There are only two UNESCO World Heritage Listed pilgrimage walks. One being “The Way of St. James” in Spain and the other “Kumano Kodo” in Wakayama Prefecture Japan. In 2014 Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau and Tourismo de Santiago de Compostela signed a Partnership Cities Agreement to promote and preserve the unique UNESCO World Heritage Pilgrimage Routes of Kumano Kodo and the Way of St. James. They are the pilgrimages of the Rising and the Setting Sun.
By completing one of the options for both the Kumano Kodo and the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) and registering at a designated site, one can become a “Dual Pilgrim”.
2015 was a very significant year as it marked the 1200th Anniversary of the establishment of Koyasan. Until 1873 women were not permitted to enter this sacred and spiritual area of Koyasan.
Arrival into Narita or Haneda Airport and transfer by shared private shuttle to our Tokyo Hotel for our three (3) night stay.
Accommodation: Shiba Park Hotel Tokyo : In 22nd March Out 25th March.
There are optional tours available e.g. Dynamic Tokyo Tour, Mt.Fuji-Hakone Day Tour, Nikko Day Tour etc which are highly recommended to pre-book prior to your departure from Australia. Alternatively your Tour Escort is readily available for suggestions and assistance and will take you sightseeing around Tokyo by subway and local transport.
If you do not wish to join an optional tour your Tour Escort is readily available to take you sightseeing in and around Tokyo by subway and local transport. (B)
Those wishing to transfer their large luggage to Kyoto please have your luggage available adjacent to the Reception Desk on the Ground Floor) no later than 7:15am. (1 piece of luggage per person included in Tour).
Transfer to Tokyo Station by mini-bus and depart on the Shinkansen for Kyoto with an onward transfer by local train for Nara. Our Hotel is located adjacent to JR Nara Station. Leave our luggage and off to lunch. After lunch, visit Todaiji Temple and the Giant Daibutsu (Buddha). Remainder of day at leisure.
Accommodation: Hotel Piazza Nara : In 25th March Out 26th March
Depart Nara this morning by local train for Koyasan. We will be changing trains at Shin-Imamiya and then change again at Gokurakubashi for the Cable Car to ascend the mountain to Koyasan. Bus from Koyasan Cable Car Station to Koyasan and our Temple accommodation for the night.
After lunch we will have an escorted tour with our local guide Noriko san. Walk through the sacred area of the Okunoin Cemetery where amongst hundreds of centuries old towering cedar trees lie over 200,000 gravestones. Koyasan is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (B/D)
Accommodation: Eko-In Temple – Koyasan : In 26th March Out 27th March
Early morning Buddhist ceremony including the Fire (Goma) Ceremony and after breakfast we will meet with our Guide Noriko san and visit other important areas in Koyasan. These will include Kongobuji which is the Head Temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism and the Danjo Garan Complex.
We will depart Koyasan at 2:00pm by private coach and travel over the beautiful Skyline drive to Ryujin Onsen for our overnight stay. Relax in the Onsen (Hot Springs) tonight. (B/D)
Accommodation: Kamigoten Ryokan in Ryujin Onsen : In 27th March Out 28th March
After breakfast this morning we will drive through to Kawayu Onsen and the Midoriya Hotel for our 2 night stay. Today is a cultural day and in the morning we will have the experience of Indigo dyeing and will also visit a local craft centre. Drive to Takahara and enjoy lunch at Kiri No Sato whilst taking in some spectacular scenery. After lunch we will participate in making Japanese Washi paper at the Otonashi Paper workshop. Onto Yunomine Onsen for a visit and this is one of only two UNESCO World Heritage Listed Hot Springs but it is the only one that you can bathe in. (B/L/D)
Accommodation : Midoriya Hotel in Kawayu Onsen : In 28th March Out 30th March
Breakfast and then we will drive to Hongu and visit the Hongu Visitor’s Centre. Those not wishing to do the walk today can remain in Hongu sightseeing and relaxing then meet with the walkers later this afternoon.
The walk today is a lovely walk through the mountains and small villages. The walkers will take the bus through to Kumano Kodo Hosshinmon-oji and walk the World Heritage Kumano Kodo trail through to Kumano Hongu Taisha (7.3 kms). All the walks on the Kumano Kodo Trail are graded with the most difficult walk being 5.0. Today’s walk is graded as a 2.0 degree of difficulty.
We will then meet with the non-walkers and tonight after dinner we will enjoy Taiko (Japanese Drumming) (B/L/D)
Breakfast and then we will drive through to the Boat mooring. Here we will board a traditional flat-bottom boat and make the journey down the UNESCO World Heritage Kumanogawa river to the Kumano Hayatama Taisha. This boat trip traces the journey the pilgrims have done for over 1000 years.
After lunch we will visit the Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Daimonzaka, Kumano Nachi Taisha and the famous Nachi waterfalls. Onto the Hotel Urashima for our overnight stay and enjoy the famous Bokhido Cave baths. (B/D)
Accommodation: Hotel Urashima : Kii Katsuura : In 30th March Out 31st March
After breakfast this morning we will have a brief visit to the Fish Markets, then on our way to Tanabe we will visit the 1000 tatami mat rock formation, Hashigui-Iwa rocks and relax our feet in the footbath at Shirahama. Lunch at Tore Tore Ichiba and then we will visit a liqueur tasting factory before arriving into Tanabe around 3:00pm. Afternoon free and tonight we will enjoy dinner at an Izakaya Pub. (B/D)
Accommodation: Hanaya Hotel Tanabe : In 31st March Out 1st April
Breakfast this morning and then make our way to Kii Tanabe Station and take the train through to Kyoto. On arrival at around midday we will transfer to our Hotel by taxis. Afternoon at leisure. Your Tour Escort can assist with sightseeing and/or shopping options. (B)
Alternatively join the “Tea with Maiko” afternoon tour.
Accommodation: Karasuma Kyoto Hotel : In 1st April Out 5th April
Breakfast and then meet with our local Tour Guide and coach for our day tour of Kyoto. With the exception of Fushimi Inari Shrine all the sightseeing venues today are UNESCO World Heritage Listed. Visit the famous Ryoanji Temple with its beautiful Zen Garden which dates from the 15th century. Onto Kinkakuji “Golden Pavilion” whose walls are completely covered with gold leaf. Our next stop is Nijojo Castle built in 1603 as a residence for the first Tokugawa Shogun.
After lunch (Hosted by Experience Japan) we traverse to the opposite side of Kyoto and visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine which is the headquarters of about 40,000 Inari shrines all over Japan. Founded in 711 it is
also noted for the sight of 7,000+ torii (shrine gates) that are positioned over a long path up to the hill behind the shrine. (B/L)
Day tours such as Hiroshima/Miyajima, Walking Arashiyama are available. It is recommended to prebook these tours prior to your departure from Australia. If you would like to join with your Tour Escort she is happy to take you sightseeing and/or shopping around Kyoto. Some sights to be included would be Kiyomizu-dera, Sannenzaka & Ninnenzaka, Maruyama Park, Ginkaku-ji and the Path of Philosophy.
Your Tour Escort can give you suggestions for sightseeing or if you wish she will take you sightseeing – Heian Shrine, Miyako Messe Exhibition Hall and maybe Arashiyama and the famous Bamboo Groves.
On afternoon or early evening of day 14, you will be advised of your pickup time for the Airport Shuttle the following morning to take you to either Itami or Kansai Airports. (B)
This morning please check out of your room and the Hotel will mind your luggage until your departure for the Airport. Please ensure you are in the Hotel Foyer at least 15 minutes prior to your advised Airport Shuttle pick-up time. (B)
This tour is being escorted by Jan Hutton. Jan has been specialising in travel to Japan for over 30 years.