The Kumano region is the mountainous southern portion of the Kii Peninsula. It is a prehistoric sacred site and has been a pilgrimage mecca for over 1000 years. The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes lead to three Grand Shrines based on ancient nature worship. Isolated hot springs are scattered along the trail. This is a self guided tour that takes you through this cultural landscape visiting rural mountain-top villages and ancient sacred sites along the way at your own pace.
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Travel by train from Osaka to the small Kii-Tanabe station where your local licensed English speaking guide will meet you.
Local guide will initially give you an orientation, providing you a cultural overview of how to ride the bus and how to use an onsen bath. You will also be supplied with maps and bus timetables.
Proceed to Yunomine Onsen on your own.
Yunomine a small village made of Japanese inns is located deep in the heart of Kumano. Onsen (hot spring) culture here is said to be one of the oldest in Japan, dating back to approximately 1800 years ago. This is where pilgrims are said to have performed hot water purification rituals in preparation to worship.
Overnight at a Japanese inn at Yunomine Onsen Onsen including traditional breakfast and dinner
After breakfast at your accommodation, depart Yunomine Onsen and take the public bus to Hongu.
The morning features a 7 kilometre walk along the 1000 year old Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route with a diversity of mountain top villages, panoramic views, forested trails, and ancient cobblestones. A picnic lunch will be taken along the way, so that you can relax and enjoy cultural landscape. The goal of the walk is the austere grand shrine, Kumano Hongu Taisha. You don’t need to worry about your luggage at this time as it will be couriered to your next destination.
In the afternoon, take a local bus to Kawayu Onsen.
Overnight at a Japanese inn at Kawayu Onsen, a natural wonder, where hot spring water bubbles to the surface of the river including breakfast and dinner
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Take a public bus from Kawayu Onsen to Hitari to take a traditional boat ride on Kumano River.
Historically pilgrimage travelled by boat between Kumano Hongu Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha. These tours follows the same route in flat bottom wooden boats. This is an excellent way to view the spiritual landscape from the river like pilgrims past.
Proceed to visit second of the three Kumano grand shrines, Kumano Hayatama Taisha.
Final morning activity includes a visit to Kamikura Shrine and Gotobiki Iwa. This a shrine accessed by a steep stone staircase. Originally the Kumano dieties are believed to have decended here. You can get a nice view of Shingu city. If you take a lunch you can eat it there or some lunch boxes are available at the Kawaramachi shops.
In the afternoon, take the local bus to Katsuura, a small fishing village that is blessed with hot springs. You can enjoy some unique baths in the afternoon, maybe even one in a cave overlooking the ocean!
Overnight at a Japanese Inn in Katsuura including breakfast and dinner
Meals: Breakfast and dinner
You will finish your Kumano pilgrimage by visiting the awe-inspiring Nachi waterfall, the tallest in Japan, and the Kumano Nachi Taisha, the last of the three Kumano grand shrines.
The Daimon-zaka is a wonderful section of the Kumano Kodo with an ancient stone staircase lined by massive old-growth trees.
Why not have lunch near the Kii Katsuura Station before you board a train back to Osaka or Kyoto? Remember to sit on the left hand side to catch the beautiful views of the rocky coast.