Monday, January 9th, 2023

Nagata: how a 5km photo walk became an 11km hike

Black and white photograph of Japanese houses clustered around the hillside.

It was supposed to be a short walk to Nagata. 5km at most, take a few photos at the temple, find a spot of lunch, then train back. Except that isn’t what happened. When I finished I’d walked more than 11km.

There’s something disarming about this side of Kobe. Too often I’ll walk somewhere because it’s “only” a couple of kilometres, look at Google Maps and decide to carry on a bit further. These short distances chain together, quickly mounting up until my “popping out for half an hour” is a two hour, ten kilometre hike.

It’s worse when I have my camera. Things along the way catch my eye and I pause to take a snap. It adds to the sense I haven’t gone that far.

Black and white photograph of 2 houses either side of a concrete river channel
Houses clustered beside the river channel leading down to Nagata.

The short walk to Nagata

To get there I have to walk for 1.5km up a steep hill, then down the other side. Along the way are a few spots that interest me: a view out across a valley, a river running under the road, a solar farm. I pause and take my shots and make notes of where to explore next. Then I go on.

When I reached the temple I didn’t feel like I’d been particularly far, and curiosity got the better of me. How far was it to walk to Itayado? 2km, said the map. Except it wasn’t because I got side tracked and followed a river further than I should have.

Photograph of a river cascading off a raised platform into the main course.
An unnamed tributary flows into the Shinminato River. I’d followed it down off the mountain and past the temple.
Photograph of a low office block with a shuttered shop front
I’ll photograph anything that catches my eye. This building was the start of a detour that added over a kilometre to my walk.

At Itayado I could catch the train

So far I’d covered 8km, and the train would have me back at Myohoji station in a few minutes. From there it’s a 1.5km walk home, albeit up another steep hill. At most I could be home in half an hour.

But it’s only a 3km walk that takes 35-40 minutes if I put my mind to it. And there’s that nice bit of road under the expressway, and the river I like and I’m going to have to climb a hill anyway.

Black and white photograph of a Kamatsu digger on a pad beside newly constructed flood defences along the river Myohoji.
Flood defences under construction. I’ve watched these take shape over the past 18 months on my walks.

11km of walking later…

My record so far is 20km of hopping from spot to spot and not really paying attention to distance. A fast walking pace and the regular breaks a camera and curious eye brings helps the kilometres roll by.

Black and white photograph of the underside of an Expressway in Japan
Underside of Expressway 31. I sometimes drive on this road heading home from various road trips.

I enjoy walking, particularly if I have my camera. Even if I’ve covered the same ground many times, there’s a thrill in finding new things to capture. Perhaps that’s why I find it so easy to hop from spot to spot, piling on the distance with barely a care in the world.

I just have to remember to stop for lunch like I didn’t in Nagata.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.