Sunday 1st April
Day 49 - 500 metres to the Spar

Sunny Sunday cricket

The 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.

A 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

One of Shikoku's massive bridgeswe 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.

Tuesday 3rd April
Day 51 - 29km

Pilgrim's Progress

After 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 knackered floor.

Mount Ishizuchi (1982m - Mt no.8)
Wednesday 4th April
Day 52 - 18km

2nd time lucky, and a bedroom with a view.

One of Ishizuchi's marvellous views

The peak of IshizuchiA 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 were spectacular.

Thursday 5th April
Day 53 - 32.5km

Clean at last!

Mat, his boss, his wife, their restaurantBen 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

Landslide detour

The 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

Weird beasties

Another 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
Day 56

Shikoku rocks!!

Ben boulderingA 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 condensed milk.

Paul wrote this one...
Monday 9th April
Day 57 - 46km


The 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.

Actually 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.

The 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

Mountain Day!

Not quite Sumo wrestlers
Ben makes his fearless crossing of the rope bridge

The 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

Cherry blossom

Ben 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!

Camping in the parkThursday 12th April
Day 60 - 40km

Country bumpkins

The 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 both directions!

Friday 13th April
Day 61 - 35km

Polite Policeman, painful policy!

One 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

For 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
Sun Beach

Spear 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 be!
split - ben, tom, paul

Monday 16/04/01
Day 64 - 43km

Bridging the Gap

A 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.

Tuesday 17/04/01
Day 65 - 35km

Visa Schmeeza

To be or not top be?
we are asking the powers that be if we can stay in Japan to complete the trek.

Talk 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.

As 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 legal aliens!

In 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.

Wednesday 18/04/01
Day 66 - 35km

Red, Red tape

Q - How many Japanese does it take to say you can't register as an alien here?
- Answer below.

After 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 of cake.

We 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.

Thursday 19/04/01
Day 67 - 35km

Birthdays, Burgers and Baths

Birthdays come but once a year. Baths are only slightly more frequent.

The OnsenPaul 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)
Friday 20/04/01
Day 68 - 35km
After being accosted by a tourist official, they wade bare-chested through snow to sunbathe on the summit

The joy of stashing heavy bags and walking unburdened along a forested ridge under the blazing sun is beyond the description of words.

Although 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.

Paul and Ben not quite as eager for the photoAfter 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 undertaken.

We 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.

Saturday 21/04/01
Day 69 - 27km

No women admitted on Holy Mountain

The sign barring Women further progress up the sacred peakUnable 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.

Hakken-ga-take 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 cold.

Judging 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.

There 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.

The 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 below. From what we saw, Women aren't really missing much at all.

As 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.

Sunday 22/04/01
Day 70 - 11km

Small walk. Big wind

None of us wanted to walk on a rest day, but it saved a big next day.

From 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...

Clear running riverIt 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.

Today 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 been restored.

Week 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)
Monday 23/04/01
Day 71 - 32km

At the top of Hide-ga-takeDoes saying that we got the wrong dam sound very unprofessional?

We 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.

We 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!

It 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.

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.

As we had walked on Sunday, we just crashed in camp on return and roasted marshmallows that night over a camp fire.

Tuesday 24/04/01
Day 72 - 40km

No Longer Our Man

Much 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!

After 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!!

The 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.

Wednesday 25/04/01
Day 73 - 35km

Kimchi Sandwhiches

A 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.

It 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.

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.

It 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.

Thursday 26/04/01
Day 74 - 40km

Blatant Burger Bonanza

It 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.

At about mid-morning Ben popped the question; 'how many hamburgers do you think you could eat in one sitting?'

The 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.

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.

Friday 27/04/01
Day 75 - 35km

Space age toilets

We'd 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 exercise instructions!

We 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.

Ben got his first experience of a toilet that will clean and dry your bottom for you.

That 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 access!

Saturday 28/04/01
Day 76 - 30km

Lake Biwa

The 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.

The 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.

Sunday 29/04/01
Day 77 - 15km

Lynne Donaldson

Ben 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 opening.

Lynne 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!

Week 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.

A 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

Hikone Castle
click here for pictures
of the stay with Lynne

Castles, Internet and a whole heap of food.

Paul - "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.

As 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.

Thank 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.

next diary page >