Kumano Kodo walking holiday, Japan
Description of Kumano Kodo walking holiday, Japan
The Kumano Kodo is an iconic network of long-distance walking trails. Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims and nobility from 11th century Japan as they travelled from Kyoto to the three great shrines of Kumano, scattered among the Kii Mountains in the Kii Peninsula. This is the largest peninsula on Japan's main island of Honshu and the Kumano Kodo trail is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Divided into three main sub-routes - Nakahechi Trail, Kohechi Trail and Iseji Trail - the Kumano Kodo offers a whole range of walking options.
This self-guided walking holiday can be designed in various lengths with up to 11 hiking days, with some fairly strenuous treks of up to eight hours of walking per day. The route is very well-marked, so in terms of logistics for self-guided walking, it is very easy. Plus our itineraries are flexible, of course. Whichever route you take, you will enjoy hiking through ancient bamboo forests and mist-covered mountain terrain, staying at traditional Ryokan inns, bathing in hot-spring baths, and of course taking time out at serene and sacred temples. The Kumano Kodo self-guided tours offer 4, 5 or 6 days walking village-to-village along the old Nakahechi pilgrimage route heading west to east across the Kii Peninsula. The Kumano to Koya self-guided tour offers 5 days of walking village-to-village from south to north along the Kohechi trail, another wonderful section of the pilgrimage route leading from Kumano Hongu Taisha Shine to spiritual Mount Koya. Or combine both self-guided tours, taking in both the Nakahechi and Kohechi trails, to produce a trip of 9 or 11 days.
|Day 1:||Group meeting at city centre hotel in Kyoto, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.|
|Day 2:||Spend the morning wandering around the sites of ancient Kyoto, before taking a train to Tanabe on the Kii Peninsula to start the trail. From here we take a bus to Takijiri, the gateway to Nakahechi section of the Kumano Kodo Trail. After a two hour trek, we arrive up at Takahara, a small mountain village, where our accommodation for the night is a wooden inn, a work of great craftsmanship overlooking the Kii Mountains. The hot spring baths here, made of cypress wood, or hinoki, are also a treat, topped only by the most delicious dinner, all organic and local.|
|Day 3:||Today we hike in an easterly direction as far as Chikatsuyu, passing small jizo bodhisattva spiritual icons that people place along the Trail to protect walkers. Your journey will also take you past ancient tea houses (cha-ya), beautiful places of rest for pilgrims along the Trail as recently as the last century. Your rest tonight, however, is at a welcoming, family run guesthouse, our host being the memorable Mr and Mrs Kinoshita, who prepare wonderful, traditional food, including their famous Ďtakikomi-gohaní, rice steamed with vegetables. Their hot spring baths are a big hit with guests too. .|
|Day 4:||After a short bus ride from Chikatsuyu, todayís trek takes us to Hongu, where one of the Grand Shrines awaits. The Kumano Kodo is famous not only for pilgrims but also for artists that have penned pictures and words along the way. This section is no exception, with stops by small shrines or oji, where artists have pondered life, and written down their thoughts in poetry for centuries. Fine examples of these are at Nonaka and Tsugizakura-oji. The big hike today is along a mountainous ridge through several remote villages to the Hongu Grand Shrine, and then onwards by bus for a quick ride to the ancient Yunomine Hot Spring. And, as is now the norm on our trip, our accommodation is an inn with its own thermal spring, outdoors, enabling you to enjoy the mountain air.|
|Day 5:||Today is spent on the water, taking a boat down on the Kumano River to the next of the grand shrines at Shingu. We spend one more night at the Yunomine ryokan to enjoy the hot springs and fabulous dinner.|
|Day 6:||Today we are heading towards the Pacific fishing town of Katsuura, taking in another couple of stunning sections of the Kumano Kodo before we see the sea. First of all we take a bus to Koguchi, and walk our final section of the trail, crossing the Ogumotorigoe Pass with a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean to Nachi Grand Shrine and its impressive waterfall. We make the final descent by bus to Katsuura where we stay in a modern Japanese hotel, although no less impressive than some of the traditional ones as it is built into the rock, overlooking the sea, with a hot spring bath built into a cave, no less.|
|Day 7:||Saunter by the sea, enjoying the coastal delights of Katsuura, or take on another section of the Kumano Kodo which offers wonderful views out onto the ocean.|
|Day 8:||Today we head to Kyoto by train, which follows Kii Peninsula all the way to the cultural hub and ancient capital. Farewell dinner with leader guide at one of our favourite Kyoto restaurants.|
|Day 9:||Breakfast and goodbyes as some guests head for the airport, and others continue on to other parts of the country. We are more than happy to help arrange an extension to your Kumano Kodo walking holiday.|
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1 Reviews of Kumano Kodo walking holiday, Japan
Reviewed on 03 May 2019 by Ahmed El Hawary
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Day 6,Walk from Koguchi to Nachi Grand Shrine and waterfall. The hiking was really challenging and site sceneries at the end were amazing.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Have the lightest possible backpack during the hikes.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Planet1. Protection of Local environment / Transport
Our tour is small-group, with a maximum of 12 participants. This means we can travel to and from the walking trail by public transport (train and bus) rather than using chartered, large vehicles. We contribute to the viability of these public transport links in the Kumano region, without which people who do not have their own vehicles would become increasingly isolated.
While walking on the Kumano Kodo trail, we ensure that we donít damage vegetation by using only established tracks. We leave what we find, so no taking of plants, rocks, archaeological artefacts, etc. We ensure that tour participants dispose of waste in a responsible way.
We work with small local businesses rather than international chains. This ensures that our clients' money stays as far as possible in the local community. The owners of all the small inns on this tour are very proud of their locally-sourced produce used in their meals. The inn used on the first night on the trail operates on an organic basis and serves only organic products.
The village of Chikatsuyu, the second village on the trail, is like many small communites in the area and faces decline and depopulation; the small family-run inn we use there is bringing much-needed visitors and income to this rural location. We hope this approach encourages young people who would otherwise leave to find work in the cities to stay and start small-scale sustainable enterprises that cater to visitors.
People1. Travelling with respect
Our local guides spend a huge amount of time and effort explaining to our clients about local customs and etiquette, so that our clients can interract appropriately with the local community. Japanese culture can feel extremely unfamiliar and habits which we might be second-nature to us (such as blowing our nose) can seem rude to the Japanese. Our pre-departure literature alerts our clients to ways they can avoid giving unintended offence.
2. Local Crafts & Culture
The tour introduces clients to the cultural heritage of the Kumano region, which has a history going back centuries, but has perhaps not been fully appreciated in recent decades. Our guides are local, knowledgeable individuals who can introduce our guests to the culture, history and traditions of the Kumano area and its unique brand of religion. Our group walks on the Nakahechi portion of the Kumano Kodo, and this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.