Sights and Walks of Sacred Kumano - 4 days
28 Dec 2020
The glint from the late afternoon sun poured onto my train seat as I looked out over the Pacific ocean and mentally reviewed my recent 4-day sojourn into the Kumano region.
I had just spent four days soaked in 1,000 years of history and culture along the UNESCO World Heritage Kumano Kodo pilgrimage as part of the Highlights Beginner Tour of the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau.
The first day I arrived in Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, from Osaka and took a bus to the remote, rustic, riverside hot spring village of Kawayu Onsen in the middle of the Kii Peninsula. I was welcomed by a comfortable room, a delicious buffet meal and a pleasant, cleansing soak in the waters including an outdoor “rotemburo” bath literally adjacent to the Oto River.
The next day, I bussed up to the Hosshinmon-oji trailhead and thoroughly enjoyed strolling through rural villages amid the towering cedars and cypress trees with ancient gods, saints and a few fellow pilgrims.
I arrived at the first of three grand shrines, Kumano Hongu Taisha, where I was stunned by its austere and aged, natural timbers, and then visited its original location down by the river, Oyunohara.
That night, I bathed nearby in the Yunomine Onsen waters at a ryokan on top of a hill and partook of exquisite local cuisine!
On the next day, I saw serenely in a traditional boat down the sacred Kumano-gawa River, gleaning the story of hardship and search for purity and rebirth while absorbing the view of the river valley!
I disembarked just a few hundred yards from the second grand shrine, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, paid my respects, and then headed to Kamikura-jinja, ancient stepping stone of the Kumano gods to the material world (and great viewpoint over Shingu bay).
That night, Katsuura fishing village, where I had more great local food including delicious bluefin maguro tuna, and again soaked in soothing onsen waters.
This last day, I got up, left my bags at Kii-Katsuura Station, took a bus to Nachisan and the third grand shrine, by walking up the Daimonzaka slope with 900-year-old cedar guardian trees, up to Kumano Nachi Taisha and Seiganto-ji temple.
Staring out over the vermillion pagoda at the bustling Nachi Falls, I was breathless and full of awe at my amazing trip to Kumano! I felt so spiritually refreshed!
A quick bus ride back to Kii-Katsuura, grabbed my bags, and here I rode comfortably on the limited express to Osaka to continue my Japanese journey!