We often find ourselves at a crossroads in life, struggling to choose the right path. The signs can be confusing, or we simply seek answers to confirm we are headed towards our destination. What if I told you it is possible to walk both paths and find the balance in between? Follow in the footsteps of Dual Pilgrims who have walked very different roads but arrived at the same profoundly spiritual conclusion.
What does it mean to be a Dual Pilgrim?
The Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, and the Kumano Kodo, are both listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites because of their cultural and historical significance. In fact, these two pilgrimage routes are the only ones with UNESCO status in the world. Travellers who have walked both pilgrimages are known as Dual Pilgrims.
As a pilgrim of either route, you will receive items to identify you as such. For the Camino de Santiago this is the scallop, and the Kumano Kodo has a book with which to collect special seals. They may serve as proof of completion and will be presented at the end of your journey to receive your recognition as a Dual Pilgrim. For many these serve as treasured mementos of their pilgrimage.
The creation of each route finds it origin in religion, but many people do not walk it because of a relationship with the divine. A pilgrimage is a unique way to discover yourself and find a place for your wayfaring soul. While not all travellers are spiritual beings, vast nature and the experience of venturing into the unknown have a way of pulling in everyone. Perhaps this is why we wander – not only to satiate our hunger for knowledge, but also to broaden our horizons. What are your doubts? Are you facing a big decision? Perhaps you simply long to explore a new setting while stretching your legs at the same time.
Why become a Dual Pilgrim?
The Camino de Santiago and Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes have many similarities, though they come from significantly different spiritual traditions. They cross over mountains, past agricultural landscapes, and place importance on connecting with locals.
In modern times, a pilgrimage has become a way to embrace what people of times past would have felt and experienced. Because of their protected status, the old roads are still intact and you will pass the same markers as thousands of travellers before you. For many, walking the Kumano Kodo has become an addition to their itinerary in order to discover old Japan. As a country that rushes to embrace modernity and technology, its historical spirit can sometimes be buried beneath neon lights and massive urban cities.
While walking the Kumano Kodo, the barrier between you and nature becomes ever so thin, allowing the surroundings to influence your thoughts and spur a surrender to the present moment. The same goes for the Camino de Santiago. Though its roads are mostly flat and take you past agricultural landscapes and cities, it is the journey across different countries, exploring new cultures and customs, that makes it so eye-opening. Perhaps the essence of a Dual Pilgrim is appreciation of the present and connections between all of these areas of life.
How to become a Dual Pilgrim
Travellers acquire Dual Pilgrim status after completing at least the last 100 km of the Camino de Santiago on foot or by horse, or the last 200 km by bicycle.
To become eligible for Dual Pilgrim status on the Kumano Kodo side, you will need to complete one of the following on foot and collect the stamps along the way:
- 🡆 Takijiri-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha (approximately 38 km)
- 🡆 Kumano Nachi Taisha to/from Kumano Hongu Taisha (approximately 30 km)
- 🡆 Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha (approximately 7 km) plus visits to both Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha, or
- 🡆 Mount Koya to Kumano Hongu Taisha (approximately 70 km)
If you are not acquainted with the details of the Kumano Kodo’s classic Nakahechi route, these options can appear a bit complex to decipher. Oku Japan offers several self-guided walking options that will ensure you meet the requirements and are able to collect your stamps, as well as your Dual Pilgrim certificate if applicable. The tours shared below are all fantastic options for the traveller seeking Dual Pilgrim status now or considering it in the future.
- Kumano Kodo self-guided walking 4 days
- Kumano Kodo self-guided walking 5 days
- Kumano Kodo self-guided walking 6 days
Oku Japan are there to help you along your journey. When you walk the Kumano Kodo with us, not only do you have emergency support from our team in Kyoto, but also the support from our branch office in Chikatsuyu. Perhaps it is only after completing the Camino de Santiago that you discovered you could seek dual pilgrim status. We will help prepare you for your journey with our comprehensive documentation, including bespoke topographical maps, detailed walking instructions, and your personalized itinerary. We book your accommodations, inclusive of breakfast and dinner, as well as your rail tickets. We can also arrange same day luggage transfer for your hike. Before your journey, you’ll receive detailed documentation to prepare you for your trip to Japan, so you can travel worry free, and enjoy your pilgrimage.
As a Kumano Kodo Dual Pilgrim, how will you see the world? We’re excited to find out.