Our special edition small-group guided tour explores the highlights of the Kumano Kodo, meeting the current government requirements for group travel in Japan.

Special Summer Opening: Kumano Ancient Trail

Starting from USD4185 / 10 days

Special Summer Opening: Kumano Ancient Trail

A small-group guided walking tour with five hikes of 2-6 hours of village-to-village walking on the Kumano Kodo Trail

 

Highlights

  • From imperial Kyoto, head through the Kumano mountains to the Pacific Ocean fishing port of Kii-Katsuura
  • Village to village walking on enchanting sections of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail
  • Bathe in an outdoor hot spring bath beside the Pacific Ocean
  • Ride a traditional boat on the Kumano River
  • See the Three Grand Shrines at Hongu, Shingu and Nachi
  • Enjoy an exclusive shamisen musical performance in a lovely traditional setting on the Kumano Kodo trail

The Kumano Kodo, or Kumano Ancient Trail, is a pilgrimage route to Kumano, part of the mountainous Kii Peninsula which stretches south from the Kansai cities of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto. The well-maintained trail threads its way through deep valleys, mountains, and small villages to offer a wonderfully-varied hike over four days. Stay at comfortable family-run inns with excellent food, soak in natural hot springs, and visit the shrines along the way. The pilgrimage routes to the three great Kumano Shrines – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha, and Hayatama Taisha – were popularized during and after the Heian Period (794-1185), when the Imperial family and nobility began to seek salvation in sangaku shinko (a belief in the supernatural power of mountains), rather than through common religious practices. Emperor Gotoba (1180-1239) made no fewer than thirty pilgrimages to Kumano, recording his thoughts and feelings in the Kumano poems.

We travel south by train along the coast, and spend four days hiking the Nakahechi, one of the Kumano Kodo trails, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is a day mid-way to with a break in walking, where we enjoy a gentle ride along the Kumano River to the Hayatama Taisha Shrine. We continue on to the fishing town of Katsuura, staying at a hot spring hotel and a further optional day of hiking. We then travel to Kyoto by train and enjoy some time to discover Japan's captivating former Capital.

We are the only company with a local branch on the Kumano Kodo trail: See our Kumano Kodo branch

What's Included

  • Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
  • 9 breakfasts, 8 lunches & 9 dinners
  • All transportation between tour locations
  • Entrance to museums, temples and other sights on the group's itinerary
  • Forwarding of one item of luggage

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals
  • Entrance fees to museums, temples etc. not mentioned in the itinerary

Meet our guides

Kana Hattori

Kana Hattori

I'm passionate about Japanese traditional culture and philosophy, and I am delighted and honored to show you the beauty of my country!

More
Kana Hattori

Kana Hattori

Kana was born in Nagoya and raised in Kobe, studied in Kyoto and the US. She has studied the tea ceremony in Kyoto and the philosophy of Zen -- "Living in the moment" -- has been always the core part of her spiritual life. Kana is passionate about Japanese traditional culture, and about explaining it to foreign visitors through her guiding.

Her hobbies include singing; she regularly sings at concerts and including once at a sake brewery, where she sang and played the piano wearing kimono.

Emi Shibata

Emi Shibata

I'm happy to help you discover and participate in the lesser-known, unique experiences here in Japan. Join us!

More
Emi Shibata

Emi Shibata

Emi was born and raised in Nara, the ancient capital of Japan. She holds a degree in foreign studies. After becoming a guide, Emi moved to Kyoto and lives in a traditional 'machiya' townhouse. She is a member of the Kyoto traditional musical art foundation and enjoys lots of geisha events every year.

On her days off she takes her young sons by bicycle to various spots around Kyoto while her husband jogs along.

Naomi Honda

Naomi Honda

I travelled extensively through Europe and Asia and my passion for different cultures and people inspired me to become a guide.

More
Naomi Honda

Naomi Honda

After working at travel agency for over 6 years as a branch manager, Naomi earned her master’s degree in sports tourism and marketing to expand her knowledge in the tourism industry. During her study, she organized and managed events for international students for the purpose of cross-cultural exchange. In 2014, she passed the national tour guide exam and since then, she has been working as a guide as well as a tour conductor. She is interested in Japanese history, food culture and sports. Currently, she is studying to be qualified as a Kikisake-shi (Master of Sake).

Itinerary

Itinerary Map
Day 1 Meet at Kansai Airport

On arrival at Kansai Airport, meet with your guide and transfer to your airport hotel – convenient for a soft landing!

Meet in the lobby this evening for an orientation before proceeding to your Welcome Dinner

Accommodation: Hotel
Meals: Welcome Dinner

Day 2 Travel to the Kii Peninsula, Hike Takijiri to Takahara

We travel south along the coast by train to Tanabe (about 2 hours), then transfer by local bus (about 40 minutes) to Takijiri, at the beginning of the Nakahechi, part of the network of ancient pilgrimage trails known as the Kumano Kodo, or Kumano Ancient Trail. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Kumano Kodo became popular from the 11th century as a place of pilgrimage from Kyoto by Emperors. The Kii Peninsula, which extends south from Nara and Osaka, has long been considered sacred in Japan, the entrance to the land of Yomi, the mythical afterworld. It is also the site of the three sacred shrines of Kumano, the Kumano Sanzan. We continue with a 2-hour hike to the small hilltop village of Takahara. We then enjoy a restful evening in our countryside accommodation.

Walking distance: 4.5 km / 2.8 miles
Elevation gain: 370m/1,200 feet ascent, 175m/575 feet descent
Time required: about 2 hours

Accommodation: Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3 Hike Takahara to Chikatsuyu

Starting from Takahara, we continue eastwards along the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail. Along the path you pass small jizo Bodhisattva statues, placed there by locals to protect travellers. There are also the sites of old cha-ya tea houses, which provided rest to pilgrims right up until the early 20th century. 

We descend to the village of Chikatsuyu, and our accommodation for tonight. We stay in the friendly guesthouse run by local couple Mr. and Mrs. Kinoshita. A former company-worker in the coastal town of Kii-Tanabe, Kinoshita-san moved to his home village to set up the popular guesthouse. Next door they have their own natural hot spring baths and in the evening, you will try their delicious takikomi gohan (rice steamed with vegetables), freshly caught fish, and tempura.

After dinner, a local shamisen music group will treat us to a private performance in the lovely setting of our Chikatsuyu Branch. Enjoy this rare opportunity for a close-up experience of Japanese musical tradition. 

Walking distance: 11.3km / 7 miles
Elevation gain: 350m/1,150 feet ascent, 360m/1,180 feet descent
Time required: 4 hours

Accommodation: Minshuku (family-run guesthouse)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 Hike Chikatsuyu to Hongu Grand Shrine

Today we hike two scenic sections of the Kumano Kodo trail, passing ridge-top villages and oji shrines. Nobles would rest at these sub-shrines to refresh themselves and compose poems. From Chikatsuyu we walk first to Kobiro, then take a local bus to Hoshinmon-oji. From Hoshinmon-oji we descend to Hongu Grand Shrine. The symbol of the shrine is the mythological three-legged raven, representing the Hongu, Nachi, and Hayatama shrines – the same motif as the one used by the Japan Football Association. The three-legged crow was in mythology sent to guide Emperor Jimmu on his journey from Kumano to the Yamato Plain.

After visiting the shrine, we walk to Oyunohara, the largest torii gate in Japan, marking the original site of the Hongu Grand Shrine. Finally, we transfer by local bus to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. We stay overnight in a comfortable ryokan with its own hot spring bath.

Walking distance: 12.9km / 8 miles
Elevation gain: 321m/1,055 feet ascent; 360m/1,180 feet descent
Time required: 4 hours

Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5 Boat ride on the Kumano River, Visit to Hayatama Taisha and Kamikura Shrine

We transfer by local bus to the Kumano River. We board a traditional wooden flat-bottomed boat to take us on a gentle ninety-minute ride along the Kumano River to the Hayatama Taisha Shrine, just as Imperial pilgrims did in olden times. We will have time to visit Hayatama Taisha and Kamikura Shrine. Afterwards, we travel on to our hot spring hotel in Kii-Katsuura. There will be time to soak in one of the natural hot spring baths before dinner.

Accommodation: Onsen hotel (hot spring hotel)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6 Hike the Daimonzaka to Nachi Grand Shrine and waterfall

We transfer by local bus to the entrance to the Daimonzaka – a traditional approach to Nachi Shrine. This approach is one of the most sacred, leading to both the towering Nachi Waterfall, the stunning pagoda of Seiganto-ji Temple, and ultimately, the third of the Kumano shrines of Pilgrimage, Nachi Taisha. We enjoy time to explore the shrine, the temple, and the small shops in the area. Then, we enjoy lunch and return to Kii-Katsuura. In Kii-Katsuura in the afternoon, we explore the local market and shopping streets and the town footbaths, before returning to our accommodation where we can once again enjoy the natural onsen baths.   

Walking distance: 2.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 232m/ 760 fee ascent,202m/ 660 feet descent
Time required: 2 hours

Accommodation: Onsen hotel (hot spring hotel)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7 Coastal hiking along a section of the Iseji

Today we enjoy a hike along a different section of the Kumano Kodo. This is a coastal part of the Iseji route, which has some lovely views over the Pacific Ocean, pretty villages, and the oldest paved section on the entire Kumano Kodo network, with stone blocks dating back eight hundred years. When we return to our accommodation you can choose to relax and try the various hot spring baths in your hotel.

Walking distance: 6.4km / 4.1 miles
Elevation gain: 546m/1790 feet ascent; 539m/1768 feet descent
Time required: 3 hours

Accommodation: Onsen hotel (hot spring hotel)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8 Transfer to Kyoto, walk the Gion District

We leave the Kii Peninsula this morning, travelling on the coastal rail line back to Kyoto, a journey of about four and a half hours. This afternoon we enjoy a walk around the Gion district before we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. The Gion district is one of Kyoto’s best known geisha districts, and features a number of traditional machiya buildings. If we are lucky we may spot a geiko or maiko on their way to an evening appointment, but even if we do not, we can enjoy the atmosphere of this historic area of Kyoto. This evening we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. 

Accommodation: Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9 Sightseeing in Kyoto

This morning after breakfast at our hotel, we travel to Arashiyama where we enjoy a morning hike from the Kiyotaki area, through Toriimoto and into Arashiyama. On our way we stop at some of the most interesting temples along our journey. On arrival in Arashiyama, we visit Tenryu-ji Temple, one of Kyoto's preeminent zen temples, and also famous for its gardens. Here we enjoy the special experience of a shojin ryori lunch prepared according to Buddhist principles. Then, we return to Kyoto to explore the Southern Higashiyama district in Kyoto, where with your guide you'll wander picturesque lanes and have an opportunity to shop for local handicrafts from the many vendors. After some time to freshen up at the hotel, we enjoy a final Farewell Dinner together.

Accommodation: Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Farewell Dinner

Day 10 Tour ends

On our final day, we will say farewell in Kyoto. Morning departures to Europe will transfer with our assistant guide to Kansai Airport. Guests departing on late night flights will enjoy a day with our guide exploring Fushimi Inari in the morning, and the Philosopher's Path in the afternoon before your transfer to Kansai Airport.

Meals: Breakfast 

YOU MIGHT ALSO BE INTERESTED IN

RECENT BLOG POSTS