This highlight itinerary visits the two Grand Shrines (Kumano Hongu Taisha & Kumano Nachi Taisha) with short and scenic highlight walks.
Overnight at a hot spring village in the mountains (Kawayu Onsen) and on the coast (Katsuura Onsen) while dining on delicious local cuisine.
This itinerary focuses on the best sights and walks in a compact time frame- a great introductory visit to the sacred Kumano region of Japan.
Route: Kyoto/Osaka | Tanabe | Kawayu Onsen | Katsuura | Hongu | Nachisan | Osaka/Kyoto
Duration: 3 days & 2 nights (2 highlight walks)
Overnight: Kawayu Onsen, Katsuura
Overall Level: Shorter walks, beginner.
Type: Self-guided or guided.
Transportation: Train, Bus, Walk
Daily Luggage Shuttle: Available for all days.
Walking Difficult: Day 2=2, Day 3=1.5
What is walking difficulty?
Recommended For: Those wanting shorter highlight walks on scenic portions of the Kumano Kodo.
|WHAT IS A MODEL ITINERARY?
Model Itineraries are sample travel plans to help you organize your trip, an easy way to add contents to your cart that match your itinerary.
These are not package tours.
You can use them as they are, adjust them to your needs, or contact us for more ideas.
Price depends on which accommodations and services you book.
All prices are online for your reference.
- DAY 1
Train from Osaka/Kyoto to Kii-Tanabe (~3 hr)
Bus from Kii-Tanabe to Kawayu Onsen (~2 hr)
Stay in Kawayu Onsen
- DAY 2
Bus from Kawayu Onsen to Hosshinmon-oji (~30 min)
Walk from Hosshinmon-oji to Hongu Taisha (~7 km, ~3 hr)
Bus from hongu Taisha to Kii-Katsuura (~1.5 hr)
Stay in Katsuura
- DAY 3
Bus from Kii-Katsuura to Daimon-zaka (~20 min)
Walk Kumano Kodo Daimon-zaka (~1.5 km, ~1 hr)
Bus from Nachisan to Kii-Katsuura (~30 min)
Train from Kii-Katsuura to Shin-Osaka (~4 hr)
Soak in Kawayu OnsenA geological wonder: Hot spring in the river!
Walk Kumano KodoAncient and sacred pilgrimage route.
Visit Kumano Hongu TaishaAustere Shinto shrine with long history.
Stay in traditional accommodationTry a traditional Ryokan inn and/or family run guesthouse.
Visit Katsuura OnsenHot spring fishing port on Pacific coast.
Eat local cuisineImmerse yourself in Japan’s countryside culinary traditions.
Experience Daimon-zakaShort but scenic cobblestone staircase lined by ancient trees.
Visit Kumano Nachi TaishaHome to Japan’s tallest waterfall.
BEFORE YOUR VISIT
PREPARATIONPreparation and planning is the key to a safe trek in the sacred Kumano mountains.
Choose a route that you have adequate experience and physical strength to safely complete.
Wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and carry necessary gear.
NOTE: Details sometimes change, especially bus schedules, so please double-check times before your trip. If you notice something incorrect, please let us know. Thank you!
WHEN TO VISITThe Nakahechi route is open year round.
Summer can be hot and humid, and winter has a slight possibility of snow at higher elevations (from end of December to end of February) although it usually melts shortly it falls. The winter months have shorter daylight hours.
Japanese national holidays and long-weekends can be busy so best to avoid (especially golden week in the beginning of May and Obon mid-August).
NOTE: It is often best to come mid-week as capacity is limited in smaller villages along the trail.
RESOURCESThere are many useful resources related to the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes. Please use these to make the most of your trip.
Maps and Official Guide Book, are available onsite in Tanabe. Online “Pilgrim Packs” including these materials can be mailed in advance.
INCLUSIONSThe itinerary below is a sample.
Only the products and services that you book are included. For example if you would like lunch boxes or daily luggage shuttle, these must be reserved in advance. They are not included unless you book them.
Transportation fees are not included. It is easy to pay transport costs as you go.
GUIDED or SELF-GUIDEDThis model itinerary can be done guided or self-guided.
1. Self-guided. Use the detailed information online and onsite to complete your walk independently.
2. Guided. Hire a local guide to have some comradery on the trail while experiencing the region’s rich culture.
3. Partly-guided. Or have the best of both! Hire a guide for the first day to get you going and then complete the itinerary on your own.
NOTE: The itinerary below is based on option 1. Self-guided.
LUGGAGE OPTIONSThere are a few options for your luggage.
1. Daily Luggage Shuttle. Luggage is transferred to your accommodation everyday (This is often the most popular option. If required, please book when making your accommodation reservations).
2. Luggage Storage. Leave your luggage at the KUMANO TRAVEL Support Center in Tanabe to be picked-up after your trip.
3. Luggage Shipping. Send your luggage from the KUMANO TRAVEL Support Centerin Tanabe to your final destination and only carry with you what you need during your visit.
NOTE: The itinerary below is based on option 1. Daily Luggage Shuttle.
Options 2. Luggage Storage and 3. Luggage Shipping can be arranged onsite without reservations.
MEALSImmersing oneself in local cuisine is part of the Kumano experience.
1. At Accommodations. Meals are most often served in accommodations in rural areas, as options for eating outside are limited to non-existent. (Eating the set meals at accommodations is the most common and convenient option.)
2. Lunch Boxes. Lunch boxes are provided by most accommodations along the Kumano Kodo (in the Hongu area can be delivered to your lodging in the morning).
3. Special Dietary Needs. Special meal requests such as vegetarian or specific allergies must be made at the time of booking. Vegetarianism is not common in Japan, especially in the countryside, so please double-check to confirm which types of vegetarian meals are available. Often being able to eat trace amounts of the ubiquitous Dashi fish stock makes it easier to find options.
NOTE: The itinerary below is based on meals supplied 1. At Accommodations with 2. Lunch Boxes when available.
Transfer to Tanabe & Kawayu Onsen
Overnight: Kawayu Onsen
DAY 1 OVERVIEWDAY ONE is a transfer to Kawayu Onsen, a mysterious natural wonder where hot spring water bubbles to the surface of the river.
Enjoy the countryside scenery during the voyage.
TRAIN FROM OSAKA TO KII-TANABE (JR Kuroshio 3)
Depart: 9:01 Shin-Osaka
Depart: 9:23 Tennoji
Arrive: 11:22 Kii-Tanabe
The JR train travels down the west coast of the Kii peninsula.
As you head south the scenery changes dramatically from the large urban centers to agricultural and natural regions, with distinctively less populated mountains.
Watch for terraced orange and ume orchards along the way.
TIP: Sit on the right hand side of the train for the best views.
VISIT TANABE TOURIST INFORMATION CENTERThis information center is next to the Kii-Tanabe station as you exit on the left.
There are paper copies of maps and transportation timetables as well as Dual Pilgrim credential to collect stamps along the trail.
This is the best place to get the most up-to-date information before you begin your walk!
VISIT KUMANO TRAVEL SUPPORT CENTERThe Kumano Travel Support Center is near the station featuring local souvenirs and outdoor goods.
Luggage storage and shipping services are available at the onsite travel desk.
LUGGAGE SHUTTLEDrop your bags off at the Kumano Travel Support Center and they will be delivered directly to your accommodation.
TIP: Daily luggage shuttle is convenient and highly recommended: to be able to walk freely without the worry of your bags.
LUNCHAt a restaurant, or buy something to go. Ask at the tourist information center for ideas.
BUS FROM KII-TANABE STATION TO KAWAYU ONSEN (Ryujin Bus)
Depart: 12:50 Kii-Tanabe
Arrive: 14:58 Kawayu Onsen
Busses depart from bus stop two in front of the station.
PRICE: 1900 yen
NOTE: You can buy your bus ticket at the vending machine in the information center.
TIP: There are three bus stops in Kawayu Onsen, so check to see which one is closest to your accommodation.
VISIT KAWAYU ONSEN
Kawayu Onsen is a small settlement along the Oto-gawa River: a geological thermal wonder where hot spring water bubbles to the surface of the river.
On the north side of the river is a collection of accommodations. On the south side of the river is a green forested mountainside.
OVERNIGHT IN KAWAYU ONSENThere is a diversity of accommodations in Kawayu Onsen such as Ryokan inns, Minshuku lodgings, each with their own hot spring baths.
Walk Kumano Kodo, Hosshinmon-Oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha
Overnight: Katsuura area
DAY 2 OVERVIEWDAY TWO is an excellent half-day walk on the Kumano Kodo from Hosshinmon-oji, a small subsidiary shrine.
This section is often refered to as the climax route: a wonderful mix of moutain settlements and forested trails, culminating at the austere Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand shrine.
After visit the Hongu area, bus to Katsuura Onsen on the coast.
PICK UP LUNCH BOX
It is usually easiest to order your lunch box from the accommodation. Book a lunch box plan to take advantage of this service.
LUGGAGE SHUTTLELeave luggage at accommodation.
BUS FROM KAWAYU ONSEN TO HOSSHINMON-OJI (Ryujin Bus)
Depart: 8:16 Kawayu Onsen
Arrive: 8:46 Hosshinmon-oji
PRICE: 510 yen
NOTE: The Hosshinmon-oji bus stop is just east of the shrine. To visit Hosshinmon-oji walk a short distance west and then return to the bus stop to continue to Kumano Hongu Taisha. Ask the bus driver for directions when you arrive at Hosshimon-oji.
TIP: Many of the accommodations in Kawayu Onsen offer free shuttles to Hosshinmon-oji.
WALK KUMANO KODO - HOSSHINMON-OJI TO KUMANO HONGU TAISHA
Distance: ~7 km
Time: 2~3 hr
Elevation Gain: ~190 m
Elevation Loss: ~460 m
This is a very nice half day walk on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. It goes through a mixture of ridge top settlements and forest trails.
There are some good panoramic lookout spots along the trail.
LUNCHPicnic lunch along trail or at restaurant in Hongu.
VISIT KUMANO HONGU TAISHAOne of the three grand shrines, Kumano Hongu Taisha stands on a small ridge line in the north of the Hongu village.
The austere pavilions are made of wood with impressive cypress bark roofs; it's architecture style dating back over 800 years.
Watch for the sacred symbol of Kumano, the Yatagarasu three-legged crow.
VISIT KUMANO HONGU HERITAGE CENTER
This visitor center is on the east side route 311 across from the Kumano Hongu Taisha grand shrine.
It has detailed information and exhibits about the area in English.
HOURS: 9:00~17:00 (open year-round)
NOTE: Registration as DUAL PILGRIM takes place here. It takes at least 15 minutes and cannot be mailed out.
Kumano Hongu Taisha was originally located at Oyunohara, a sandbank at the confluence of the Kumano-gawa and Otonashi Rivers.
Legend has it that the Kumano deities, in the form of three moons, descended into the branches of a giant oak tree in this clearing.
All of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes lead to this sacred site.
The entrance to Oyunohara is marked by the largest Torii shrine gate in the world (33.9 meters tall and 42 meters wide). It is a formalized gateway that designates the entrance to a sacred area and signifies the division of the secular and the spiritual worlds.
BUS FROM HONGU TO KII-KATSUURA STATION (Kumano Kotsu)
Depart: 15:20 Hongu Taisha-mae
Arrive: 16:44 Kii-Katsuura Station
Busses depart from in front of the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center.
PRICE: 1950 yen
VISIT KATSUURAKatsuura Onsen is a fishing port on the rugged Pacific coastline.
This coastal village famous for its hot spring baths and world-class seafood.
OVERNIGHT IN KATSUURAThere are a diversity of Ryokan, Minshuku, and Guesthouses in Katsuura, so with coastal views, and many with hot spring baths.
Walk Kumano Kodo, Daimonzaka, Return to Osaka
DAY 3 OVERVIEWDAY THREE is a visit in the morning to the Nachi Shrine-temple complex including a short walk on the scenic Daimon-zaka slope culminating at the Nachi waterfall, the tallest in Japan.
In the afternoon transfer next destination.
Leave luggage at accommodation or in the coin lockers next to the Kii-Katsuura station.
BUS FROM KATSUURA TO DAIMONZAKA (Kumano Kotsu)
Depart: 8:25 Kii-Katsuura
Arrive: 8:44 Daimonzaka
PRICE: 420 yen
NOTE: At Daimonzaka bus stop are toilets and vending machines.
WALK KUMANO KODO - DAIMON-ZAKA
Distance: ~2 km
Time: ~1 hr
Elevation Gain: ~190 m
Elevation Loss: ~460 m
The Daimon-zaka is a short but scenic cobblestone staircase rising out of the valley lined with ancient trees.
NOTE: The distance and time above is only from the base of the valley to the Shrine-temple complex. There is more descent to the waterfall base and Nachi-no-Taki-mae bus stop.
VISIT KUMANO NACHI TAISHAOne of the three grand shrines, Kumano Nachi Taisha is located halfway up Nachi Mountain, about 350 meters above sea level.
It has its religious origin in the ancient nature worship of Nachi-no-Otaki falls.
The branches of a giant camphor shades the roof of the worship hall.
VISIT SEIGANTO-JISeiganto-ji temple was founded in the early 5th century and is one of the oldest buildings in the region.
The view from the temple grounds is dramatic, featuring a pagoda with the falls as a backdrop.
VISIT NACHI FALLSNachi-no-Otaki is 133 meters high and 13 meters wide - the tallest waterfall in Japan.
It's water source is the surrounding broad-leaf evergreen primeval forest, a sanctuary that has been protected since ancient times, used for ascetic training by mountain monks who practice Shugendo, a mixed religion of foreign and indigenous beliefs.
BUS FROM NACHI TO KATSUURA (Kumano Kotsu)
Depart: 11:46 Nachi-no-Taki-mae
Arrive: 12:10 Kii-Katsuura
PRICE: 620 yen
LUNCHThere are a diversity of small restaurants near the station. Ask at the tourist information office in the Kii-Katsuura station.
TRAIN FROM KII-KATSUURA TO SHIN-OSAKA (JR Kuroshio 22)Depart: 13:05 Kii-Katsuura
Arrive: 16:50 Shin-Osaka
TIP: Sit on the lefthand side of the train for the best coastal views.
OTHER OPTIONSThere are a few options after the trek including the following:
1. Staying another night in the Katsuura area and visit Kumano Hayatama Taisha in Shingu.
2. Head east up the coast towards Ise and Nagoya.
3. Stay in Kushimoto area to enjoy the rugged coast line.