31 Jul 20
Kumano Kodo: What to pack
The ancient Kumano region is nestled in the verdant mountains of Wakayama Prefecture – the spiritual heartland of Japan. This lush and rugged area has been considered the abode of the gods and worshipped for centuries.
Walking the Kumano Kodo is similar to preparing for any multi-day walk, with the exception that your wet weather gear may be needed more frequently! Here are a few of my top picks on what you should definitely bring with you for the Kumano Kodo.
Footwear can definitely make or break your trekking experience so it is worthwhile taking the time to find a good pair (if you haven’t already got one) and then wearing them properly in. Hiking boots or shoes are the best choice for the Kumano Kodo. A good fitting, well worn in hiking boot will keep your feet dry in wet and muddy conditions, protect your toes when walking over rough rocky ground and give you good stability – these factors make a lightweight, waterproof hiking boot the best choice. There are a number of options out there and instead of focusing on the hottest brands, looks, fancy features or friend’s recommendations (that’s unless their feet are completely identical to yours), consider features such as comfort, water resistance, durability, weight and suitability for the trek(s) ahead. A knowledgeable boot fitter can help you find the best fit for you.
The trails of Kumano Kodo are a series of ancient pilgrimage routes that crisscross the beautiful Kii-Peninsula. This is the largest peninsula on the island of Honshu, the main island of Japan. It is also the most southern point of Honshu and therefore quite mild year round. This remote and mountainous area receives an abundance of rainfall throughout the year, resulting in lush green forests, beautiful clear rivers and stunning waterfalls. This area is one of the wettest parts of Japan so it is important to bring good wet weather gear with you – waterproof hiking boots, good raincoat, overpants and a waterproof backpack cover. Good gear can make all the difference on a rainy day!
Walking poles are highly recommended for this trek. Underfoot you will experience a variety of tracks and trails on the Kumano Kodo, including slippery, rocky and steep sections. Walking poles are great for balance and taking weight off your knees on descents. If you are accustomed to walking with poles and have a pair of your own, then you can take them with you but do remember to pack them as part of your main luggage. If you have not walked with poles before but plan to do so I would strongly recommend that you practice walking with them prior to starting your trip.
Japanese snacks are without a doubt inventive and intriguing. From eel flavoured soda to candied baby crabs and Mountain Dew Cheetos, Japan certainly has got the quirkiest snacks around. While these are often (surprisingly) delicious, sometimes it’s hard to beat the good old muesli bar for an energy boost while trekking. It can be difficult to find familiar snacks in Japan and along the Kumano Kodo there are a very few places from where you can stop and buy supplies. We therefore recommend being adequately prepared with your favourite trekking snacks such as muesli bars, protein bars and trail mix. You can bring these into Japan as long as they are packaged.
It is common in Japan to pay for purchases in cash rather than by card so ensure you carry adequate cash. Some areas of Japan have very few ATMs and the rural Kumano Kodo region is no exception. Some ATMs in Japan do not accept credit, debit or ATM cards issued outside of Japan. Main exceptions are ATMs found at local post offices and 7-Eleven convenience stores located across the country – these ATMs allow you to withdraw cash with credit and debit cards issued outside of Japan. Post office opening hours differ by location but the majority will close by 5pm (even earlier in smaller rural locations) and are closed on Sundays and public holidays. 7-Eleven stores are accessible 24 hours per day throughout the year. Remember to let your bank know well in advance that you are travelling overseas and will be making cash withdrawals so that your account is not locked due to suspicious activity. Remember to also confirm your daily withdrawal limit and fees applicable.