Kumano Kodo Experience - Self Guided and Private Guided Tours available
. The Kumano region is rich in spirituality and history
• Visit over 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites sacred to Japanese Buddhism and Shinto religions
• Spend two nights at the Buddhist retreat of Koyasan and join meditation sessions led by monks
• Relax at the in-house hot springs at our ryokan lodging after each day of hiking
• Great fresh, local delicacies served each meal to keep you healthy and happy on the trail
• Enjoy Japan's oldest hot spring just outside of our ryokan inn at Yunomine Onsen, the world’s only UNESCO Heritage Bath
Shikoku Island Extension - following on from Kumano Kodo
• Ride a local ferry across the Kiisuido Strait to Tokushima
• Walk the Buddhist Pilgrimage road and offer your peace and blessings thru 12 of the 88 Temples of the spiritual trail
• Walk thru farmland, forests and pass by an abandoned town now home to 350 life-sized dolls set up by former town inhabitant Tsukimi Ayano
• Stay at a local onsen hotels surrounded by beautiful mountains
We have developed our Japanese pilgrimage with a specialist tour operator in Japan and together we offer a first-class personalised service. You are invited you to discover a more authentic Japan, far away from the crowds, steeped in nature where you will be welcomed by the local communities you meet along the way.
KUMANO KODO DAY BY DAY - moderate walking
Day 1 - Travel to Kii Peninsula from Kyoto
Starting from Kyoto station, it;'s quite easy to make your way to Koyasan by bullet train, local train and cable car. After lunch at your lodgings, you can walk the first trail around the Koyasan site. And later on, there is an optional guided tour around the atmospheric Okunoin Cemetary led by the one of the monks of the monastery.
Day 2 - Koyasan Tour
The day starts early with meditation and prays led by the monks, followed by a full day touring Koyasan and neighbouring temples. You also visit the mausoleum of Kodo Daisha, the founder of Shinto Buddhism who also founded many of the temples along the Shikoku Pilgrimage trail.
Day 3 - Kawayu Onsen
Participate in Goma fire ceremony and burn away any worries. Write down your wishes and prayers on wooden sticks called goma as the monk lights a fire, symbolizing the wisdom of Buddha.
Transfer to the trailhead of Kumano Kodo, beginning with a 7km hike, to arrive at Kawayu-onsen, well-known for its free public hot spring dug out of the rocks in the river that runs along the town. Tonight's lodging is at Kawayu Onsen - an old Japanese inn where you experience local hospitality.
Day 4 - Hayatama Taisha Shrine Riverboat
Enjoy an early soak at the World Heritage hot spring Tsuboyu, before taking the traditional pilgrim riverboat ride from Kumanogawa to one of the oldest Shinto sites in the world. This Kumano shrine is at the end of the Kumanogawa river where it flows into the Pacific Ocean, located in the middle of the small city of Shingu. Gotobiki-iwa is a massive boulder on top of a hill located within Kamikura shrine - significant because it is the place where the gods first came down to Earth, making it one of the oldest Shinto sites in the world.
We end the day at a sea-side ryokan that overlooks the Pacific Ocean from the southern tip of the Kii peninsula. Here you'll be able to enjoy fresh seafood, including tuna sashimi caught fresh from the waters outside your window.
Day 5 & 6 - Hongu Taisha Shrine
An early morning start and a hilly trek thru the morning brings us to the Mikoshi-toge Pass. From here we descend into a beautiful section of the trail with dense forests, rivers and waterfalls. We arrive at our final destination, the Hongu Taisha shrine and walk around to the original location of the shrine. We end our day at Yunomine Onsen, a UNESCO World Heritage area, and enjoy a soak in their famous hot springs
Day 7 - Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine and Waterfalls
After a quick shuttle into the mountains of Nachi, you start your hike up an old trail up to Nachi Shrine. Visit your final Grand Shrine of the Kumano Kodo, the Kumano Sanzan, and the Seigantoji. The Seigantoji has been standing for over 300 years in the earthquake-prone lands of Japan without any use of screws and nails. After a restaurant lunch, we visit Nachi Falls, Japan’s tallest single-drop waterfall.
Transfer by rail from Nachi to Osaka, Kobe or back to Kyoto for final 2 nights - according to your preference.
Day 8 - Free day to explore Osaka, Kobe or Kyoto.
Day 9 - Goodbye Japan
+SHIKOKU PILGRIMAGE EXTENSION 4 NIGHTS - moderate to difficult walking
Day 1 - From Kumano Nachi
The Kuman Kodo ends at Nachi. After lunch, you take a taxi and head to Kii-Katsuura Station for a coastal train ride to Wakayama Station. From here, take another short taxi ride to the ferry terminal and take a local ferry to Tokushima, where you rest up and prepare for the beginning of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
Day 2 - Start of Tokushima Pilgrimage Taster
Start the day with a 20 min train ride out of town to the first temple on the pilgrimage trail - Temple 1, Ryozen-ji. From here, hike approx. 17km throughout the day past 6 different temples. End the first day at temple 6 Anraku-ji, where you stay at the Shokubu (temple lodgings).
Day 3 - Fuji-dera to Shosan-Ji
After a short taxi ride to temple 11 Fuji-dera, start the most challenging day of the trip. It's a straight-up climb from the very outset. This trail takes you thru spectacular views and rural valleys. After a hike over 3 mountain peaks, of up to 6 hrs (depending on fitness level), you reach temple 12 Shosan-ji. Located at 800meters (2,640 feet), it is the first of the pilgrimage's mountain temples. After a breather at the temple, continue descending the trail to tonight's accommodation. A relaxing and comfortable onsen hotel 2 hrs hike from the temple, where you can rest in comfort and eat well.
Day 4 - Temples 13 ~ 17, Tokushima City
Depart from Kamiyama Onsen and start a descending hike of around 20km. After approx. 3 hrs arrive at Temple 13 Dainichi-ji. Take a lunch break and enjoy a leisurely paced hike between temples 14 ~ 17, all in the vicinity of 7km. Depending on the time of day and speed of walk, you may opt to take the train back to Tokushima Station Hotel or walk back to your lodgings. (approx. 7km to Tokushima Station area, 1.5hrs)
Day 5 - Onward travel
- Ferry fare from Wakayama to Tokushima.
- Tokushima Bus to Kansai Airport on final day
- Train fares around Tokushima area
Does Not Include The Following Local Charges:
- Taxi fares
- Accommodation at Temple 6 Anrakuji + 2 meals, this has to be paid in person at the temple 7,200 yen per person
GETTING FROM KYOTO TO KUMANO KODO / KOYASAN
The Guided Group tour option is inclusive of all transportation during the Kumano Kodo section.
The Self-Guided option does not include transportation to and from Kumano Kodo.
- It is not difficult to travel from Kyoto to Koyasan if you're are self-guided. There is a bus ride in the process of getting to Koyasan, but happily Japanese buses are very efficient and reliable. The Kyoto to Koyasan pass includes a cable car ride. It is not very convenient to travel from Koyasan to the trail-head, so we arrange for a taxi to transfer you to the trail-head, NB this taxi fare is not included and payable direct.
- All transportation information and directions will be provided in your self-guided pack.
- We make your Kumano Kodo arrangements, provide you with a self-guiding pack with maps and directions.
- The Kumano Kodo is twinned with Camino de Santiago, so you will have a credencial aka pilgrim passport to be stamped along the way. With a certificate available on completion at Nachi.
- Most visitors to Japan buy a JR Pass which is valid on all JR Train lines so that you can use it to visit other areas too.
If you would like to have your overnight baggage transferred within the Kumano Kodo area, there is a baggage shuttle service incurring an additional charge. Please ask us for a quote.
As for baggage forwarding, we can help with transferring luggage from hotel to hotel between the big cities and over large distances, so you can just carry the essentials necessary for the hiking part of the trip.
SHIKUKO EXTENSION - BAGGAGE TRANSFER
Baggage forwarding is available from your Kyoto accommodation to Tokushima Hotel. But not from hotel to hotel. From Tokushima, you are on a circuit, so if leave your main baggage here and just carry your essential items for two nights.
JAPANESE SIGNAGE AND COMMUNICATION
There is a lot of information in English around the Kumano Kodo as well as the Minshuku and Ryokan lodgings. This will assist you with the routine of the guest house.
We will also provide an information sheet to address common questions and issues.
The bus timetables are provided, along with an information sheet if you choose our self-guided option.
You will encounter language barriers in places.
We provide you with lots of information before you travel to make sure you have a fuller understanding of the whole experience.
If connecting deeply with Japanese culture and spiritual nature of these tours is of paramount importance, we would highly recommend one of our small group guided tours. These local guides are immersed in the culture and speak fluent Japanese. You will certainly benefit from a crash course in Japanese etiquette, cuisine and heritage.
Our local partners are available to offer support by mobile phone if you are self-guided.
ACCOMMODATION IN THE CITIES
In the cities we provide 3/4 star hotels on a Bed and Breakfast basis. Upgrades available.
ACCOMMODATION IN ON THE PILGRIM TRAIL
- During the Pilgrimage, the first two nights you stay at a traditional monastery in the Buddhist retreat of Koyasan.
- On the Kumano Kodo you stay at comfortable Japanese Ryokan inns that have been serving aristocrats and pilgrims alike for hundreds of years.
- For your final night you stay at a coastal Ryokan/hotel with fresh seafood and seaside hot springs.
- Lodging is based on twin-occupancy (shared rooms with separate futons).
SLEEPING ON FUTONS
We choose our accommodations in large part due to their history of service and authenticity in providing a true Japanese experience. For the first three nights, this means the only bedding available is Japanese-style futons on tatami mats (pictured to the right). On our last night the standard is also a futon, but sleeping on a bed may be subject to availability and a bed-supplement charge. Most of the KK trip will be on futons, but we can ask for western beds when available.
In Koyasan, a globally famous Buddhist retreat village founded 1,200 years ago, we'll stick to tradition and stay in an active monastery. We choose the temple we stay at because the monks are very friendly and invite guests to participate in daily activities such as meditation, the goma fire ceremony and lantern-lit tours of Okunoin cemetery. Self-guided walkers can have a choice of lodgings with western beds or futons.
- Located near Okunoin cemetery, one of the holiest places in Japan
- Special vegetarian food, prepared in the Japanese Buddhist tradition by monks daily
- Simple but well-maintained, historic temple with daily meditation and goma fire ceremonies
- The first 2 nights of the Koyasan group tour will be spent in a monastery.
Yunomine Onsen Lodgings
- This nationally famous hot spring village features one of Japan's oldest hot springs.
- It is classified as World Heritage by UNESCO.
- It was founded over 250 years ago by a Shinto priest to serve those travelling to the Kumano region.
Yunomine Onsen Highlights
- Located right across from the lodging is 1,800 year-old Tsuboyu, considered by many to be Japan's oldest hot spring
- Delicious local food, including Wagyu beef raised in the Kumano region and farm-fresh vegetables
- A wide array of in-house hot spring baths, including private 1-2 person baths (free of charge), outdoor baths, and a hot spring powered steam room
Kawayu Onsen Lodgings
- Our historic Ryokan in Kawayu Onsen is registered as a Tangible Cultural Property under Japanese law.
- The town of Kawayu is famous for the public, free hot spring located right on the river flowing through town.
- If you get too hot, just jump into the cool river beside you!
Kawayu Onsen Highlights
- Enjoy Yakuzen (traditional Japanese medicinal food) for dinner to further purify yourself after a nice bath
- All rooms feature great views of the forest and river next to the inn
- Centrally located, this historic ryokan has it's own bus stop and riverside outdoor hot spring
- The coastal town of Kii-Katsuura on our final night is located on the southern tip of the Kii peninsula.
- This town has some of Japan's freshest seafood - the nearby bay prides itself on having the most delicious tuna in Japan.
- Your lodging will most likely serve fresh tuna sashimi for dinner.
- Soak up the sun from the in-house, open air hot spring with an ocean view
- Fresh tuna sashimi dinner, caught in the nearby bay
- Great views of the ocean and mountains surrounding Nachi Falls
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We enjoyed our holiday very much - it was a wonderful experience. Something completely different! The organisation of the holiday was spot-on. You really couldn't have done a better job. The whole thing was perfectly tailored to our needs. It's hard to express in an e-mail how good it all was.
Anne Corrigan, UK, walking the Camino Frances
We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday and found the organisation excellent. We were also impressed by the friendliness and welcome we received everywhere. The information pack was useful and contained all the information we needed. So many, many thanks again for your kindness, efficiency and help in giving us such a good holiday.
Anne and Brian Harris, UK, walking the Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago
We had an amazing time on the Camino... I would recommend this 6 day walk to anyone. All in all a memorable trip, and you guys did a great job in planning, arranging and organising it.