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.
We are Japan experts! As the first Australian walking company to offer the Kumano Kodo in 2013, we are the most established operator on this trail and have the best local contacts, advice and resources.
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.
Note: 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.
Kii-Tanabe is the gateway town to the Nakahechi (‘Imperial Route’) of the Kumano Kodo. It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on one side and mountains on the other. From here, it’s a 40-minute bus ride to the trailhead at Takijiri-oji.
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Takijiri is the traditional starting point of the Kumano Kodo walk and where you will find the Kumano Kodo Kan Pilgrimage Centre. The trailhead is behind the Takijiri-oji, which is considered to be where the passage into the precincts of the sacred mountains begins.
The small village of Chikatsuyu sits at the base of the mountain trail at the Hidaka-gawa River. Inns and a couple small restaurants run along the main road, which runs east and west. The area features an ancient weeping cherry blossom tree, an ancient graveyard for warriors, a local experience centre and Chikatsuyu-oji.
At the impressive Tsugizakura-oji shrine there are giant Nonaka-no-Ipposugi cedar trees. Some have a circumference of 8m and are believed to be up to 800 years old. This shrine, along with its trees, was scheduled to be demolished in 1906 as part of the government’s shrine consolidation program. It was saved by Minakata Kumagusu, an eccentric genius researcher and avant-garde environmentalist.
Hosshinmon-oji is one of the most important sites on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. It marks the outermost entrance into the divine precincts of the Kumano Hongu Taisha.
Kumano Hongu Taisha
Kumano Hongu Taisha is one of the three grand shines of Kumano and the head shrine of over 3000 Kumano shrines across Japan. A long stone staircase leads to the sacred grounds of the shrine, located on a ridge and surrounded by giant cedar and cypress trees. On the riverbank is Oyunohara, the original shrine ground of Kumano Hongu Taisha, marked by an immense Torii gateway – the biggest in Japan!
Yunomine is a quaint little collection of inns tucked into a small valley deep in the heart of the sacred mountains of Kumano. It was discovered about 1,800 years ago, and it is thought to be one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. The onsen culture in Japan is very rich, but the strong connection with spiritual culture found in Yunomine is unprecedented.
On the north side of this hot spring town is a diverse collection of places to stay. On the south side of the river is a green forested mountainside. The defining feature of Kawayu Onsen is the Oto river. In the evening, enjoy a soak while watching the warm mist from the river rise slowly into the clean mountain air.
At the Hyakken-gura pass there is a beautifully positioned Buddhist statue on a hilltop with a backdrop of the most spectacular vista of the trip! The impressive lookout surprises walkers with a lovely panoramic view of the 3600 peaks of Kumano.
The small mountain village of Koguchi is nestled along the Akagi-gawa River almost directly in-between Hongu and Nachi. It is refreshing to put your feet in the river after a hot day’s hike.
Nachisan is where you’ll find the brightly coloured Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine, 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. The extra section of trail between Nachisan and Daimon-zaka is an impressive cobblestone staircase lined with centuries-old trees.
Kii-Katsura is located on the southeast coast of the Kii Peninsula. It is in essence a fishing port turned hot spring resort. The most dominant landmark in Katsuura is the Hotel Urashima. It has the feel of an Onsen Disneyland or James Bond-like fortress and is located on an island-like peninsula in Katsuura Bay.
- 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
- RAW Travel’s exclusive interactive navigation app
- Pre-departure pack including Kumano Kodo guidebook, 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 Navigation 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 localised 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.
Fabulous experience. Loved all of it! Nice to stay in traditional Japanese guesthouses and hotels. Our hosts were lovely and the meals amazing. Our trip ran smoothly and we were sad when it ended. We have great memories now of the Kumano Kodo walk.
Stephanie Eccarius, Langwarrin (VIC) – November 2023
Wonderful experience, well organised with excellent support materials. Loved the walk itself, staying in traditional Japanese accommodations/rooms, the food, onsen and the kindness of Japanese people.
Lisa Chandler, Mount Coolum (QLD) - November 2023
Challenging but extremely rewarding. We had a genuine Japanese experience and loved it all. We even had snow on the second last day. The Mui guesthouse was a highlight and the scenery was beautiful.
Prue & David Briggs, McCrae (VIC) – November 2023
Absolutely loved hiking in Japan and the tranquillity on the trails. It never felt over crowded with other hikers, and when we did meet up it was so interesting hearing their experiences.
Dawn Everiss, Auckland (NZ) – November 2023
Fabulous walk in rural Japan. Enjoyed being in a wilderness environment on a pilgrimage walk that has existed for over 1,000 years.
Robert Hadler, Richmond (VIC) – November 2023
Amazing experience mixing stunning hiking with traditional Japanese culture and history. Loved the uniqueness of the hike and the diversity of accommodation.
Alison Jarvis, Otago (NZ) – November 2023
Excellent orientation, maps, tough walking, superb homestay and hotel hospitality. The Japanese people were respectful, kind, courteous, thoughtful, amazing! Our hosts (both homestay and hotel) were consistently helpful and generous. The futons were comfortable, bathrooms always clean and the food amazing. Loved the onsen, especially after a good day’s hike. Everything was fantastic – excellent preparation. Thank you.
Heather Ann Briker-Bell, Brisbane (QLD) – October 2023
Brilliant trip! I really had a wonderful time. Walking solo for the first time could not have been made easier or more satisfying. The pre-travel info helped me understand what I had to do and where I was going. The accommodation was mostly far beyond my expectations – much nicer than the places I would have booked if I was doing it myself. Aside from the walking (which was absolutely wonderful) I loved the seamless organisation that made everything stress-free, surprising and heaps of fun.
Lorna Hendry, Fitzroy (VIC) - October 2023
Breathtaking, beautiful and ease of worries for our accommodations and luggage transportation. Loved the immersion into the cultural experience. Our accommodation hosts were super friendly and patient in explaining the food and customs.
Alicia Montgomery, Wisconsin (USA) - June 2023
Amazing, amazing, amazing! It was incredible and so well planned by RAW Travel.
Barbara Sherriff, West Melbourne (VIC) - May 2023
A memorable and exhilarating experience. Enjoyed being in the Japanese countryside, the sense of history, the food, the hospitality, the onsen, the camaraderie with other walkers we met along the way. We were consistently delighted with the quality of the food provided everywhere we stayed.
Deborah Dempsey, Thornbury (VIC) - April 2023
It was extraordinary and a wonderful experience. The walk on the Nakahechi trail was spectacular. Enjoyed the varied and interesting accommodation, beautiful food and generosity of the Japanese people. Exceptional service and information. I will be highly recommending you to friends and family.
Kim Robinson, St Kilda (VIC) - April 2023
Trip of a lifetime. Enjoyed the solitude of walking through beautiful forests and mountains, the spiritual connection, the newly discovered Japanese vegetarian food, meeting like-minded travellers, the challenge of the logistics of a country with different customs and language.
Runip Gopisetty (California) - April 2023
Wonderful experience and beautiful walk. Enjoyed the Japanese style accommodation and loved that they were all so different. Really well-organised trip and everything went incredibly smoothly. The pre-tour information was incredible and covered absolutely everything.
Kate Baldry, Wallendbeen (NSW) - April 2023
The Kumano Kodo is probably one of the top soulful experiences of my life. Loved the amazing food and hospitality at the ryokans and minshukas, relaxing sore muscles and soaking in at the onsens – all made it a true lifetime experience.
Ratnesh Sharma, California - April 2023
Very happy with how RAW Travel organises and sources accommodation and authentic experiences. The walk was great. Staying at the BNB of the Japanese chef was fabulous!
Vicky Conyers, Orange (NSW) - April 2023
An excellent way to experience a historic part of Japan. I enjoyed the culture, the food, the terrain, the people. I am very grateful for another brilliant RAW Travel experience.
Sally Millard, Enoggera (QLD) - March 2023
We had a fantastic trip to Japan and walking the Kumano Kodo. RAW Travel were great to deal with from day one and we would highly recommend their services when next planning your hiking adventure. Food was delicious, scenery beautiful and the cultural experience incredible. Thanks again to the team for all their assistance and planning.
John O'Brien, Highton (VIC) – February 2020
Our Kumano Kodo walk exceeded our expectations. We 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. The food was delicious and so beautifully presented we just had to take a photograph at each meal. The walk was challenging yet achievable. 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 (NSW) – November 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
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
Thank you so much for your help, Chris. The trip was so much fun and the area so beautiful! The people are truly exceptional. The food was first-class. All the dinners in the smaller places were great as were the breakfasts and lunches. The Fire festival was better than I expected. The parade and drumming were a once in a lifetime experience.
Mark O’Sullivan, Hampton (VIC) – August 2019
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.
Sue Aidone (VIC) - May 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 Reynolds (USA) - 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
The entire trip was amazing! The team at RAW Travel coordinated everything perfectly – from the pre-hike briefing, to the accommodation, to the meals. It was a memorable trip, and we are already looking into our next walking holiday!
Blair Lucas (VIC) - April 2019
What an amazing experience. Thank you RAW Travel for coordinating and facilitating our itinerary. The attention to detail – from the documented trip summary through to the maps and bus timetables and including the one on one tour orientation provided. We would highly recommend and use Raw Travel again.
John & Antonella Mihalinac (VIC) - April 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
Koyasan and Kumano Kodo
- Beautiful nature walking through rugged, forested mountains, quiet rural valleys and alongside rivers.
- Visit temples, shrines and traditional gardens
- Stay at a Japanese Buddhist temple
- Learn about traditional daily rituals, join a spiritual ceremony
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
Nakahechi & Kohechi trip – Kumano Kodo
- Challenging hike through the rugged forested mountains
- Walk the full length of both the Nakahechi and Kohechi routes
- Journey along the Kumano-gawa river in a traditional boat
- Stay in a Buddhist monastery in Koyasan
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