Walk the Kumano Kodo and Explore World Heritage Sites! Recommended Courses and Must-See Spots!

Walk the Kumano Kodo and Explore World Heritage Sites! Recommended Courses and Must-See Spots!

16 Nov 2020

The KANSAI Guide

The Kumano Kodo is a pilgrimage route that has drawn large numbers of pilgrims since ancient times. Not only is it a stunningly beautiful ancient trail, but it is also registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This article will introduce the history and charms of the Kumano Kodo, as well as recommend a walking course that we think you will enjoy.

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What is the Kumano Kodo?

The Kumano Kodo is an ancient route that connects the shrines of the "Kumano Sanzan" (Three Grand Shrines of Kumano), which are Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha. The Kumano Sanzan are located in the vast Kumano area, which stretches from the southern part of Wakayama Prefecture to the southern part of Mie Prefecture and has long been revered as a holy ground for Buddhism, Esoteric Buddhism, and Shugendo (a syncretic religion unique to Japan that involves strict training through isolation in the mountains). In 2004, the Kumano Kodo was registered as part of a World Heritage Site called the "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range" and has since gained the world's attention.

【Address】 Nachisan, Nachikatsuura-cho, Higashimuro-gun, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

Take a Hike On One of the Walking Courses!

The Kumano Kodo has many different walking courses, but in this article, we will be introducing a beginner-friendly course that runs from Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha. The total length is seven kilometers, but the course trends downward, making it suitable for beginners who want to casually enjoy a hike.

Start at Hosshinmon-oji!

The "oji" are places where a ritual is performed on the way to pray at a shrine. Hosshinmon-oji, the place where this course begins, is said to be the most significant oji on the Kumano Kodo. "Hosshinmon," means "spiritual awakening gate," and marks the entrance to the grounds of Kumano Hongu Taisha.

【Address】 Hongucho Mikoshi, Tanabe-shi, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

Mizunomi-oji

After departing from Hosshinmon-oji and walking for about 30 minutes, you will come upon another oji, called "Mizunomi-oji." As there are toilets and drinking water available here, it is a perfect place for a quick break. The Kumano Kodo can be seen winding off into the distance, also making this is also a popular spot for taking a photo. Depending on the weather, fog sometimes descends on the spot, giving it a truly mystical atmosphere.

【Address】 Hongucho Mikoshi, Tanabe-shi, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

Fushiogami-oji

Continuing on from Mizunomi-oji to Fushiogami-oji, a beautiful village can be seen surrounded by farm fields. When the weather is especially clear from November through February, the first 30 minutes after sunrise reveals a magical scene of morning mist, enshrouding the village in a white blanket of fog. Fushiogami-oji is a wonderful lookout point, so it also makes for an ideal place to stop for a lunch break on a sunny day. It also has a rest area where local goods are sold on the weekends, so it's a great place to pick up a souvenir from the Kumano Kodo!

【Address】 Fushiogami, Hongu-cho, Tanabe-shi, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

Haraido-oji

Continuing along the trail from Fushiogami-oji, you will begin to see residences. Go a bit further and the "torii" gate of Kumano Hongu Taishi will come into view with "Haraido-oji" standing quietly in front of it. This is the place where visitors to the Kumano Hongu Taisha are meant to purify themselves before praying at the shrine.

【Address】 Hongu, Hongu-cho, Tanabe-shi, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

We've Arrived at Our Goal: Kumano Hongu Taisha!

After purifying yourself at Haraido-oji, it's finally time to arrive at the goal, Kumano Hongu Taisha! Kumano Hongu Taisha is the head shrine of more than 4,700 Kumano shrines located around the country. It's possible to get a sense of the flow of history by examining the construction and fine details of the many buildings in the shrine grounds. The shrine is surrounded by mountains and is a special spot that also provides the chance to enjoy the nature.

【Facility name】 Kumano Hongu Taisha
【Address】 Hongu, Hongu-cho, Tanabe-shi, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

Other Recommended Spots in the Area

Next, we will introduce two other spots nearby that shouldn't be missed by anyone visiting the Kumano Kodo.

Oyunohara: The Former Grounds of Kumano Hongu Taisha

After visiting Kumano Hongu Taisha, walk down the stone stairway to "Oyunohara." Oyunohara is actually the former grounds of Kumano Hongu Taisha, until the buildings were all destroyed in a flood in 1889. Today, a towering 40-meter torii gate is all that remains, but it is quite a sight to behold! The giant gate feels like a portal to a sacred dimension and is becoming known as a power spot.

【Address】 1, Hongu, Hongu-cho, Tanabe-shi, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

Kawayu Onsen

Just a 10-minute drive from Kumano Hongu Taisha is a unique onsen (hot spring) called Kawanoyu Onsen. It is said that if you dig in the riverbed, hot spring water will flow from underground! The history of Kawanoyu Onsen dates back to the Edo Period (1603 - 1868), and it has long has been a popular spot.

【Address】 Kawayu, Hongu-cho, Tanabe-shi, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

If you're interested in learning a bit more about the Kumano Kodo, check out the first-hand experience shared in this article!

So, what do you think? Ready to talk a walk along a trail frozen in time? If so, add the Kumano Kodo to your travel plans the next time you visit Japan!

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