On the walk from the train station at Takedao to the start of the hike I passed passed two signs giving off bad vibes. One was a sign warning women of the danger of muggers, and the other was a hand-made sign in Japanese, the only word of which I understood was "abunai" (danger). I hoped that whatever the sign was about, it didn't refer to the walk.
The first tunnel was a good introduction to the walk, not long and gently curving so you can see the end before you begin. The second was just straight ahead, so didn't offer any real problems. And between the tunnels there were some beautiful views of some tree covered mountains and a raging river.
Tunnel three was the first to offer up some challenge. For a start there's a big sign in front of it, which looked a lot like a warning, but I couldn't really tell. There was also a photographer nearby having a cigarette but most importantly, to my discomfort, on the ground at the mouth of the tunnel was a dried, withered bunch of flowers held in place by two stones. They looked somewhat funerial, but I gritted my teeth and entered the tunnel.
This was the first tunnel where I needed my torch, so I switched it on. I was disappointed that, after seeming so bright when I tried it out in my bedroom, it seemed to struggle against this much darkness and could only offer a rather pale yellow beam that let me see where I was about to walk but no further.
About a third of the way in, I heard other footsteps and, looking behind me, I saw that the photographer had started to walk through too. I could see his silhoutette and the light from his torch. He was some distance back so I didn't give it much thought. Later, as I was approaching the end, and the beginning of the tunnel was no longer in sight, I realised that I couldn't hear the photographer's footsteps, nor see the light from his torch. I guess he either turned back or stopped to take a photo. Either way, I found his disappearance a bit disconcerting.
Tunnel four was a doddle, but tunnel five really lived up to the trail's reputation. It's very long and, for the most part, in total darkness. In this situation, your mind can't help but play tricks on you, such that a white streak on the wall fleetingly picked out in the edge of the torchlight gave me quite a shock until I double checked and it was just a white mark on the wall. After a while, you notice how the brownish stains of water on the wall resemble blood and I don't know why but a row of sleepers propped up against the wall really disturbed me.
Tunnel six was another straight ahead one, so no challenge there. Finally I got to the end of the route and arrived in a different town. This was something of a let down after majestic mountains and the rolling river. I then realised I didn't know where this town's train station was, and after a bit of a sit down, I decided that instead of wandering around an unremarkable Japanese town looking for a railway station that could be anywhere, I could just go back the way I came. The walk wasn't long or physically difficult, so why not? It was a great walk in the other direction, too.