length

10 Days

difficulty

Challenging - Strenuous

trip cost

From $3495 pp

Icons / stylised / time Created with Sketch.

length

10 Days

Icons / stylised / difficulty Created with Sketch.

difficulty

Challenging - Strenuous

Icons / stylised /cost Created with Sketch.

trip cost

From $3495 pp

Self-Guided Trip

our walk experts

  • Overview
  • Highlights
  • Itinerary
  • Inclusions
  • Exclusive Guide
  • Similar walks

Overview

The Extended Trip

This is an extended walk for those who would like to add more kilometres, views, temples and challenge to their Kumano Kodo experience. The first three days are the same as our regular Kumano Kodo walk but then we journey to the coast and do the last two days in reverse and extend the trip for a day from Kumano Hongu to Totsukawa Onsen. We finish on a high, crossing a 1114m pass (higher than the regular route) and visiting the remote settlement of Totsukawa Onsen. This itinerary enables clients to visit all three shrines of the ‘Kumano Sanzan’: Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha. Traditionally, all paths led to Hongu. On this itinerary, you will be walking the sections from Nachisan through to Hongu in the direction that was walked in the past.

The trails of the 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. We also combine the Kumano Kodo with time in Koyasan, home to 115 temples on a venerated Buddhist mountain and a chance to stay in an active Buddhist monastery.

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.

Koyasan temple

Highlights

Get Ready For

  • 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

Itinerary

The Extended Trip

Week 1
Day 1

This itinerary offers a challenging and comprehensive journey along the Kumano Kodo.

ARRIVE IN KII-TANABE

The best way to reach Kii-Tanabe is by train (tickets not included; can be 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  ~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 the wonderful atmosphere at the Ajikoji Restaurant and Entertainment District, and perhaps stroll down to Ogigahama Beach for sunset views.

 

Day 2
WALK TAKIJIRI-OJI TO TSUGIZAKURA-OJI (17KM)

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) to the 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 guest house. 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

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 walk starts with climbs over a number of passes and currently there is a 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 you, it will be more a preparation for a delicious Japanese meal in your accommodation.

Meals: B L D

Day 4
TRADITIONAL BOAT RIDE (HONGU AREA TO SHINGU); OVERNIGHT NACHISAN

After a short bus ride (paid locally) to reach the Kawabune Boat Tour Centre, embark on a traditional boat ride down the Kumano-gawa River. For over 1000 years pilgrims have been making the journey to Kumano and the Kumano-gawa River has been a vital section of the pilgrimage route between Kumano Hongu Taisha in Hongu and Kumano Hayatama Taisha in Shingu. You will journey in a traditional wooden flat-bottom boat as pilgrims have been doing for centuries.

The boat tour finishes in Shingu, close to the Kumano Hayatama Shrine, one of the sacred Grand Shrines of the Kumano region. Although the shrine buildings were rebuilt recently, the Hayatama Taisha has occupied the same location since at least the 12th century and the area has been a site of nature worship for much longer. In fact, the nature in and around the shrine is an integral part of this Grand Shrine’s precincts and annual rituals. The ancient 800-year-old Nagi-no-Ki tree highlights the area’s deep tradition of nature worship and is considered a sacred tree of God. Small dolls made from the seeds of this tree are believed to generate luck with the opposite sex or a happily married life to couples. We also recommend visiting the nearby Gotobiki-iwa, a gigantic rock worshipped as a sacred object and located halfway up Gongen Mountain. Is it believed that it was here that the first Kumano deities descended to earth from the heavens. At the base of this monolith is the Kamikura-jinja shrine.

After looking around Shingu, you will catch a bus to Nachi Station and on to Nachisan (paid locally), your overnight location. Visit the brightly coloured 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. If time allows you may also like to walk an extra section of the Kumano Kodo trail between Nachisan and Daimon-zaka. The trail is an impressive cobblestone staircase lined with centuries-old trees.

Meals: B D

Day 5
WALK KUMANO NACHI TAISHA TO KOGUCHI (14KM)

Today will be one of your most challenging days as the  Ogumotori-goe is the first day of a two-day trek from Kumano Nachi Taisha to the Hongu area. It is one of the toughest sections of the Nakahechi trail as this is where the trail reaches its highest point at over 800m. It’s a big day’s walk so we recommend an early start. The trailhead starts immediately to the right of the Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine and you climb upwards passing the  Noboritate-jaya teahouse remains. As you approach the Funami-toge pass you have extensive views behind you of the Pacific coastline. Soon you will walk through 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 you come to the Echizen-Toge pass after which the steep descent to Koguchi begins down the Dogiri-zaka slope.

Dogiri-zaka can be directly translated as ‘Body Breaking Slope’, and is an appropriate name for this 5km downhill section that descends 800m from the Echizen-toge Pass. At the bottom you’ll arrive in the tiny hamlet of Koguchi where your accommodation awaits. 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. 

Meals: B L D

Day 6
WALK KOGUCHI TO HONGU AREA (13KM)

Today’s walk is over the Kogumotori-goe section; by comparison an easier trek with a climb and descent over a pass, and is mostly in the forested mountains with some nice ridge-walking sections.

The trail starts fairly steeply on the first section, steeper when you climb towards the Sakura-jaya teahouse remains, and soon after the Sakura pass. The trail then descends and ascends along a ridge until the highlight of today’s walk, the Hyakken-gura pass, where a beautifully positioned Buddhist statue on a hilltop has a backdrop of the most spectacular vista of the trip. The impressive Hyakken-gura lookout 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 views from the Sakura-jaya teahouse remains down to the valley and across the mountains are impressive. The trail descends gradually on a forest track into the valley of Kumano Hongu Taisha. From here you can catch a bus or continue walking to Kawayu Onsen where your overnight accommodation is located.

Meals: B L D

Day 7
WALK YAKIO TO TOTSUKAWA (10KM)

Today you take a bus alongside the Kumanogawa river to the small village of Yakio. You’ll find the trailhead right next to the bus stop with stairs leading up to the start of the trail. The Kohechi route runs through the central part of the Kii-Peninsula connecting two major sacred sites, Kumano Hongu and Koyasan. This is a tough trail and today you will be walking the southern section, over the Hatenashi-toge pass (1,114m). This route was mainly used by travelling worshippers and merchants since the medieval period of Japan and is one of the toughest.

As on the Nakehechi route where you follow the numbered signposts, on this trail you instead follow Kannon Buddhist images commencing at number 1. There are 33 stone Kannon Buddhist images (the final three are off the trail) representing 33 temples dedicated to Kannon found throughout the Kansai region.

You ascend quite quickly out of the village and into the forest where you will enjoy brilliant views over the surrounding mountains today. The highpoint of the trail is at 1114m at the Hatenashi-toge pass. care needs to be taken when descending the paths here as the trail becomes narrower and steeper in parts. The trail climbs up and down passing various viewpoints before coming to the valley where there are beautiful views looking out over the Kumanogawa river and descending to reach the village of Totsukawa Onsen.

Meals: B L D

Week 2
Day 8
TOTSUKAWA ONSEN TO KOYASAN

After breakfast, travel by bus to Gojo and then transfer to a train to reach the temple mountain of Koyasan. You take a funicular railway up the steep sides of Koyasan and then a short bus ride, which will drop you near your temple lodging. This secluded town is surrounded by the eight peaks of Mt Koya and said to resemble a lotus flower.

In Koyasan you will have a unique opportunity to stay in a Japanese Buddhist temple and be part of the daily rituals and spiritual life of Koyasan. You will have a comfortable room and be served vegetarian Buddhist cuisine, Shojin Ryori. ‘Shojin’ is a Buddhist term that refers to asceticism in pursuit of enlightenment, and ‘ryori’ means cooking. There are surprising tastes and not only is it delicious but good karma too!

Meals: B L D

Day 9
FREE DAY IN KOYASAN

This morning you will have a unique opportunity to take part in a Buddhist morning ceremony – the rich colours, smells of incense and rhythmical chants of the monks are enchanting. Afterwards, a walk around Koyasan with its 115 temples is a must. Be sure to visit Kongobuji, the head temple of Shingon Buddhism, the stunning vermilion Konpon Daito and Daimon, the majestic entrance gate to this mountain complex.

Perhaps the most interesting of them all is Okunoin, which has at its centre the mausoleum to Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect and one of Japan’s most significant religious figures. This is set in a giant cypress forest surrounded by 300,000 graves of his followers and is an awesome sight especially if you walk it at night time when the lonesome paths are lit by stone lanterns – very eerie! There are also beautiful day walks around Koyasan if you feel like stretching your legs.

Meals: B D

Day 10
DEPART KOYASAN

Following the morning ceremony and breakfast, you will have time to continue exploring the village of Koyasan or perhaps join the monks for a meditation session. After checking out of your temple lodging, you will catch the local bus to Koyasan station and depart Mt Koya by the funicular cable-car before travelling by train to your onward destination.

Meals: B

Inclusions

What you get

Included
  • 1 night in Kii-Tanabe (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • 6 nights in traditional Japanese guesthouses (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • 2 nights in a Buddhist monastery in Koyasan (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • Daily meals included as listed in the itinerary
  • Luggage transfers on all trekking days and from Totsukawa Onsen to Koyasan
  • 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)
  • A traditional boat ride from Hongu area to Shingu
Excluded
  • Local bus tickets
  • Train tickets to/from the trail and Koyasan
  • Flights to/from destination
  • Travel insurance
  • Single supplement
  • Beverages other than water at meals
  • Expenses and items of a personal nature
Added Extras

Flights, tours, rail passes, other extras/packages

Kumano-Kodo-Destination-Guide-Cover

Exclusive Guide

GET INSPIRED

Japan’s ancient Kumano Kodo trails are nestled in the verdant mountains of the southern part of the beautiful Kii Peninsula, just south of Osaka. This lush and rugged area has been considered the abode of the gods and worshipped for centuries.

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.

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