Kumano Kodo Classic Trek in Japan
Kumano is Japan’s Spiritual Origins and an isolated sacred site of healing and salvation that has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries. The lush mountains of the Kii Peninsula are blessed with a rich culture and natural heritage. Walking the Kumano Kodo ancient trail is an immersive Japanese experience for the intuitive active traveler. Stay in traditional small Japanese Inns, visit ancient temples and shrines, soak in natural geothermal hot springs and see the tallest waterfall cascade in Japan as you hike along the classic 32-mile “Nakahechi” Kumano Kodo route.
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Sacred sites and Pilgrim route
Day 1: Arrive Osaka International Airport.
Transfer to Hotel. Welcome dinner.
Welcome to Japan’s second largest city! Depending on arrival time take some time visit Osaka Castle, one of the most famous landmarks in all of Japan. It is a beautiful testament to traditional Japanese architecture, from the subtle balance of color to the delicate patterns and shapes that adorn each level.
Did you know that Osaka’s regional food culture is one of the most well-known in Japan? The people of Osaka are famous for their obsession with eating and drinking, which has given rise to the infamous local expression, kuidaore (“to eat oneself to ruin”). Feel free to taste your way through the city. (D)
Day 2: Transfer to Tanabe and Takajiri.
Start hiking on Kumano Kodo.
Today you will take a 3-hr. train ride from Osaka down to Kii-Tanabe, the gateway to the Kumano Kodo. As you head south on the train, the scenery will change dramatically from the large urban centers to agricultural and natural regions featuring terraced orange and ume orchards along the way and distinctively less populated mountains. From Kii-Tanabe station you will take a bus for about an hour to Takijiri and before starting the hike visit the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Center. Today’s hike is short but steep, but you are on your way now on the ancient Kumano Kodo trail. The destination today is Tahahara. Takahara is a small settlement on a ridgeline with panoramic views of the Hatenashi mountain range. It is the site of the mystical Takahara Kumano-jinja shrine, one of the oldest buildings along this section of the pilgrimage route. The shrine grounds are home to giant camphor trees, over 800 years old! Takahara is known as "Kiri-no-Sato" (Village in the Mist) because the scenic vistas are often blanketed with mist. The valley below dramatically fills with fog, creating a beautiful sea of clouds. Overnight in Takahara in lodge or rental house. 2.5 miles / 1,400 ft. elevation gain (B,L,D)
Day 3: Walk Kumano Kodo
Takahara to Tsugizakura-oji.
The walk today is in the forested mountains east of Takahara climbing up and over ridges into the next watershed, descending into the village of Chikatsuyu. Visit Chikatsuyu, where the clear Hiki-gawa river runs through the valley and Tsugizakura-oji, a small shrine featuring gigantic old-growth trees, with branches facing south, drawn by the power of Kannon's southern paradise. Overnight in Nonaka area in a small family run guesthouse. 8 miles / 2700 ft. elevation gain (B,L,D)
Day 4: Walk Kumano Kodo
Tsugizakura-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha.
Today will be a shorter day of hiking through some forested scenery as to allow time to visit Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the three grand shrines. You can also visit the Kuman Hongu Heritage Center and explore the museum. Anybody wanting to register as a dual pilgrim (having already walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain) can do so here. After taking a short bus ride to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan, check-in to your accommodations at a local Ryokan Inn or Minshuku Lodging. Both will have their own hot springs to experience. 4.6 miles / 600 ft. elevation gain. (B,L,D)
Day 5: Walk Kumano Kodo
Ukegawa to Koguchi.
This morning take a short bus ride to Ukegawa where you will start the hike over a mountain range between Hongu and Koguchi. Koguchi is a tiny settlement in a valley bottom surrounding by lush green mountains. Overnight in Koguchi or a nearby village. 8 miles / 2,200 ft. elevation gain. (B,L,D)
Day 6: Walk Kumano Kodo
Koguchi to Kumano Nachi Taisha
Full-day walk from Koguchi south on the Ogumotori-goe section of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route to the shrine-temple complex of Nachisan and Japan's tallest waterfall.
This is considered one of the most difficult sections on the Nakahechi route: Not technically difficult but some long climbs and descents often with cobblestone lined trails, which can be slippery, especially when wet.
You can visit Seiganto-ji temple, which was founded in the early 5th century and is one of the oldest buildings in the region. The view from the temple grounds is dramatic, featuring a pagoda with the falls as a backdrop. Visit Kumano Nachi Taisha, one of the three grand shrines. Visit Nachi Falls, the tallest waterfall in Japan. Its water source is the surrounding broad-leaf evergreen primeval forest, a sanctuary that has been protected since ancient times, used for ascetic training by mountain monks who practice Shugendo, a mixed religion of foreign and indigenous beliefs.
Overnight in Nachi in a guesthouse take a 25-minute bus ride to Kii-Katsurura station where there is an abundance of accommodations. 8.7 miles / 1,378 ft. elevation gain. (B,L,D)
Total hiking miles on Kumano Kodo: 32 miles
Day 7: Train ride back to Osaka.
After sleeping in a little and a late breakfast, take the train (4 hours) back to Osaka. You can explore more of Osaka. Overnight Osaka Hotel. (B,L, D)
End of Tour.
After breakfast transfer to Osaka International Airport for flights back home or on to more wonderful destinations in Japan for optional post-tours (please inquire). (B)
$2,000 per person double occupancy
$500 single supplement
Balance Due Final Payment:
45 days prior to arrival.
100% refund (minus deposit) up until 6 weeks before day one of trip. 50% refund (minus deposit) from 6 weeks out until 2 weeks from day one of trip. No refund within 2 weeks of arrival. (Travel Insurance Suggested)
- 8 nights double occupancy accommodations (single supplement available)
- all transportation during the trip, starting and ending in Osaka
- all meals from dinner on Day1 through breakfast on Day 9
- entrance fees to attractions and tours
- Guide Book, Maps and personal notes from the Active World Journeys Team
- Local representative phone number for questions or help
- daily luggage transport while on Kumano Kodo trail
- flights to and from Osaka
- alcoholic beverages
- travel insurance
This trip is good for people with a decent amount of hiking experience or who have a good level of fitness. There is moderately challenging level elevation gain most days on the Kumano Kodo path. It’s more of a hike, less of a pilgrim walk. If you’ve already received a pilgrim certificate from walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain you can receive your dual pilgrim credentials on this tour since you are walking the Kumano Kodo. Make sure to bring your Camino Compostela. The Kumano and the Camino are the only two UNESCO World Heritage recognized pilgrim walks.
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