THE PILGRIMAGE OF ANTS
The Kumano Kodo is a region of Japan comprised of branching pilgrimage routes that stretch into varying corners of the Kii-Peninsula. The pilgrimage itself dates back more than 1000 years and its routes have been walked by all levels of society; from commoners and artisans, to aristocrats and retired emperors, standing as a symbol of inclusivity for all seeking worship. The trails that comprise the region sprawl over mountain ranges and weave through lush valley greenery, each dotted with quiet hamlets and bustling hot-spring towns famous for their rejuvenating waters.
Of the trails that make up the Kumano Kodo, the Nakahechi trail was once considered the imperial route, leading from Takijiri on the western edge of the peninsula and stretching to Shingu on the eastern coast. The sheer number of pilgrims who would march in long processions earned the trail the nickname “pilgrimage of ants”, and the trail remains the most popular of the routes today.
In the other direction runs the Kohechi trail, forging its path that Buddhist monks still use in their pilgrimage of worship to Hongu Taisha. Due to its rugged terrains and higher elevation, this area can expect to see frost and snow in the late Autumn and Winter months making it untraversable. However this leads to more temperate walking conditions throughout the rest of the year, as the cooling mountain breeze re-energises pilgrims that are braving the climb.
Its isolation from the rest of Japan truly lends the Kumano Kodo an immense sense of calm, complemented by its striking scenery, the delicious food and the warmth of its locals. Being close to the pacific coast, the region is also famous for its tuna dishes, and local pilgrims will be well acquainted with the revitalising power of Mehari-zushi - salted rice balls wrapped in mustard leaves. Be it for a journey of self-discovery, a pilgrimage of worship, or simply for the joy of the hike, the Kumano Kodo is a must visit location for a walking tour in Japan.
From Ancient Pilgrimage to Samurai Trails