Kumano Kodo self-guided walking 4 days

In the footsteps of Emperors

The Kii Peninsula points south away from Kyoto and Osaka and is one of the most remote and mystical areas of Japan, despite its proximity to these great cities. Long a place of pilgrimage, the Kii Peninsula is the site of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano (Kumano Sanzan). From the 11th century, successive emperors and their families made the long and difficult pilgrimage to Kumano from Kyoto. Several pilgrimage trails were established, amongst them the Nakahechi-do, Kohechi-do and Ohechi-do, collectively known as the Kumano Kodo (Old Road of Kumano). Our walk focuses on part of the Nakahechi-do, which weaves its way through the forested mountains and small villages to the Grand Shrine of Hongu, before finishing near the Pacific Ocean at Nachi Grand Shrine.
The Kii Peninsula points south away from Kyoto and Osaka and is one of the most remote and mystical areas of Japan, despite its proximity to these great cities. Long a place of pilgrimage, the Kii Peninsula is the site of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano (Kumano Sanzan). From the 11th century, successive emperors and their families made the long and difficult pilgrimage to Kumano from Kyoto. Several pilgrimage trails were established, amongst them the Nakahechi-do, Kohechi-do and Ohechi-do, collectively known as the Kumano Kodo (Old Road of Kumano). Our walk focuses on part of the Nakahechi-do, which weaves its way through the forested mountains and small villages to the Grand Shrine of Hongu, before finishing near the Pacific Ocean at Nachi Grand Shrine.

We are the only company with a local branch on the Kumano Kodo trail! Explore our Kumano Kodo branch here.

 

All our self-guided Kumano Kodo tours offer the opportunity to spend a leisurely second night in the picturesque hot-spring village of Yunomine Onsen part-way along the trail. We offer two short optional walks for this extra day in addition to unique cultural experiences, such as walking with a Yamabushi ascetic monk, create your own traditional Japanese paper or undertaking a spiritual meditation session

Please ask for information about our tour extensions to the mountain-top temple town of Mount Koya with its monastery lodgings, or the peaceful, agricultural community of Asuka at a charming Japanese inn or with a local family for a unique homestay experience.

 

Daily luggage transfer is available as an optional extra service - read about luggage options here

 

We happily welcome younger walkers on to our trips with an accompanying adult. We offer a 10% price reduction for children (6-11) and an 80% price reduction for infants (0-5).  Please contact us for specific hiking, meal or bedding enquiries. Please see here for trips best suited to families.

 

 Downloadable PDF itinerary

What′s included

  • 3 nights at Japanese inns along the Kumano Kodo trail
  • 3 breakfasts and 3 dinners
  • Round-trip train tickets from Kyoto or Osaka
  • Detailed day-by-day itinerary and walking directions
  • Topographical maps
  • Local support by telephone and at our Kumano Kodo branch

What′s not included

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Pay locally for bus journeys on Days 1, 3 and 4
  • Single room supplement(s) if required

Day 1 Hike from Takijiri to Takahara

Our tour includes train tickets for your journey from Kyoto or Osaka to the small town of Kii-Tanabe on the mystical Kii Peninsula, gateway to the historic Kumano Kodo Trail. The railway line runs close to the ocean for the latter part of the journey and offers fine views out over the sea. The journey from Osaka to Kii-Tanabe is around two and half hours; from Kyoto it is around three hours and usually requires a change of trains at Shin-Osaka station. Board a local bus outside Kii-Tanabe station and travel forty minutes to Takijiri. This is where your walk on the Nakahechi portion of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route begins. From Takijiri the path climbs steadily to the ridge-top village of Takahara, and takes around two hours.

 

Stay tonight in a small, Japanese-style hotel in the tiny village of Takahara, or in a Japanese Minshuku in the nearby village of Kurisugawa. Both options serve good, home-cooked dinners featuring local seasonal ingredients. The small Japanese-style hotel in Takahara has both Japanese and western-style rooms, all with wonderful views over the valley and mountains.



Walking distance: 4.5km / 2.8 miles
Elevation gain: 370m / 1,200 feet of ascent
Time required: About 2 hours

Accommodation: Japanese-style Hotel in Takahara, or Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse) in Kurisugawa
Meals: Dinner

 

Typical Accommodation

Kiri-no Sato


Run by the charismatic Jian Shino, this welcoming inn has both western and Japanese-style rooms, and wonderful organically-grown local food. There are magnificent views out over the valley.

 

Day 2 Hike from Takahara to Chikatsuyu

After your Japanese breakfast you leave your inn and follow the trail as it winds through small settlements and peaceful countryside. You pass several Oji shrines before finally descending to the village of Chikatsuyu. The paths are clearly defined, and flagstones have been laid in some places to make the climbs easier. Arrive in Chikatsuyu in time to relax before dinner at a family-run Minshuku guest-house.

Walking distance: 10km / 6.5 miles
Elevation gain: 480m / 1,575 feet of ascent and 520m / 1,700 feet of descent
Time required: About 4 - 5hours

Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Typical Accommodation

Minshuku Chikatsuyu

In the quaint village of Chikatsuyu, this Minshuku has its own riverside thermal baths, and some of the freshest and tastiest food you will enjoy in Japan!

 

 

 

Day 3 Hike from Chikatsuyu to Hongu

From Chikatsuyu, the trail continues through the mountains. Board a bus in Chikatsuyu today and then walk a gentle section of the trail from Hosshinmon-oji to the Kumano shrine at Hongu, one of the three ‘Grand Shrines of Kumano’. At the heart of these sacred mountains, Kumano was said to be the entrance to the land of Yomi, the ‘other world' which spirits travelled to in Japanese mythology. From the Kumano shrine at Hongu, a short bus ride brings you to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest natural hot -spring  villages in Japan, or to Kawayu Onsen famous for the thermal water bubbling to the surface of the crystal clear river. Enjoy a relaxing soak in a Japanese bath before or after your delicious, multi-course dinner.

 

Walking distance: 7km / 4 miles

Elevation gain: 120m / 395 feet of ascent and 360m / 1,180 feet of descent

Time required: About 2 hours

If you prefer a more challenging day, we offer two longer alternatives of 7 hours (15km / 9 miles) or of 8-9 hours (24km / 14.9 miles), both with significant ascent and descent. You can choose which option you prefer on the day - no need to decide in advance!

 

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Typical Accommodation

Yoshinoya

In the hot-spring village of Yunomine Onsen, Yoshinoya has its own hot-spring baths and an outdoor 'rotenburo' bath to enjoy after a day's hiking.

 

 

Day 4 Hayatama Grand Shrine and Shingu

Before or after breakfast, take time to explore the atmospheric village of Yunomine Onsen or Kawayu Onsen. Travel by bus along the picturesque valley to Shingu and visit the Kumano Hayatama Taisha, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano, fifteen minutes on foot from Shingu railway station. The tourist office is located directly in front of Shingu railway station, where the bus arrives; they can supply maps and advice. Within the shrine precinct is a giant Nagi tree about a thousand years old. 'Nagi dolls' made from the seeds of this tree are believed to bring about lucky encounters with the opposite sex or a happy married life to couples. The Kamikura Shrine on Mount Gongen, further on from the Grand Shrine, is also well worth a visit. People worship a large rock as a god here and the shrine is extremely atmospheric. After visiting the sights of Shingu, use the train tickets we provide for the train journey onwards to Osaka or Kyoto. The journey takes around five hours, arriving in Osaka or Kyoto early to mid-evening.

 

Meals: Breakfast