KUMANO KODO PILGRIMAGE WALK
Kii-Tanabe . Chikatsuyu-Oji .Yunomine Onsen . Kii-Katsuura
Listed as UNESCO world site in 2004, the Kumano Kodo has been a mythical holy ground where, for thousands of years, Japanese people believed the gods resided. The name Kumano literally means “the place where deities live”. “Kodo” means “an old trail”, and you will be surprised to see that a lot of the old paved roads and stone steps still remain today. The Kumano Kodo consists of 6 routes, but the most picturesque walking path is the Nakahechi route which passes by mountains, dense forests, rivers and waterfalls. You’ll also experience some coastal scenery; it is this contrast that makes the Kumano Kodo so distinctive.
per person sharing
Train fare Kyoto to Kii Tanabe trailhead
4 nights accommodation - share facilities
3 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 4 dinners
Orientation meeting and maps
International airfare; local train and bus fares, guide, tipping; meals unless noted otherwise, personal expenses
DEPARTURES: Year round
Day 1: Kyoto/Osaka - Kii-Tanabe
Travel from Kyoto or Osaka using the tickets provided to Kii-Tanabe station. Journey time is around 3 hours. Upon arrival at Kii-Tanabe station, a local assistant will welcome you and deliver an orientation talk on the Kumano Kodo and your journey, helping you to understand the route in advance and to know what to expect. You will be provided with plenty of maps and information. Your luggage will be shuttled to your first accommodation.
You’ll then take part in two sacred ceremonies before your pilgrimage begins. First is Shiogori which people used to perform to purify themselves before their pilgrimage. Next, you will be blessed at Tokei Shrine by a Shinto priest for a safe trip. The rest of the day will be at your leisure to explore Kii-Tanabe and to relax before your departure.
Accommodation: Machiya-style Japanese guest house
Day 2: Kii-Tanabe -Chikatsuyu-oji
Walk the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail to Chikatsuyu-oji, a small village located in a mountain basin halfway to Kumano Hongu-Taisha (7.5 miles). Along the way, break your journey at Takahara Village to observe the beautiful panoramic view. From Takahara, the trail heads up an incline as it goes through the forest but then begins to descend towards Chikatsuyu. When you come across a stone statue of a man sitting on a horse, you will know that you are almost at today’s destination. Before checking into your accommodation, soak your feet in the hikers hot spring or take a public bath in the village. (B,D)
Accommodation: Machiya-style Japanese guest house
Day 3: Chikatsuyu-oji - Yunomine Onsen
Continue the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail to Kumano Hongu-taisha, the main shrine of this region (10 miles). Today is one of the most popular sections of the Kumano Kodo due to its dramatically changing scenery. You will hike through forests and gorges, narrow passages, historical ruins and villages. After a few hours of descent, you will reach Hosshinmon-oji, a small shrine.
Stop at a lookout with amazing views. After lunch in the Hongu area, visit the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center which has a good exhibition of the pilgrimage to understand its history and cultural background. An included activity today is to experience making Japanese traditional paper at a local workshop (about 30 minutes). You can take your handmade paper to Kumano Hongu-Taisha to get it stamped. It is a tradition in Japan to make a small donation and receive a sacred stamp at each shrine and temple. Those stamps serve as proof that you have taken part in the pilgrimage.
Once you are finished exploring the shrine, take a public bus back to Yunomine Onsen. You can soak in the hot springs tonight and enjoy another delicious Japanese dinner. (B,L,D)
Accommodation: Guesthouse Yamane (Japanese Room, shared bath)
Day 4: Yunomine Onsen - Kii Katsuura
This morning, take a bus to the Kunamo river station. The Kumano river is also a part of the pilgrimage route. Enjoy the journey on a traditional wooden flat boat—the same boats that pilgrims used centuries ago. The cruise lasts around 90 minutes.
After you have explored Hatayama Taisha, take a train to Nachi station and then a local bus to Daimonzaka. The last leg of your journey takes you to Kumano Nachi-Taisha, the main shrine of this area. Enjoy the most picturesque trail on the route called Daimonzaka, with its cobblestone stone staircase (1 mile). Ancient Japanese cedars line both sides of staircase. As you ascend, you will hear the sound of Nachi Falls, the highest waterfall in Japan.
From Kumano Nachi-Taisha, you will have a breathtaking view of Nachi Falls, a three-story pagoda and the Buddhist temple Seigantoji, which is the oldest temple in the Kumano area.
Take a local bus back to Kii-Katsuura, a coastal town of the Kii peninsula well known for its fishing industry. (B,D)
Accommodation: Guesthouse Kosakaya (Japanese Room, shared bath)
Day 5: Depart
Your arrangements end this morning. Before departing, you may wish to experience the local tuna auction. Katsuura fish market boasts the highest volume of fresh tuna in Japan, and the auction is exciting. (B)