Kumano Ancient 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 less than thirty pilgrimages to Kumano, recording his thoughts and feelings in the Kumano poems.
Our journey begins in the modern city of Kyoto, and 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 relax on a thrilling boat ride up the spectacular Doro Gorge. We cross the Kii Peninsula on foot to its eastern coast, and the fishing town of Katsuura, with two nights at a hot spring hotel, and finish by travelling on to Kyoto by train.
There is an optional Kyoto extension for those wishing to stay longer in this great city.
Day 1 – Meet in Kyoto
Meet at the hotel in the center of Kyoto in the evening. There will be a welcome dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Day 2 – Kyoto and transfer to the Kii Peninsula
There will be free time in the morning to explore Kyoto, with an optional walk through some local food markets. We will then travel south along the coast by train to Tanabe (2 hours), then transfer by local bus (40 mins) 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 11the 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 mountain-top village of Takahara, where we stop for the night. Our accommodation is a delightful Japanese-style ryokan built by local craftsmen in wood with rooms affording a spectacular view over the surrounding mountains. There are hot spring baths made of hinoki (cypress wood) and the sumptuous evening meal is made with organic locally-sourced ingredients.
Hiking: 3 miles, 2 hours (820 feet/250 metres ascent, negligible descent)
Those who do not want to walk can be picked up by car
Accommodation: Ryokan (Japanese inn)
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 travelers. 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 guest house run by local couple Mr and Mrs Kinoshita. A former company-worker in the coastal town of 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.
Hiking: 7 miles, 4 hours (1,150 feet ascent/350 metres, 1,180 feet/360 metres descent)
Those who do not want to walk can transfer by local bus (30 mins)
Accommodation: Minshuku (guest house)
Day 4 – Hike Chikatsuyu to the Grand Shrine at Hongu
From Chikatsuyu we take a local bus to Nonaka and Tsugizakura-ōji, one of the many small shrines along the route. Nobles would rest at these sub-shrines, called ōji, to refresh themselves and compose poems. We then hike one of the most scenic sections to Hongu Grand Shrine, passing on the way through ridge-top villages. 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 transfer by local bus (15 mins) to Yunomine Hot Spring, one of the oldest in Japan. We stay overnight in a comfortable ryokan with its own outdoor stone hot spring bath.
Hiking: 13 miles, 7 hours (2,500 feet ascent/762 metres, 3,740 feet/1,140 metres descent)
There are also 2 hour and 9 hour options, and those who do not want to walk can transfer by local bus (1.5 hours)
Accommodation: Hot Spring Ryokan
Day 5 – Boat ride on the Kumano River
We transfer by local bus to the Kumano River, and board a boat to take us on an exciting ride (2 hours) through the spectacular Dorokyo Gorge.
Afterwards, we will transfer back to Yunomine Onsen for another night at our hot spring ryokan. There will be time to soak in one of the natural hot spring baths before dinner.
Accommodation: Hot Spring Ryokan
Day 6 - Hike to Nachi Grand Shrine and waterfall
We transfer by local bus to the Koguchi, and hike the final trail over the Ogumotorigoe Pass, to glimpse the Pacific Ocean and then descend to Nachi Taisha (Grand Shrine) and Nachi-taki (waterfalls), one of the three 'Grand Shrines of Kumano'.
From there we transfer by a short bus ride (30 mins) to the fishing port of Katsuura, and to our modern hotel. This amazing hotel is built into a rock formation in the bay opposite Katsuura, and features its own hot spring bath in a cave facing the sea! Soak in the hot spring water whilst feet away from the lapping waves of the Pacific.
Hiking: 9 miles, 6 hours (3,215 feet/980 metresascent, 3,020 feet/920 metres of descent)
Those who do not want to walk can transfer by local bus (2 hours)
Accommodation: Hot Spring Hotel
Day 7 Hiking to Maruyama Senmaida or relax at hot spring
Choose between a hike along another part of the Kumano Kodo to Maruyama Senmaida, a spectacular area of terraced rice fields, or have a day to relax. You can try the various hot spring baths in the hotel. You can also choose to explore the local fishing town of Katsuura, with its excellent seafood.
Optional hiking: 4.5 miles, 3 hours (790 feet/240 metres of ascent, 980 feet/300 metres of descent)
Accommodation: Hot Spring Hotel
Day 8 – Transfer to Kyoto
We leave the Kii Peninsula this morning, travelling on the coastal rail line to Kyoto (3.5 hours), where we enjoy a farewell dinner with our guide.
Day 9 - Tour Ends
Our tour finishes today after breakfast. Your guide will be on hand to give help and advice about getting to the airport, or onward travel in Japan. You may choose to stay on in Kyoto, on one of trip extensions.
Moderate walking - 4 days of walking and hiking from 2 to 7 hours per day on flat paths and mountain trails with some strenuous climbs. This tour is suitable for those who are in good shape and can walk over rough ground for up to 7 hours with ascent and descent. Whilst on the trail you will need to carry a small to medium daypack.
We have chosen each accommodation carefully for their comfort, service and personal service. On several nights we use Japanese-style accommodation with shared bathrooms and toilets. These generally have separate male and female bathing areas. Couples or those traveling together will have their own room, while single travelers may be asked to share with another member of the group (same gender only).
Please note that single rooms are normally only available in hotels – where a single room supplement may apply. Single travelers may be asked to share a room (same gender) in Obuse, Narai, Magome, Takayama and Mount Koya.
To make sure you get the most
of your Japan experience, Japan Road tours offer a wide
variety of Japanese cuisine to enjoy. You will have the chance
to eat local specialties in small Japanese diners and sample
some of the more 'refined' Japanese cuisine.
Full time services of a Japanese and English speaking tour leader.
This 9 day tour begins and ends in Japan.
If you have any questions or if you are ready
to make a reservation please Contact
Us or call at +1-248-747-4048
Tour schedules are subject to change.
If any changes should be made it will be done in the best interest of the travelers.
Japan Roads will at all times aim to offer you the most interesting tour possible.
April 13 to 21
April 20 to 28 (full)
May 18 to 29
November 2 to 10
The above dates are subject to change
Tour price includes all transportation between destinations, accommodation, entrance fees, full-time services of tour leader. Single supplement is TBA.
Full time services of Japanese/English speaking tour leader.
|Mode of Travel
Train ('shinkansen' bullet train and local trains) and bus.
Minimum 5, maximum 12 participants
Participants should be at least 12 years old. Everyone younger than 20 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.