1.866.316.7268 [email protected]
WPCS 2.1.3
1.866.316.7268 [email protected]
WPCS 2.1.3

Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Experience

Kumano has long been considered the heart and soul of Japanese spirituality, and has been blessed with a rich cultural and natural heritage, friendly locals, soothing hot springs, and delicious cuisine. It is the perfect destination for those people searching for an active, off-the-beaten-path, culturally immersive Japanese experience.

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From$3,994.00
Price
From$3,994.00
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Tour Factors

Tour Immersion in Culture
Cultural Immersion
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Pace
Tour Physical Activity
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Tour Details

For more than 1,000 years people from all levels of society have made the pilgrimage along the Kumano Kodo. The walk itself was an integral part of the pilgrimage process as they undertook rigorous religious rites of worship and purification along the way. The goal of the pilgrimage was simple: to visit and pay respects at the Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha, and the Nachi Taisha (also known as the Kumano Sanzan). The origins of the Kumano Pilgrimage were a combination of Buddhism, Shinto, Shinto mythology, and nature worship causing the performance of the pilgrimage to be quite complex.

The foundations of the pilgrimage were established 1,000 years ago when retired emperors and aristocrats from Kyoto’s Imperial Court started making the 600 mile (800 kilometer) journey in large numbers. Today, walking the ancient Kumano Kodo is an excellent way to experience the unique cultural landscape of Kumano’s spiritual countryside. We will follow in the footsteps of those ancient pilgrims from Kyoto as we trace the history and heritage of the Kumano pilgrimage.

Join us as we trek for 5 days (38.2 miles/61.8 km) along the Nakahechi Pilgrimage Trail through beautiful forests, rural villages, and ancient sites of religious worship and rituals. You will also enjoy some of the best hospitality and food from the small minshuku and ryokans along the Nakahechi, as well as some of Japan’s best onsens.

Full-Time Support Vehicle

Our Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Experience includes the services of a full-time support vehicle for the entire tour. The group will be driven from Kyoto to Takajiri (the starting point of the walk). At the end of the tour, the support vehicle will be used to return to Kyoto.

During the tour, after the group checks out and begins their walk, the support vehicle will move the main luggage to the next lodging. And the support vehicle will also meet the group where the roads intersect with the trail, and can carry items such as lunch and extra water.

This offers the best of both worlds, allowing the group to walk with only what they will need for that day, and still have access to their main luggage every evening and access to items they may need during the day. The support vehicle can also be used in the event of bad weather, injuries or in the event that someone in the group is unable to continue the walk for whatever reason. The support vehicle can be used to reduce the amount of walking by at leat 50%, or it can even be used to bypass an entire day’s walk if needed.

What This Tour Is and Is Not

This tour is a trekking tour. The tour will start at the Takijiri Oji and finish at the Nachi Taisha along the Nakahechi Pilgrimage route through the center of the Kii Peninsula in the Wakayama Prefecture. This will be done in 5 days of walking ranging from about 2 1/2 miles (4 km) to 11 miles (16 km). There are numerous mountain passes, but none of them are very high (they are all less than 3,000 feet or 1000 meters).

Please Note:

Your main luggage will be sent ahead each day allowing you to walk with only what you will need for that day’s walk.

Because this tour uses smaller minshuku and ryokan, some of the accommodations do not have attached, en-suite bathroom facilities. Here is a breakdown of the number of nights with private and shared bathroom facilities:

  • 4 nights – Private attached bath and toilet
  • 3 nights – Private attached toilet and shared bath
  • 2 nights – Shared bath and toilet
  • Visiting the Kumano Sanzan: Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha, Nachi Taisha
  • Walk from Takijiri-oji to Hongu Taisha
  • Walk from Ukegawa to Nachi Taisha
  • Walk along Daimonzaka
  • Travel Guard Gold Policy (for American tour members only)
  • Full-time support vehicle
  • Baggage transfer from location to location
  • Electronic version of Tour Handbook and Japanese History
  • International airfare is NOT included.
  • A printed itinerary is not included
  • Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and desserts are NOT included
Map
Tour Destinations
  • Kyoto
  • Takijiri-oji
  • Takahara
  • Chikatsuyu
  • Tsugizakura-oji
  • Hosshinmon-oji
  • Hongu Taisha
  • Yunomine Onsen
  • Hayatama Taisha
  • Kii-Katsuura Onsen
  • Nachi Taisha and Waterfall
Itinerary
Expand All

Day 1Arrive in Kyoto

You will travel on your own to Kyoto, where you will be staying overnight. No meals included.

Day 2Jonangu Shrine; Travel to Takijiri-oji; Walk to Takahara; Overnight Takahara

Before breakfast, you will need to prepare what you will need to walk from Takajiri to Takahara in a day pack. (This is only about a 2 to 3 hour walk.) You will take everything with you when you leave Kyoto. Your main luggage will be taken to Takahara. You will walk from Takajiri to Takahara with your day pack only. We will start the day with a Welcome/Orientation meeting. The group will meet in the morning in the lobby of the hotel to begin our journey tracing the footsteps of pilgrims from Kyoto 1,000 years ago. At that time, the pilgrimage was primarily done by Imperial court members and even emperors from Kyoto. At the beginning of their pilgrimage, they would stop for about a week at Jonangu Shrine near Kyoto. Here they would purify themselves and pray for a safe journey before taking a boat down the the nearby Yodo River. After making a brief stop at Jonangu Shrine to wish for a safe trip, we will be taking more modern and safer mode of transportation (van) to Takijiri Oji where we will begin our walk along the Nakahechi Pilgrimage Trail. There were numerous Oji along the route between Kyoto and Hongu Taisha, and Takijiri Oji was one of the five most important of these Oji. These Oji were subsidiary shrines of the Kumano Sanzan (Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha, and Nachi Taisha), and were sites of religious rituals and also rest stops along the pilgrimage route. We will be staying overnight in Takahara. Located on a high ridge, Takahara is also known as “Kiri no sato,” or the village of fog. As Takahara and the surrounding mountains are often shrouded in fog, it is easy to understand how it received that name. Breakfast at the hotel and kaiseki style dinner at the minshuku are included.

Total Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet (400 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 300 feet (100 meters)
Total Distance: 2 1/4 miles (3.7 kilometers)

Travel: 3 1/2 Hours

Day 3Walk to Tsugizakura-oji; Overnight Chikatsuyu

Today we will be walking to Tsugizakura. Before leaving for the day you need to prepare what you need for the day in your day pack. Your suitcase will be moved to Tsugizakura. The day will begin with a long, steady climb to the location of the Uwadawaja Chaya (tea house). At one time, there were numerous chaya (tea houses) along the Nakahechi. These tea houses served as rest stops, restaurants and inns for pilgrims. We will continue on towards Chikatsuyu village, passing a number of Oji along the way as well as the “Gyuubadouji” statue. This statue shows a young boy riding on the back of a horse and a cow. It is thought this statue depicts Kazan as a boy (Kazan was a retired emperor who made the pilgrimage many times during the Heian Period in the 11th and 12th centuries). Just before the village, we will cross the Hiki River. It is said that pilgrims would stop here to perform “misogi” (Shinto water purification ritual). From the village, it is an easy climb on paved roads to Tsugizakura, another small village along the Nakahechi where we will be spending the night. Here we will find the Tsugizakura Oji. On the Oji grounds we will find many huge cedar trees that are thought to be 800 years old. The branches of these cedar all point south toward Nachi Waterfall and the southern Pure Land paradise. Breakfast and kaiseki-style dinner at the minshukus.

Full Course

Total Elevation Gain: 2,300 feet (700 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 1,900 feet (575 meters)
Total Distance: 8 1/4 miles (13.2 kilomters)
Partial Course Options

Course #1

Total Elevation Gain: 1,650 feet (500 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 1,800 feet (550 meters)
Total Distance: 6.7 miles (10 kilomters)
Course #2

Total Elevation Gain: 1,650 feet (500 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 1,800 feet (550 meters)
Total Distance: 6.7 miles (10 kilomters)
Course #3

Total Elevation Gain: 650 feet (200 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 80 feet (25 meters)
Total Distance: 3.4 miles (5 kilomters)
Course #4

Total Elevation Gain: 165 feet (50 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 250 feet (75 meters)
Total Distance: 1.3 miles (2 kilomters)

Day 4Travel to Kobiro; Walk to Hosshinmon-oji; Travel to Yunomine Onsen; Overnight Yunomine Onsen

Before leaving for the day you need to prepare what you need for the day in your day pack. Your suitcase will be moved to Yunomine Onsen. Today will be the longest walk of the entire trek. We will travel to the Kobiro bus stop in order to shorten the walk for the day and bypass a long paved section of the Nakahechi trail. There are several up and down sections before arriving at the Iwagami Oji, the highest point of the day. From here it is generally downhill to the Hosshinmon Oji. Reaching this Oji was an important milestone during the pilgrimage. Hosshinmon Oji was the gateway to the sacred area surrounding Hongu Taisha. We will travel to Yunomine Onsen where we will be staying for the night. Breakfast and dinner at the minshukus.

Full Course

Total Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet (400 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 1,975 feet (600 meters)
Total Distance: 5.8 miles (9.3 kilometers)
Partial Course Options

Course #1

Total Elevation Gain: 1,150 feet (350 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 1,000 feet (300 meters)
Total Distance: 3.1 miles (5.0 kilometers)
Course #2

Total Elevation Gain: 165 feet (50 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 1,975 feet (300 meters)
Total Distance: 2.7 miles (4.3 kilometers)

Travel Time: 1 Hour

Day 5Travel to Hosshinmon-oji; Walk to Hongu Taisha; Return to Yunomine Onsen

We will travel back to Hosshimnonoji, where we will begin our short walk to Hongu Taisha. The trail is a pleasant mix of forest and villages to the Hongu Taisha, the main goal of the Kumano Kodo pilgrims. After reaching Hongu Taisha, we will tour the shrine grounds. We will also visit Oyunohara, the former location of the Hongu Taisha. It was moved to its present location after the shrine was destroyed in a major flood in 1889. We will also stop at the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center where we can learn more about the pilgrimage before returning to Yunomine Onsen. There you can bathe in the Tsuboyu Onsen. This bath is more than 1,000 years old, and many pilgrims would purify themselves in this bath before visiting Hongu Taisha, and it is the only bath registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Breakfast and kaiseki-style dinner at the minshukus.

Full Course

Total Elevation Gain: 330 feet (100 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 1,500 feet (450 meters)
Total Distance: 4 3/4 miles (7.5 kilometers)

Trave Time: 1 1/2 Hours

Day 6Travel to Ukegawa; Walk to Koguchi; Overnight Koguchi

Before leaving for the day you need to prepare what you need for the day in your day pack. Your suitcase will be moved to Koguchi. We will travel to Ukegawa where we will begin today’s walk. We will begin with a long and steady climb to the Hyakken-gura, the highest point of today’s walk. From here, you will get a panoramic view of the rolling mountains of the Kumano area. There a number of short up and down sections before a steep descent into the small town of Koguchi. Breakfast and kaiseki-style dinner at the minshukus.

Full Course

Total Elevation Gain: 1,975 feet (600 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 1,900 feet (575 meters)
Total Distance: 8 miles (13 kilometers)
Partial Course Options

Course #1

Total Elevation Gain: 1,475 feet (450 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 250 feet (75 meters)
Total Distance: 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers)
Course #2

Total Elevation Gain: 500 feet (150 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 1,500 feet (450 meters)
Total Distance: 4.6 miles (7.4 kilometers)

Travel Time: 1/2 Hour

Day 7Walk to Nachi Taisha; Travel to Kii Katsuura Onsen; Overnight Kii Katsuura Onsen

Before leaving for the day you need to prepare what you need for the day in your day pack. Your suitcase will be moved to Kii-Katsuura. The walk today may not be the longest, but it is the most difficult day of the trek. We will begin the morning with a long, steep climb. For hundreds of years, pilgrims have labored up this seemingly endless slope to the Echizen Pass (At 2,850 feet (870 meters) above sea level, it was the highest point along the Nakahechi.). In the year 1201, the poet Fujiwara Teika wrote in his pilgrim diary “This route is very rough and difficult. It is impossible to describe precisely how tough it is.” This pass is immediately followed by another 2,700 foot pass (825 meters), followed by several more up and down sections, before finally beginning our long descent to Nachi Taisha. Along this descent, we will get numerous views of the Pacific Ocean. We will travel to the Kii-Katsuura boat dock where we will take a short boat ride to our onsen where we will be staying for the night, and where you can soothe your tired muscles in the unique baths in seaside caves. Breakfast at the minshuku and buffet dinner at the ryokan are included.

Full Course

Total Elevation Gain: 3,800 Feet (1,150 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 2,950 Feet (900 meters)
Total Distance: 8.1 miles (13 kilometers)
Partial Course Options

Course #1

Total Elevation Gain: 2,875 Feet (875 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 575 Feet (175 meters)
Total Distance: 3.9 miles (6.2 kilometers)
Course #2

Total Elevation Gain: 900 Feet (275 meters)
Total Elevation Loss: 2,400 Feet (725 meters)
Total Distance: 4.2 miles (6.8 kilometers)

Travel Time: 1/2 Hour

Day 8Walk along Daimonzaka to Nachi Taisha; Nachi Taisha and Waterfall

Before leaving for the day you will need to prepare your luggage for transfer to Kyoto. You will need to pack an overnight bag for 2 days and 1 night. After breakfast, we will take a bus to the base of the Diamonzaka, a 2 km (1 mile) cobblestoned staircase. The Daimonzaka winds its way through huge cedar trees that are 800 years old from the valley bottom to the Nachi Taisha Shrine. The Nachi Taisha Shrine is perhaps the most dramatic shrine in Japan. It is located high on a hillside, with impressive views of the 133 meter (about 435 feet) tall Nachi-no-Otaki waterfall, Japan’s tallest waterfall. This waterfall was the original religious focus of the area, and was venerated by the earliest Japanese people. Even today, it is hard not to be impressed by the power and the beauty of the falls. We will return to our ryokan at the Kii-Katsuura onsen where you can once again rest in the seaside baths. Buffet breakfast and dinner at the ryokan.

Day 9Travel to Shingu; Hayatama Taisha and Kamikura Shrine; Return to Kyoto

We will start the day by traveling to the nearby city of Shingu, where the Hayatama Taisha is located to complete our visit to the Kumano Sanzan. While the shrine’s current buildings are relatively new, the shrine has been located at its current location since at least the 12th century. Excavations in the area have unearthed religious artifacts from the 3rd century, indicating the area has been a site of worship even longer. The 800-year old tree located on the grounds highlights the area’s tradition of nature worship. We will also visit the nearby Gotobiki-iwa, a gigantic rock located halfway up the slope of Gongen Mountain. Kamikura Jinja, a small shrine located at the base of this monolith is a truly unique experience. It is said that the gods descended to earth by stepping on this large stone. After finishing our tour of Shingu, we will travel to Kyoto where we will check into our hotel and enjoy our “Sayonara” dinner. Buffet breakfast at the ryokan and dinner at a local restaurant.

Travel Time: 5 Hours

Day 10Sayonara

It’s time to say “Sayonara”. You will continue around Japan on your own. Breakfast at the hotel included.

Walking level descriptions:
Light – 0 to 2 miles on level ground
Medium – 2 to 4 miles on level ground or 0 to 2 miles on hilly ground
Heavy – 4 to 6 miles on level ground or 2 to 4 miles on hilly ground

Dates & Pricing
DatesPrice (land only) / Single Supplement
(All prices are per Person)
StatusAssigned Lodging
Oct 25, 2020 - Nov 3, 2020
$3,994.00$694.00ClosedLodging
May 9, 2021 - May 18, 2021
$3,994.00$694.00ClosedLodging
Oct 24, 2021 - Nov 2, 2021
$3,994.00$694.00ClosedLodging
Photos
Inclusions
  • Local, licensed, English-speaking, Japanese guides
  • Full-time support vehicle throughout the entire tour
  • Travel insurance from Travel Guard, one of the world’s largest travel insurance providers, will be provided to everyone from the United States. All others will receive a $100 per person credit and will be responsible for obtaining their own travel insurance in their own home country. (The insurance provided by Samurai Tours will cover the land portion only. Insurance to cover airfare and other additional expenses is the tour member’s responsibility.)
  • All transportation from Kyoto to Kyoto as described in the itinerary
  • Accommodations each evening (Two nights in Western style Hotels, 5 nights in Japanese style Minshuku and 2 nights in Japanese style Ryokan)
  • Breakfast every morning from Day 2 through Day 10 of the itinerary
  • Dinner from Day 2 through Day 9 of the itinerary
  • All transportation costs when traveling with the group. (Transportation costs during scheduled free times are the tour member’s responsibility.)
  • Admission fees to the destinations and activities listed in the Tour Highlights column on the right. (Itinerary specifics subject to change)
  • Electronic version of itinerary
  • Sayonara dinner at the end of the tour
  • Baggage Transfer
    • Same day baggage transfer from Takajiri to Takahara
    • Same day baggage transfer from Takahara to Tsugizakura (Nonaka)
    • Same day baggage transfer from Tsugizakura (Nonaka) to Yunomine Onsen
    • Same day baggage transfer from Yunomine Onsen to Koguchi
    • Same day baggage transfer from Koguchi to Kii-Katsuura

Each tour member receives an electronic copy of our tour handbook. This handbook is full of tips and suggestions taken from our Japan travel experiences that allow you to better plan and prepare for your trip, and therefore enjoy your trip even more. The tips and suggestions included cover everything from how to save while exchanging money, what to pack, some basic Japanese-language tips, general etiquette do’s-and-don’ts, ryokan customs, etc.

Exclusions

  • Airfare is NOT included.
  • Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and desserts are NOT included
  • Transportation to Kyoto at the beginning of the tour
  • Transportation from Kyoto at the end of the tour
  • A printed itinerary is not included
2 Reviews

sally burke

loved the trip

Tour Date: Nov 30th, -0001

Anonymous

Tour Date: Oct 28th, 2017