Location

Departs Kii-Tanabe

Difficulty

4

Length

7

Trip Cost

from $1950
twin share

Overview

  • Follow in the footsteps of former Emperors and over 1000 years of history on one of the world’s great historical trails
  • Self-guided trip allows you to set your own pace while we look after your accommodation and luggage transfers
  • Enjoy delicious handmade Japanese food, made with fresh local ingredients
  • Stay in traditional guesthouses with lots of character and friendly hosts
  • Soak in an onsen to soothe your muscles (and spirit!) after a day of walking
  • Self-guided trips can start on a day of your choosing and itineraries can be adapted to suit your travel plans and wishes

The trails of Kumano Kodo are a series of ancient pilgrimage routes, dating back over 1000 years, in Japan’s beautiful Kii Peninsula, an area also strongly associated with nature worship. At one time Japan’s Imperial family and former Emperors made the pilgrimage trips from Kyoto to the shrines of Kumano, one of Japan’s most sacred sites.

The Kumano Kodo is a journey through a thousand years of Buddhist history and offers a window into traditional Japan that contrasts strongly with its hyper modern cities. The Kumano Kodo’s rugged, forested mountains, quiet rural valleys, rivers and waterfalls provide a spectacular backdrop for hikers. The seasonal contrasts of cherry blossom in the spring and rich autumn foliage inject wonderful colour along the hiking route. Arriving at your destination each day the traditional local guesthouses offer reviving onsens and wonderful local food. Hiking the Kumano Kodo really is a great immersion into Japanese culture.

Extend Your Holiday – City Breaks

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Kii-Tanabe

The best way to reach Kii-Tanabe is by train (tickets not included and purchased locally).  There are frequent trains from Kansai Airport, Osaka and Kyoto travelling southwards to Kii-Tanabe. Here the railway line parallels the coast and avoids the steep mountainous interior. The nearest major International Airport is Kansai (Osaka), from where you can take a 2-hour train journey to Kii-Tanabe. Train travel from Osaka to Kii-Tanabe takes just over 2 hours and from Kyoto approximately 2.5-3 hours.

Kii-Tanabe is the gateway town to the Imperial Route of the Kumano Kodo and a city surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on one side and mountains on the other. The town is also home to the Tanabe Tourist Information Center – your tour orientation will be scheduled with the staff here. This evening is free for you to explore the town – enjoy great atmosphere at the Ajikoji Restaurant and Entertainment District, and perhaps stroll down to the Ogigahama Beach for sunset views.

Day 2: Walk Takijiri-oji to Tsugizakura-oji (18km)

It is an early morning start today and after checking out and picking up your lunch box, you will take a 40-minute bus ride to Takijiri (paid locally), start of the walk. The first section of today’s walk will be a climb up from Takijiri-oji to Takahara, a rural hamlet on a ridge, noted for its ancient shrine surrounded by giant kusu-noki, or camphor trees, and a spectacular view over the surrounding Hatenashi Mountain Ranges. Reminders of the past, including Buddhist statues and oji shrines, line the route along the ancient highway as you climb upwards.

Leaving Takahara behind, you head further into the mountains along the old trail, past bamboo forest and then into the pencil pine. You continue to pass by reminders of the old highway, including an ichirizuka distance marker and the sites of old former tea houses, which provided rest and shelter to pilgrims up until the early 20th century. Continuing on you crest the Hashiori-Toge pass after a short climb. The trail then descends past the Three-Fold Moon viewing area, from where it is a short climb to the small but famous Gyuba-doji statue. This ancient statue shows Kazan, one of the first abdicated emperors to pilgrimage to Kumano, sitting astride both a horse and a cow. Your descent takes you along a cobbled path and staircase to Chikatsuyu, a small village and one of the few places where you can get limited supplies or drinks.

Your final stretch of the day takes you on a climb to Tsugizakura-oji and your accommodation for the evening. Nearby is a grove of giant cedar trees, some of which are reputed to be 800 years old! Accommodation tonight is in a small local minshuku guesthouse. If Tsugizakura accommodation is full on your chosen dates or if you are travelling with a larger group, you may stay in Chikatsuyu instead on this night.

9 hours walking

Meals: B L D

Day 3: Walk Tsugizakura-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha (21km)

Today’s walk will bring you along many forest paths and eventually some mountain top villages before descending to Hongu. The walks starts with climbs over a number of passes and there is a permanent detour in place due to landslides on the main path. There are few facilities on the first part of today’s route which is through the forest before eventually leading you to the shrine at Hosshinmon-oji. At this point you also have the option to take a local bus (paid locally) as the road intersects here, or carry on down into the valley to Hongu. You will continue through small settlements and get your first glimpse of the great Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine and the giant torii gate called Oyunohara in the valley below.

Kumano Hongu Taisha is the main shrine in the area, to which all roads in the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage lead. A long stone staircase leads to the sacred grounds of the shrine, located on a ridge and surrounded by giant cedar and cypress trees. After looking around the impressive shrine you will  jump on a local bus (paid locally) to our evening destination at nearby Yunomine Onsen or Kawayu Onsen, charming little hot spring villages.

Arriving at your overnight location is a treat for tired walkers as the steam billows from the thermal rivers and there is the promise of a relaxing onsen after your exertions. The onsen thermal hot spring baths are an important part of the Kumano Kodo traditions with pilgrims performing hot water purification rituals in preparation for visiting the shrine. For us it will be more a preparation for a delicious Japanese meal in your accommodation.

9 hours walking

Meals: B L D

Day 4: Rest Day in Hongu Area

Today you can either completely relax and take in the local onsens or perhaps return to Hongu village for further explorations. If you wish to stretch your legs a little then walk back to Hongu on the Dainichi-goe route from Yunomine Onsen – this is a steep but delightful walk, passing some remarkable old carved statues at Hanakake Jizo, overgrown by tree roots.

Hongu village is home to the Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the Kumano Sanzan, three grand shrines of Kumano, and head shrine of over 3,000 Kumano shrines across Japan. Kumano was said to be the entrance gateway to the land of Yomi, the ‘other world’, which spirits travelled to in Japanese mythology. Across the Kumano Hongu Shrine is the Kumano Hongu Heritage Centre, featuring a diversity of exhibitions on the Kumano Kodo – all permanent exhibitions and videos include English translations. Just nearby the centre you will find Oyunohara, the largest torii shrine gate in the world at 34 meters tall, signifying the division of the secular and the spiritual worlds.

Be sure to also visit the tiny Tsuboyu onsen in a wooden cabin at the centre of town in Yunomine Onsen, which is the only UNESCO world heritage listed spa and the oldest in Japan at 1200 years old! The bath can be booked for a 30-minute private bathing and works on a first come first serve basis.

Meals: B D

Day 5: Walk Hongu Area to Koguchi (13km)

This morning you will take a short bus ride (paid locally) to Ukegawa to begin your walk. The Kogumotori-goe section is a fairly gentle trek with a climb and descent over a pass, and is mostly in the forested mountains with some nice ridge-walking sections.

The highlight of today’s walk is the Hyakken-gura pass, where a beautifully positioned Buddhist statue on a hilltop has a backdrop of the most spectacular views of the trip. The impressive Hyakken-gura look out surprises walkers with a lovely panoramic view of the 3600 peaks of Kumano. Take a moment to enjoy this stunning view, as pilgrims have been doing for over 1000 years.

The trail continues to rise and fall, sometimes gradual and the off time steeper when you continue towards the Sakura-jaya teahouse remains. The views from the Sakura-jaya teahouse remains down to the valley and across the mountains are impressive. It is said that when the owners of teahouses saw pilgrims approaching from far off in the distance, they would start to cook mochi rice cakes and boil water for tea, to have things ready to serve just as the pilgrims would arrive at the teahouse. From here the trail continues on a forest track and eventually descends into Koguchi, a small and isolated village surrounded by mountains and rivers.

6 hours walking

Meals: B L D

Day 6: Walk Koguchi to Kumano Nachi Taisha (14.5km)

The Ogumotori-goe is the second day of a two-day trek from the Hongu area to Kumano Nachi Taisha. It is one of the toughest sections of the Nakahechi section and a big day’s walk so we recommend an early start as you begin with a 2.5-hour uphill climb up the Dogiri-zaka slope. Dogiri-zaka can be directly translated as “Body Breaking Slope”, and is an appropriate name for this 5km uphill section that rises 800 metres to the Echizen-toge Pass.

Afterwards, you pass the Jizo-jaya teahouse remains to the Moja-no-Deai, ‘Abode of the Dead’. It is believed that the souls of the dead gravitate to these higher mountains, where spirits inhabit this section of the trail. The walk continues through forest and along ridges, the path ascending and descending, until at Funami Toge pass the Pacific Ocean spreads out before you.

From here the trail descends to the Nachisan sanctuary and the brightly colored Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine, another of the three grand shrines of Kumano. Also nearby is the wonderful wooden Seiganto-ji temple and the spectacular Nachi-no-Otaki waterfall, which is the highest in Japan and can be seen from far out on the Pacific Ocean. Tonight you will either overnight in Nachisan near the Kumano Nachi shrine or Kii Katsuura, a small fishing village approximately 20-minute bus ride from Nachisan. Relax and enjoy the completion of your extraordinary Kumano Kodo walk!

7 hours walking

Meals: B L D

Day 7: Depart Kii-Katsuura

Today enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then transfer by train to your onwards destination. Train tickets are not included and can be purchased locally at the Kii-Katsuura train station.

Meals: B

Important Note: The Kumano Kodo is a popular walk at certain times of year and guesthouses/hotels sometimes get fully booked. This itinerary is a guide to a possible route. Details may change and the actual accommodations booked may vary from what is written here, dependent on client numbers, wishes and availability. This adjustment with accommodations may alter the exact distance walked in a day so the above itinerary should be used as an indication only to overnight stops/distances.

Dates

Self-guided trips offer flexibility, independence and choice. Set your own agenda while someone else worries about the logistics. Our self-guided walking holidays are fully flexible which means you can normally start your walk on any day during the season and customise by adding extra days for resting or sightseeing. As you’re walking independently, you’re free to follow the trail at your own pace. You set your own speed as you are not limited by the constraints of group travel.

Note that if booking for a start date of less than 30 days from the time of booking we cannot guarantee that your trip is possible unless you have contacted us first and your trip details have been confirmed.

Start date
01 Oct 2017
End date
30 Jun 2018
Price
Oct onwards - Enquire first please
Availability
Availability on Request

Inclusions

  • 1 night in Kii-Tanabe (twin share, ensuite)
  • 5 nights in traditional Japanese guesthouses (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • Daily meals included as listed in the itinerary
  • Luggage transfers on the Kumano Kodo on all trekking days
  • Briefing in Kii-Tanabe at the start of your walk
  • Pre-departure pack including track notes, maps and a Japanese phrasebook (1 pack per 2 clients travelling together)

Not Included

  • Local bus tickets
  • Train tickets to/from trail
  • Flights to/from destination
  • Travel insurance
  • Single supplement AUD300
  • Beverages other than water at meals
  • Expenses and items of a personal nature

Add-Ons

  • Flights, tours, rail passes, other extras/packages

Map & Guide

Reviews

‘A Sacred Journey’, Jetstar Magazine (Jayne D’Arcy), April 2017
Follow the World Heritage Kumano Kodo trail through ancient Japan and discover your inner pilgrim

Eunice Ching, Queenscliff (NSW) – July 2017
The Kumano Kodo Trail was an amazing experience and we were happy booking through RAW Travel. Leanne and co were always very responsive whenever I had questions for them, making the booking and planning process very smooth. We did the trail in the middle of July and, although it was really hot, it was also extremely beautiful. The trail itself can by quite steep and slippery in parts, so having hiking sticks was very useful. We especially loved staying at the beautiful Minshuku Tsugizakura – the food was exceptional. The packed lunches were also amazing – the bento box from Ajizanmai on the first day is by far the fanciest thing I’ve ever eaten on a hike. The briefing notes mailed to us prior to the trip were helpful and the ones provided in the briefing the day before our hike in Tanabe were indispensable! Thank you again Leanne and Chris for making our trip great.

Michael Giblin, Sydney (NSW) – May 2017
The organisational guidance provided by RAW Travel was outstanding, specifically with respect to written material concerning itinerary, historical and walk overview, local travel tips and advice about pre-trip physical and practical preparation. We received a detailed guidebook that was small enough to live in my pocket every day during the walk. Maps were excellent.

Debra McWhirter, Cremorne (NSW) – April 2017
The Kumano Kodo walk was an amazing adventure. It alerted all of my five senses and was a great way to get a first-hand taste of Japanese culture. It showed the amazing physical landscape of Japan as well as touching base in the city/urban environment. A safe country to travel in where every day a new adventure occurs and amazing hospitality is shown from the Japanese people.

Christine McGinty, Brisbane – November 2016
We thought the walk itself was good and reasonably challenging, especially the last day and the downhill steps are a bit of a pain as they are messy and slippery but apart from that it was fine. The little towns we stayed in were wonderful and the hospitality in all bar one was very good. The food in most of them was exceptional too. We felt we really experienced a Japan of the past.

Aaron Smyth, October 2016
The trip was awesome! Thank you Leanne and Heini and RAW Travel, for organising our trip. The accommodation and food was great, although sometimes they gave us too much food at meal times. The highlight of the day were the onsens, which really helped us relax and recover after the long walks – some of those walks are quite arduous. We thought the best section was walking from the top of the mountain (Hosshinmon-Oji to Kumano Hongu) because of the grade of track and the quaint little villages and the Hot Spring Coffee stop along the way. And because it was downhill! Also the first day’s walking was tough but we called into the Keyaki Cafe in Takahara after lunch, listening to jazz music – drinking coffee, savouring the view of the mountains – an unforgettable moment. Overall we loved Japan, and particularly Kyoto which has wonderful gardens and we would like to come back and visit the sections of the Kumano that we missed. There were so many great moments, including the attending the 5am morning ceremony with the monks at the ancient Seiganto-ji wooden temple before breakfast. We also loved the Townhouse in Tanabe, it was serene and perfect.

Colin Jefferson, Perth – October 2016
Thank you so much for organising our recent holiday on the Kumana Kodo trail. We loved it. There were so many highlights – the trail, the landscapes, the forests, the villages, the shrines and Oji and the people we met along the way. We were very lucky with the weather – no rain and pleasant temperatures. We really liked the accommodation you booked for us. The hospitality was great, the meals were unbelievable and we enjoyed the onsens. We were blown away by the bento box provided by Ajizanmai on the first day and I think this was topped by the meal at Minshuku Chikatsuyu that evening. And the meals just stayed at that standard for the rest of the trip!

Thanks for your briefing notes prior to the trip – they really helped prepare us for what was to come. The briefing in Kii Tanabe was great too – helped by the fact that we were a little familiar with the route by that stage from your notes and maps. The bus timetables and estimates of bus fares were really helpful and it was good to know there were options to shorten the walks (escape routes) if required. You must be doing a great job promoting the trail – we met so many Australians along the way. We bumped into some groups a few times but there was enough variety in our itineraries and walking routines that I’m sure we all felt we had unique experiences.

Mark Allison, VIC – October 2016
Liked the challenge of the Kumano Kodo walk, the scenery, our hosts and the care they went to with food preparation.

Karen Allison, VIC – October 2016
The challenging paths over tree roots and stones, the spectacular lush green forests, the food and the wonderful hosts in our accommodation.

Sally Goodchild, Sydney – September 2016
We loved the peace and the beauty of the walk. We also loved the culture of the Japanese and the overnight stays in the accommodations you had booked was delightful, as was the amazing food that was provided each evening.

Sarah Huxtable – June 2016
The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage walk was special with temples scattered throughout the forest. It is interesting that it is linked with the Camino in Spain.

Jill and Zachary Stafford – April 2016
I wanted to thank you so much for helping us book the amazing Kumano Kodo. We loved our time on the trails and at the guest houses. This was definitely one of the most amazing walks we have done and a definite highlight of our world tour. We have been loving this part of Japan and are trying to figure out when we can come back. While we were walking, we struck up a friendship with a fellow traveller whom you helped book as well. Like us, he had wonderful things to say about you and was enjoying the walk as well. It was so nice to run into someone else who booked with you!

Melissa Wilson – March 2016
I am just back from my Kumano Kodo trip in Japan and loved it. Thanks for organising a brilliant trip. The accommodations, the food, the guesthouse owners and the walk were brilliant. I throughly enjoyed it.

Sue Mullett, Melbourne – October 2015
Our Kumano Kodo experience was wonderful.  We walked every inch of the trail, with perfect weather except for a little rain in the last kilometre. We were very lucky! Everything went seamlessly, and we commend you on the organisation of the whole package. Accommodation, food, luggage transfer, track notes and maps – all excellent, and we met some terrific people throughout the trek. I felt quite emotional as we made the final descent into Nachi!  It was certainly a memorable and moving personal journey for me. Thank you for all your advice and help.

Jemima Berridge, London, UK – June 2015
The trip completely blew all expectation out of the water.

Jane Ainslie, Sydney – April 2015
RAW Travel again did an excellent job in arranging my pilgrimage in Japan. The accommodation was exactly as I requested, mostly fairly basic but comfortable, well located and wonderful hosts. The meals were all exceptionally good. The maps, itinerary, information were all excellent providing clear and easy to follow which was important as I was doing the pilgrimage on my own. The luggage transfers never once let me down. Overall an excellent well organised self guided tour.

Jennifer Hearn, WA – April 2015
The whole trip was organised so thoroughly we couldn’t fault it at all. Heini was extremely helpful and efficient and thoughtful.

Rita & Lionel Lubitz, Melbourne – April 2015
We just returned from The Kumano Kodo trail. Great accommodation,f ood and very efficient transportation of cases etc. The scenery spectacular. Rita had difficulty with the walking as a result of her surgery but the onsens made up for it. The trail was difficult at times especially the last day but we did it successfully!!! Thanks for your help and we look forward to another RAW adventure.

What our Clients Say

The guidance from RAW Travel was outstanding, specifically the written material concerning itinerary, history and walk overview, local travel tips and advice about pre-trip physical and practical preparation.

Michael Giblin, Sydney (NSW) - May 2017

The Kumano Kodo walk was an amazing adventure. It alerted all of my five senses and was a great way to get a first-hand taste of Japanese culture. Every day a new adventure...and amazing hospitality from the Japanese people.

Debra McWhirter, Cremorne (NSW) - April 2017

We loved Japan. There were so many great moments on the Kumano Kodo, one of which was attending the 5am morning ceremony with the monks at the ancient Seiganto-ji wooden temple before breakfast.

Aaron Smyth, October 2016

We loved the peace and the beauty of the walk. We also loved the culture of the Japanese and the overnight stays in the accommodations you had booked was delightful, as was the amazing food that was provided each evening

Sally Goodchild, Sydney - Sep 2016

The challenging paths over tree roots and stones, the spectacular lush green forests, the food and the wonderful hosts in our accommodation.

Karen Allison, VIC - Oct 2016

I wanted to thank you so much for helping us book the amazing Kumano Kodo. We loved our time on the trails and at the guest houses. This was definitely one of the most amazing walks we have done and a definite highlight of our world tour.

Jill & Zachary Stafford - April 2016

Am just back from my trip to Japan and loved it. Thanks for organising the Kumano Kodo trip it was brilliant, the accommodations, the food, the guesthouse owners and the walk were brilliant. I throughly enjoyed it.

Melissa Wilson - March 2016

The trip completely blew all expectation out of the water.

Jemima Berridge, London, UK - June 2015

The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage walk was special with temples scattered throughout the forest. It is interesting that it is linked with the Camino in Spain.

Sarah Huxtable - June 2016

Thank you so much for organising our recent holiday on the Kumana Kodo trail. We loved it. There were so many highlights.

Colin Jefferson, October 2016

The Kumano Kodo was an amazing experience and we were happy booking through RAW Travel. Leanne and co were always very responsive, making the booking and planning very smooth.

Eunice Ching, Queenscliff (NSW) - July 2017

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Kumano Kodo Expert

Chris Kavanagh

(03) 5976 3763

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