The 7 Day Trail
Our most popular Kumano Kodo trek | Includes the full length of the Nakahechi trail | Stay in traditional accommodation | Enjoy wonderful insights into life in rural Japan and the spiritual history of this path and region
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.
Get Ready For
- Walk the full length of the Nakahechi trail
- Soak in an onsen to soothe your muscles (and spirit!)
- Delicious handmade Japanese food with fresh local ingredients
- Traditional guesthouses with lots of character and friendly hosts
- Gain insights into life in rural Japan and the spiritual history of this path and region
On the Trail
Join RAW Travellers Robyn and Jan as they walk the Kumano Kodo in Japan to find out what they’ve enjoyed the most on this iconic walking trail.
READ: ‘A Sacred Journey’, Jetstar Magazine
Journalist Jayne D’Arcy discovers her inner pilgrim along the Kumano Kodo trail.
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 itinerary should be used as an indication only to overnight stops/distances.
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 to 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.
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.
Meals: L, D
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.
Meals: B, L, D
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 34m 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
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.
Meals: B, L, D
The Ogumotori-goe is the second day of a 2-day trek from the Hongu area to Kumano Nachi Taisha. It is one of the toughest sections of the Nakahechi trail 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 800m 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!
Meals: B, D
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.
- 1 night in Kii-Tanabe (twin share, shared bathroom)
- 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 Kumano Kodo guidebook, detailed notes, luggage tags and RAW Travel buff (1 pack per 2 clients travelling together)
- Local bus tickets
- Train tickets to/from trail
- Flights to/from destination
- Travel insurance
- Single supplement
- Beverages other than water at meals
- Expenses and items of a personal nature
- Rail passes
Finding your way
We have researched and published our own Kumano Kodo Guidebook based on the experiences of many years of running trips here ( we were the first Australian Company to offer the Kumano Kodo) and have now supplemented this with our Walking app, designed to help you navigate easily on the trail showing your location in real-time without any internet connection needed. The app has many great features; it shows you weather forecasts localized for each of your overnight stops, and information on the location of each night’s accommodation. There are important reminders, safety information, videos, and emergency contact information for your route. It also has a unique audio feature that can tell you about places and points of interest as you approach them on the trail.
Our destination guide is bursting with all you need to know about walking the sacred Nakahechi pilgrimage route, the most popular and accessible of all the routes. You’ll love the peacefulness and tranquillity of the trail, the food (so elegant and refined!), the onsens (a cherished Japanese ritual), and the traditional family run guesthouses, full of character and charm.
The Kumano Kodo walk was sensational! It was tough at times but the experience was worth it. Beautiful scenery and fauna. Loved the shrines along the way. At our accommodation, our Japanese hosts could not do enough for us.
SUZANNE AIDONE (VIC) MAY 2019
JOHN AND ANTONELLA MIHALINAC (VIC) APRIL 2019
Everything was well organised. All the information we needed. Food and accommodations wonderful and our luggage miraculously showed up every day at our new location. A 10/10 to RAW Travel. Would definitely recommend to anyone, especially if you’re traveling to and trekking in a new land.
JEANNE CARETTE REYNOLDS (USA) MAY 2019
BLAIR LUCAS (VIC) APRIL 2019
Excellent. Everything went perfectly. Guest houses were wonderful and the whole experience was exceptional. Food, accommodation and baggage transfers were all spot on.
MICHELLE JOINER (VIC) MARCH 2019
We loved the scenery within the forests, out to the mountains and the spiritual centres along the way. Also, we loved the challenge of the walk itself, and the interesting people we met over the days of hiking.
HELEN OVERMYER (NSW) MAY 2019
We wanted a unique experience and that’s exactly what we got. Our itinerary was thorough and well thought out. We loved the local food and staying in the guest houses. The hike itself was challenging but beautiful with varied terrain. We are sold on RAW Travel and will be going on other RAW Travel tours in the future.
MELISSA NIP (HAWAII) APRIL 2019
We had an amazing time! We could not fault the arrangements of RAW Travel. Of particular note was the ‘on the ground briefing’ and provision of extensive up to date information on the walk, detours, buses and options to shorten our walk. And our accommodation hosts were delightful and the meals they provided were amazing.
Anne Sanderson, St Kilda East (VIC) – November 2019
We have all arrived home safely from our Kumano Kodo walk in Japan and want you to know how it exceeded our expectations and how much we all loved it. The RAW team have done an outstanding job of making the walk relaxing and a fun experience while soaking up the Japanese culture and way of life. We really had some funny moments when we forgot the rules and quickly reminded one another of our mistake. Each place we stayed was comfortable and clean. The food was delicious and so beautifully presented we just had to take a photograph at each meal. The bus timetables and routes were spot on. We are very proud to say that we walked all of the days in less than the minimum time and we were blessed with dry weather – except on our rest day which was perfect sleeping in weather. The walk was challenging without being unachievable and there were plenty of picturesque spots to stop along the way. The history of the route was well explained with signposts and informative boards on the track. We would certainly use RAW Travel for our next walking adventure and will recommend you to our fellow walking friends.
Leanne Roberts-Thomson, New Lambton (NSW) – November 2019
This was a fantastic trip that was well organised. The walk was challenging but at the end extremely rewarding, which will give us lasting memories. I loved the authentic Japanese guesthouses, the bento boxes and the much needed onsen experiences after hours of hiking.
Hyun Beth Kang, Camperdown (NSW) – October 2019
The trip was amazing. We loved the walk. The most beautiful area and the places we stayed at were incredible. You were right – the first nights were exceptional. The food was first class. We went to a Michelin star restaurant in Kyoto but the food at the chef’s house was almost as good. All the dinners in the smaller places were great as were the breakfasts and lunches. The Fire festival was better than I expected. We were so lucky to be there then. The parade and drumming were a once in a lifetime experience. The weather was hot and humid but we only had one day of heavy rain. The chef’s wife took us on a 10-minute drive that saved us 2 hours. She was so sweet, dressing the women in kimonos for the night. Thank you so much for your help, Chris. The trip was so much fun and the area so beautiful! The people are truly exceptional. Can’t wait to go back!
Mark O’Sullivan, Hampton (VIC) – August 2019
The Autumn Trip – Kumano Kodo
- Stay in traditional guesthouses
- Beautiful, changing colours are a highlight for people on this trek
- Enjoy delicious handmade Japanese food with fresh local ingredients
- A great option for solo travellers or enjoy the company and support of others
The Dual Pilgrim Trip – Kumano Kodo
- Participate in a Purification ceremony
- Experience Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival
- Annual festival held in Hongu to honour the Kumano Deities
- Receive a commemorative Dual Pilgrim shirt and Tenegui
The Extended Trip – Kumano Kodo
- Hike the full length of the Nakahechi route
- Enjoy a day on the challenging Kohechi route
- Journey along the Kumano-gawa river in a traditional boat
- Experience the life of a monk by staying in a Buddhist monastery
The Highlights Trip – Kumano Kodo
- Stay in traditional minshuku and ryokan accommodation
- Experience a traditional boat ride along the Kumano-gawa river
- Savour delicious Japanese food using fresh local ingredients
- Visit all 3 grand shrines, collectively known as the Kumano Sanzan
The Kyoto and Koyasan Trip – Kumano Kodo
- Explore Kyoto, the culture and historical heart of the country
- Visit temples, shrines and traditional gardens
- Stay at a Japanese Buddhist temple
- Learn about traditional daily rituals, join a spiritual ceremony
Guided trip with Mike Rhodes – Kumano Kodo
- Hike the full length of the Nakahechi route
- Enjoy a day on the more challenging Kohechi route
- Gain a great understanding of this ancient pilgrimage trail
- Be enlightened by the experience, enthusiasm and knowledge of your local guide Mike Rhodes
The Spring Trip – Kumano Kodo
- A great option for solo travellers
- Stay in traditional guesthouses
- Spring is a wonderful time to hike the Nakahechi Trail
- Enjoy delicious handmade Japanese food with fresh local ingredients
TRIP date selection
when would you like to travel?
Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed