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. On the Kii Peninsula are the three Grand Shrines of Kumano, pilgrimage destinations for successive emperors and their families from Kyoto since the 11th century. There were several pilgrimage trails including the Nakahechi-do, Kohechi-do and Ohechi-do, collectively known as the Kumano Kodo ('Old Road of Kumano'). Our walk focuses on parts of the Nakahechi-do, weaving through forested mountains and small villages towards the Grand Shrine of Hongu.
Learn more about how our resident staff support our guests in interacting with locals in the villages at Chikatsuyu along the Kumano Kodo trail, and how we we foster relationships with, and contribute to the community by visiting our local Kumano Kodo branch page.
All of our self-guided Kumano Kodo tours can spend a 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. Daily luggage transfer is also available along the Kumano Kodo trail as an optional extra service.
Please ask us 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 traditional Japanese inn or with a local family for a unique homestay experience.
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.
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
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
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!
From Chikatsuyu and Nonaka, the trail continues through the mountains. Board a bus 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
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.
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.