Kumano Kodo self-guided 4 days
The Kii Peninsula points south away from Kyoto and Osaka and is one of the most remote and mystical areas of Japan, despite its proximity to these great cities. Long a place of pilgrimage, the Kii Peninsula is the site of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano (Kumano Sanzan). From the 11th century, successive emperors and their families made the long and difficult pilgrimage to Kumano from Kyoto. Several pilgrimage trails were established, among them the Nakahechi-do, Kohechi-do and Ohechi-do, collectively known as the Kumano Kodo ('Old Road of Kumano'). Our walk focuses on part of the Nakahechi-do, which weaves its way through the forested mountains and small villages to the Grand Shrine of Hongu, You transfer by bus to the Hayatama Grand Shrine at Shingu before you leave the Kumano region by train.
・ 3 nights at Japanese inns along the Kumano Kodo trail booked & prepaid
・ round-trip train tickets from Kyoto or Osaka (pay locally for bus journeys on Days 1, 3, and 4)
・ detailed day-by-day itinerary and walking directions
・ topographical maps
・ local telephone support
・ 3 breakfasts & 3 dinners (pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches)
・ daily luggage transfer is available as an optional extra service - read about luggage options here
Day 1 From Kyoto or Osaka; Kumano Kodo Trail from Takijiri to Takahara
We supply train tickets for your journey from Kyoto or Osaka to the mystical Kii Peninsula. The train hugs the coast as far as the small town of Kii-Tanabe, arriving just after midday. In Kii-Tanabe you board a local bus for the forty-minute journey to Takijiri and the start of your walk on the Nakahechi portion of the Kumano Pilgrimage route. From Takijiri Oji, the path climbs steadily up to the ridge-top village of Takahara. The walk takes around two hours. Stay at a lovely ryokan with both Japanese and western style rooms, all with spectacular views over the valley and mountains beyond. Enjoy a wonderful home-cooked dinner with local ingredients and soak in the bath filled with thermal water from nearby Wataraze Onsen. If the inn at Takahara is fully-booked, we will suggest that you spend tonight in the town of Kii-Tanabe down below the start of the trail; you then make an early start on the trail tomorrow morning and walk Section 1 and Section 2 (Takijiri to Takahara, and Takahara to Chikatsuyu) together on Day 2. We will advise you at the time of booking if this alternative pattern is necessary.
Walking distance: 4.5km / 2.8 miles
Elevation gain: 370m / 1,200 feet of ascent
Time required: About 2 hours
Day 2 Kumano Kodo Trail from Takahara to Chikatsuyu
After your Japanese breakfast you leave Takahara, heading through the village and up into the hills. Continue on an undulating trail past several oji shrines before descending to the village of Chikatsuyu. The paths are clearly defined, and flagstones have been laid in some places to make the ascents easier. You arrive in the small village of Chikatsuyu in time to relax before dinner at a family-run Japanese inn. Explore the tranquil rural setting with old wooden houses, rice paddies and fields of vegetables.
Walking distance: 10km / 6.5 miles
Elevation gain: 480m / 1,575 feet of ascent and 520m / 1,700 feet of descent
Time required: About 4 - 5hours
Day 3 Kumano Kodo Trail from Chikatsuyu to Hongu
From Chikatsuyu, the trail continues through the mountains to Hongu. The trail passes through small villages and forest trails over the Kii Mountains to the Kumano shrine at Hongu, one of the three ‘Grand Shrines of Kumano’. At the heart of these sacred mountains, Kumano was said to be the entrance to the land of Yomi, the ‘other world' which spirits travelled to in Japanese mythology. From the Kumano shrine at Hongu, a short bus ride brings you to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest natural hot spring onsen villages in Japan, or to Kawayu Onsen hot spring famous for the thermal water bubbling to the surface of the crystal clear river. Enjoy a relaxing soak in a Japanese bath before or after your delicious, multi-course dinner.
Walking distance: 24km / 14.9 miles
Elevation gain: 820m / 2,700 feet of ascent and 1140m / 3,740 feet of descent
Time required: About 8 - 9 hours, requiring an early start!
We offer two shorter alternatives of 7 hours (15km / 9 miles) or of 2 hours (7km / 4 miles), using a local bus from Chikatsuyu to shorten the walk. You can choose which option you prefer on the day - no need to decide in advance!
Day 4 Hayatama Grand Shrine and Shingu; onwards by train
Before or after breakfast, take time to explore the hot-spring village. Travel by bus to Shingu and visit the Kumano Hayatama Taisha, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano, fifteen minutes on foot from Shingu station. The tourist office is located directly in front of Shingu station, where the bus arrives; they can supply maps and advice. Within the shrine precinct is a giant Nagi tree about a thousand years old. 'Nagi dolls' made from the seeds of this tree are believed to bring about lucky encounters with the opposite sex or a happy married life to couples. The Kamikura Shrine on Mount Gongen, a little further on, is also well worth a visit. People worship a large rock as a god here and the shrine is extremely atmospheric. After visiting the sights of Shingu, use the train tickets we provide for the train journey onwards to Osaka or Kyoto. The journey takes around five hours, arriving in Osaka or Kyoto early to mid-evening.