length

8 Days

difficulty

Challenging - Strenuous

trip cost

from $2790 pp

Icons / stylised / time Created with Sketch.

length

8 Days

Icons / stylised / difficulty Created with Sketch.

difficulty

Challenging - Strenuous

Icons / stylised /cost Created with Sketch.

trip cost

from $2790 pp

Nature Immersion

Cultural Interest

Group Self-Guided Trip

our walk experts

  • Overview
  • Highlights
  • CLIENT EXPERIENCES
  • Itinerary
  • Map
  • Inclusions
  • Kumano resources
  • Exclusive Guide
  • similar walks

Overview

The Spring Trip

Spring (March–May) is a wonderful time to hike the Nakahechi Trail | This popular group, self-guided trip is guaranteed to depart on the dates offered | A great option for solo travellers – we’ll pair you up with another traveller of the same gender on a twin share basis

This self-guided walking trip combines the freedom and flexibility of a self-guided trek with the support and company of other like-minded travellers. This trip is guaranteed to depart on the dates outlined and is also perfectly timed to make the most of the wonderful spring blossoms.

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. 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.

Travelling on your own? No trouble. We will pair you up with another solo traveller of the same gender on a twin share basis.

Yellow hiker icon 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. 

Kumano Path and Budhhist marker

Highlights

Get Ready For

  • Spring is a wonderful time to hike the Nakahechi Trail
  • A great option for solo travellers
  • Trek in a group of like-minded travellers
  • 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
Robyn and Jan

CLIENT EXPERIENCES

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.

Itinerary

Daily Details

Day 1: Arrive Kii-Tanabe

The best way to reach Kii-Tanabe is by train – there are frequent trains from Kansai Airport, Osaka and Kyoto travelling southwards to Kii-Tanabe (train tickets not included and can be purchased locally). 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 is scheduled with the staff here. You will be transferred to your accommodation for the evening.

Meals: D

Day 2: TAKIJIRI-OJI TO TAKAHARA (4KM, 2 hours)

You will have time to explore the area this morning before travelling to Takijiri to commence your walk. Today’s walk is short in distance but a fairly steep uphill climb up to Takahara, a rural hamlet on a ridge, noted for its ancient shrine 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

Meals: B, L, D

Day 3: TAKAHARA TO NONAKA AREA (13KM, 6–8 hours)

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. 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.

Meals: B, L, D

Day 4: NONAKA AREA TO KUMANO HONGU TAISHA (25KM, 9 hours)

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 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. You will continue through small settlements and get your first glimpse of the great Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine and the giant torii gate 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 to our evening destination at nearby Kawayu Onsen, a charming little hot spring village.

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. This evening enjoy a delicious Japanese meal in your accommodation.

Meals: B, L, D

Day 5: Free day in Hongu to explore the 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 6: HONGU AREA TO KOGUCHI (13KM, 6 hours)

This morning you will take a short bus ride 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

Day 7: KOGUCHI TO KUMANO NACHI TAISHA (14KM, 7 hours)

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 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 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.

Tonight you will overnight in Nachisan near the Kumano Nachi shrine where you can relax and enjoy the completion of your extraordinary Kumano Kodo walk!

Meals: B, L, D

Day 8: DEPART KII-KATSUURA

This morning you may like to join in the early morning ceremony at the Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine before breakfast. If time allows, you may also like to walk the length of the cobblestoned Daimonzaka path, before taking a 20-minute bus ride to Kii-Katsuura to connect to your onward destination. Train tickets are not included and can be purchased locally at the Kii-Katsuura train station.

Meals: B

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Map

Explore

Kii-Tanabe

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.

CLICK ON A PIN TO REVEAL INFORMATION ABOUT THAT LOCATION
Takijiri

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.

Chikatsuyu

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.

Tsugizakura-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

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 Onsen

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.

Kawayu Onsen

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.

 

 

Hyakken-gura pass

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.

Koguchi

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

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

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.

Inclusions

What's included?

Included
  • 1 night in Kii-Tanabe (twin share, ensuite)
  • 4 nights in traditional Japanese guesthouses (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • 2 nights in an onsen village in a traditional ryokan (twin share, ensuite)
  • Daily meals included as listed in the itinerary
  • Luggage transfers 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)
Excluded
  • Local bus tickets
  • Train tickets to/from trail
  • Flights to/from destination
  • Travel insurance
  • Beverages other than water at meals
  • Expenses and items of a personal nature
Kumano book and app

Kumano resources

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 exclusive 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 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.

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.

Download Now

Kumano Kodo shrine
Kumano Kodo
Kumano Kodo
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Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

A wonderful experience, beyond expectations! Loved the serenity on the trails, amazing authentic food and accommodations and the cherry blossoms!

Carl Krucler, Woy Woy (NSW) – March 2024

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

The whole experience was wonderful. Walking in the forest with interesting people. The immersion in Japanese culture and history along the trail and towns. The traditional accommodation with friendly and welcoming hosts. The fabulous food and onsens.

Raquel Gabiola, Canberra (ACT) - April 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Absolutely wonderful. The whole package was very well organised

Maxine Ross, Uralla (NSW) - April 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

We loved the beautiful and varied scenery, the flowers, the accommodation, especially the first night, the company and people we met along the way. Although not organised through RAW, we visited Koyasan and our monastery stay was a wonderful way to enter into Japanese culture

Josephine Redmond, Manly (NSW) – March 2018 

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Thank you all so much. The tour was amazing. It was a good group and the material you provided was excellent, as was the accommodation and food. I chose not to walk the 4th day because I had injured my knee 10 days before the hike and was very happy wandering around Kii Katsuura. The alternative options each day are a great idea. Even with my injured knee I had no trouble completing the other three days. In fact on days 2 and 3 I finished ahead of the group by walking at a steady moderate pace and eating lunch as I walked. I would highly recommend this hike and your organisation to my friends and others I meet. Thank you again.

Jan Welsh, Queensland – March 2017

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Thank you so much for helping us book the amazing Kumano Kodo. We loved our time on the trails and at the guesthouses. 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.

Jill & Zachary Stafford – April 2016

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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

dates
availability
price
single occupancy
dates
27/03/2024 - 03/04/2024
availability
Sold Out
price
$2,790
single occupancy
$0
dates
04/04/2024 - 11/04/2024
availability
Sold Out
price
$2,790
single occupancy
$0
dates
08/04/2024 - 15/04/2024
availability
Sold Out
price
$2,790
single occupancy
$0
dates
16/04/2024 - 23/04/2024
availability
Sold Out
price
$2,790
single occupancy
$0

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