the Kumamoto Earthquake
2016/05/25 - Five Years After The Tsunami
2016/04/09 - Busta Shinjuku - a new bus terminal opened on top of Shinjuku Station

2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/11/11 - Four And A Half Years After The Tsunami
2015/09/17 - Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan
2015/09/16 - Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan
2015/04/25 - Four Years After The Tsunami
2015/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takada
2015/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumagaya
2015/02/07 - Trial Run to Kanazawa

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/11/14 - Autumn Color Report: Himeji
2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2014/10/24 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2014/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Kurikoma
2014/09/19 - Autumn Color Report: Tokachidake
2014/09/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2014/09/17 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2014/04/18 - Three Years After The Tsunami
2014/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Uji

2013/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2013
2013/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/10/14 - Two And A Half Years After The Tsunami
2013/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2013/09/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2013/09/20 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2013/07/13 - Countdown to the Gion Matsuri
2013/07/10 - Nagoya Castle gets back its palace
2013/07/09 - Ise Shrine Rebuilding
2013/04/25 - New bath house opens in Kusatsu Onsen
2013/04/16 - Two Years After The Tsunami
2013/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takamatsu
2013/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2013/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama
2013/03/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/02/28 - Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival
2013/01/27 - Winter Visit to Shirakawago

2012/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Himeji
2012/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/14 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2012/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/10/18 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu
2012/10/18 - Autumn Color Report: Sounkyo
2012/10/17 - Autumn Color Report: Shiretoko
2012/10/12 - One And A Half Years After The Tsunami
2012/10/09 - Tokyo Station Renovation
2012/10/04 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2012/10/03 - Grapes and Wines at Katsunuma
2012/09/21 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2012/09/18 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/12 - Another Trip to Iwaki
2012/05/11 - Sneak Peek from Tokyo Skytree
2012/05/09 - Rainy visit to the Ise Shrines
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takizakura
2012/04/27 - One Year After The Tsunami
2012/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2012/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tottori
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2012/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/03/15 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2012/03/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/02/28 - Kumano half a year after Typhoon #12

2011/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2011
2011/12/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2011/11/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/23 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2011/11/22 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2011/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2011/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2011/11/02 - Autumn Color Report: Mitakesan
2011/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Towadako
2011/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkodasan
2011/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Fukushima
2011/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Zao
2011/10/19 - Autumn Color Report: Naruko
2011/10/18 - Half A Year After The Tsunami
2011/10/13 - Tokyo Fall Colors?
2011/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2011/10/04 - Visit to the Sunshine Aquarium
2011/10/03 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/09/27 - Two mountains in central Japan
2011/09/15 - Furano in September
2011/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Ginsendai
2011/09/13 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2011/09/12 - Failed Visit to the Sunshine Aquarium
2011/07/15 - Hakata Gion Yamakasa Report Trip
2011/06/29 - Eastern Hokkaido Report Trip
2011/06/01 - Ogasawara Report Trip
2011/05/18 - Kagoshima Report Trip
2011/04/30 - One Month After The Tsunami
2011/04/29 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Hiraizumi
2011/04/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2011/04/21 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Matsushima
2011/04/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2011/04/20 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2011/04/17 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Nikko
2011/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama
2011/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takamatsu
2011/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsuyama
2011/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2011/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2011/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2011/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/02/11 - Shiretoko Fantasia 2011
2011/02/07 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2011

2010/12/15 - Travel Highlights 2010
2010/12/09 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/12/06 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2010/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2010/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Ise
2010/11/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/10/19 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu
2010/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2010/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Akita
2010/09/15 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Kurodake
2010/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2010/05/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2010/05/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2010/05/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2010/05/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2010/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takizakura
2010/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2010/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Inuyama
2010/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hikone
2010/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Miyajima
2010/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2010/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2010/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nara
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2010/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/02/22 - Guu Restaurant, Vancouver
2010/02/19 - Zakkushi, Vancouver
2010/02/14 - Hapa Izakaya, Vancouver
2010/02/09 - Yuji's Japanese Tapas, Vancouver
2010/02/08 - Miku Restaurant, Vancouver
2010/02/07 - Shuraku Restaurant, Vancouver

2009/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2009
2009/12/08 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2009/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2009/11/24 - Research in Nara Prefecture
2009/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2009/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2009/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji Five Lakes
2009/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Onuma Park
2009/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu Onsen
2009/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Shikotsu-Toya National Park
2009/09/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kusatsu Onsen
2009/09/16 - Autumn Color Report: Tokachidake Onsen
2009/09/15 - Autumn Color Report: Ginsendai
2009/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2009/07/14 - Furano Lavender in full bloom
2009/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fuji Five Lakes
2009/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2009/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2009/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2009/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yokohama
2009/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2009/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/02/27 - Rainy Izu Peninsula
2009/02/26 - Cherry Blossoms in Kawazu

2008/11/20 - Miyajima
2008/11/18 - Mino Park
2008/11/12 - Fuji Five Lakes
2008/10/28 - Shirakami Sanchi (2)
2008/10/27 - Shirakami Sanchi
2008/10/16 - Nikko
2008/10/10 - Akagiyama
2008/10/08 - Shiretoko Peninsula
2008/09/26 - Sounkyo Onsen
2008/09/25 - Daisetsu Kogen Onsen
2008/09/24 - Mount Asahidake

2007/12/08 - Arashiyama Hanatoro
2007/04/12 - Kanazawa's wealth of attractions
2007/04/04 - Sanyo Coast in Full Bloom
2007/02/28 - Niseko and the Australian invasion
2007/02/27 - Cassiopeia Night Train
2007/01/31 - Cherry Blossoms in Okinawa
2007/01/26 - Skiing in Naeba

2006/12/03 - Chichibu Festival
2006/12/02 - Tanigawa Onsen (Minakami)
2006/11/26 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (11): Hotel Report
2006/11/25 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (10)
2006/11/24 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (9)
2006/11/23 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (8)
2006/11/22 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (7)
2006/11/21 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (6)
2006/11/20 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (5)
2006/11/19 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (4)
2006/11/18 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (3): Takao
2006/11/17 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (2): Hieizan
2006/11/16 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (1)
2006/11/08 - Shima Onsen
2006/10/25 - Autumn colors at Mount Tanigawa