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Kumano Ancient Trail

Map to Kumano Ancient Trail Tour

Small-group, guided village-to-village walking with a Japanese guide. Start from Kyoto, spend 6 nights on the Kumano Kodo trail and head back to Kyoto

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. 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, with a gentle ride along the Kumano River to the Hayatama Taisha Shrine. 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 a further optional day of hiking. We finish by travelling on to Kyoto by train.

There is an optional Kyoto extension for those wishing to stay longer in this great city.

Itinerary Details:

Day 1 – Meet in Kyoto
Meet at the tour hotel in central Kyoto in the evening. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Hotel|
Meals: Welcome Dinner

Day 2 – Kyoto and transfer to the Kii Peninsula
We travel south along the coast by train to Tanabe (about 3 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 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 hilltop village of Takahara, where we spend the night. Our accommodation is a delightful Japanese-style ryokan built by local craftsmen in wood with rooms affording spectacular views over the surrounding mountains. There are hot-spring baths and the sumptuous evening meal is made with organic locally-sourced ingredients.

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 (Japanese inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3 – Hike Takahara to Chikatsuyu
Starting from Takahara, we continue eastwards along the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail. Along the path we 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 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. In the evening the dinner menu might include their delicious ‘takikomi-gohan’ (rice steamed with vegetables), freshly-caught fish, and tempura.

Walking distance: 11.3km / 7 miles
Elevation gain: 350m/1,150 feet ascent, 360m/1,180 feet descent
Time required: 4 hours - or a 30 minute local bus ride for those who prefer not to walk
Accommodation: Minshuku (traditional guest house)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4 – Hike Chikatsuyu to the Grand Shrine at Hongu
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 transfer by local bus (about 15 minutes) to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. We stay overnight in a comfortable ryokan with its own rock-built outdoor hot spring bath or ‘rotemburo’.

Walking distance: 12.9km / 8 miles
Elevation gain: 321m/1,055 feet ascent; 360m/1,180 feet descent
Time required: 4 hours
Accommodation: Hot Spring Ryokan (Japanese inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5 – Boat ride on the Kumano River
We transfer by local bus to the Kumano River. We board a traditional-style boat to take us on a gentle one and a half hour ride along the Kumano River to the Hayatama Taisha Shrine, just as Imperial pilgrims did in olden times. Afterwards, we will travel back by bus 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 (Japanese inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6 - Hike to Nachi Grand Shrine and waterfall
We transfer by local bus to Koguchi and hike the final section of the trail over the Ogumotorigoe Pass, to glimpse the Pacific Ocean and then descend to Nachi-taki waterfall and Nachi Taisha (Grand Shrine), one of the three ‘Grand Shrines of Kumano’.
From there we take a short bus ride (30 minutes) to the fishing port of Katsuura and to our modern hotel. This amazing hotel is built on a private island in the middle of the sheltered Katsuura Bay and features open-air hot-spring baths. Soak in the hot spring water whilst feet away from the lapping waves of the Pacific.

Walking distance: 14.5km / 9 miles
Elevation gain: 980m/3,215 feet ascent; 920m/3,020 feet descent
Time required: 6 hours
Accommodation: Japanese style hot spring hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7 Hiking to Maruyama Senmaida or Relax at Hot Spring
Choose between a hike along a coastal section of the Kumano Kodo, or have a day simply 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, its Japanese shopping arcade and its interesting backstreets.

Optional walk
Walking distance: 6.4km / 4.1 miles
Elevation gain: 546m/1790 feet ascent; 539m/1768 feet descent
Time required: 3 hours
Accommodation: Japanese style hot spring hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8 – Transfer to Kyoto
We leave the Kii Peninsula this morning, travelling on the coastal rail line to Kyoto. Our final tour night is at a central western-style hotel in the city and we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant with our guide.

Accommodation: Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Farewell Dinner

Day 9 - Tour Ends
On our final day, we will say farewell in Kyoto after breakfast at the tour hotel. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for your journey to the airport or onward travel in Japan.

Meals: Breakfast

Walking Level:
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.

Tour Accommodation:
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.

Tour Guidance:
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

American Society of Travel Agents MemberJapan Travel SpecialistJapan Endless Discovery

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.

Dates 2016
April 11 to 19
April 18 to 26
May 16 to 24
June 6 to 14
October 10 to 18
November 7 to 15

The above dates are subject to change

Price 2016
per person.

Tour price includes all transportation between destinations, accommodation, entrance fees, full-time services of tour leader. Single supplement is TBA.

9 days.
Full time services of Japanese/English speaking tour leader.
Mode of Travel
Train ('shinkansen' bullet train and local trains) and bus.
Group Size
Minimum 5, maximum 12 participants
Age Restrictions
Participants should be at least 12 years old. Everyone younger than 20 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

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