Rating & Reviews
This highlight itinerary visits all three Grand Shrines (Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha & Kumano Nachi Taisha), one each day, with short and scenic highlight walks around each shrine.
A traditional boat tour on the Kumano-gawa river leads to Shingu, offering an alternative perspective of the environment.
Overnight at three different hot spring village in the mountains (Yunomine Onsen & Kawayu Onsen) and on the coast (Katsuura Onsen) while dining on delicious local cuisine.
Route: Osaka | Tanabe | Kawayu Onsen | Yunomine Onsen | Katsuura | Hongu | Nachisan | Osaka
Duration: 4 days & 3 nights (2.5 days with short walks)
Overnight: Kawayu Onsen, Yunomine Onsen, Katsuura
Overall Level: Highlight/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, Day 4=1.5
What is walking difficulty?
Recommended For: Those who want to experience the highlights of the Kumano Kodo with short walks focused in each of the three Kumano Sanzan Grand Shrines areas.
|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 Kumano Hongu Taisha (~7.5 km, 2~3 hr)
Bus from Hongu to Yunomine Onsen (~20 min)
Stay in Yunomine Onsen
- DAY 3
Bus from Yunomine Onsen to Boat Tour Center (~40 min)
Traditional Boat Ride on Kumano-gawa River (~1.5 hr)
Walk to Kamikura-jinja (~3 km, 1~2 hr)
Train/bus from Shingu to Kii-Katsuura (~20 min)
Stay in Katsuura
- DAY 4
Bus from Kii-Katsuura to Daimon-zaka (~20 min)
Walk Kumano Kodo Daimon-zaka (~1.5 km, ~1 hr)
Bus from Nachi to Kii-Katsuura (~30 min)
Train from Kii-Katsuura to Shin-Osaka
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 rich history.
Stay in traditional accommodationTry a traditional Ryokan inn and/or family run guesthouse.
Eat local cuisineImmerse yourself in Japan’s countryside culinary traditions.
Overnight in Yunomine OnsenJapan's spiritual hot spring intimately connected with Kumano culture.
Traditional boat tourTravel like pilgrims past on Kumano-gawa River.
Visit Kumano Hayatama TaishaOne of the three Kumano grand shrines.
Visit Katsuura OnsenHot spring fishing port on Pacific coast.
Experience Daimon-zakaScenic cobblestone staircase lined by ancient trees.
Visit Kumano Nachi TaishaHome to Japan’s tallest waterfall.
BEFORE YOUR VISIT
Preparation 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 VISIT
The 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.
There 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.
The 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-GUIDED
This 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
There 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.
Immersing 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 OVERVIEW
DAY 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: 9:03 Shin-Osaka
Depart: 9:21 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 CENTER
This 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 CENTER
The 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.
Drop 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.
At 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: 14:44 Kawayu Onsen
Busses depart from bus stop two in front of the station.
PRICE: 1930 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 ONSEN
There 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: Yunomine Onsen
DAY 2 OVERVIEW
DAY 2 is a walk the climax section of the Kumano Kodo. The trail from Hosshinmon-oji to Hongu is popular with a diversity of forested trail and settlement scenery.
Visit Kumano Hongu Taisha and Yunomine Onsen.
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.
Leave luggage at accommodation.
BUS FROM KAWAYU ONSEN TO HOSSHINMON-OJI (Ryujin Bus)
Depart: 8:07 Kawayu Onsen
Arrive: 8:37 Hosshinmon-oji
PRICE: 520 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.
VISIT KUMANO HONGU TAISHA
One 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.
Picnic lunch along trail or at restaurant in Hongu.
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.
WALK KUMANO KODO - HONGU TO YUNOMINE ONSEN - DAINICHI-GOE
Distance: ~2 km
Time: 1~2 hr
Elevation Gain: ~250 m
Elevation Loss: ~190 m
The Dainichi-goe route is a short but relatively steep trail over Mt. Dainichi that links the Hongu village with Yunomine Onsen.
The trailhead is at the southend of Hongu.
BUS FROM HONGU TAISHA TO YUNOMINE ONSEN
Depart: 15:05 Hongu Taisha-mae
Arrive: 15:24 Yunomine Onsen
Busses depart from in front of the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center.
PRICE: 310 yen
NOTE: After the 16:58 bus there is a long wait until the next one.
VISIT YUNOMINE ONSEN
Yunomine Onsen is one of the oldest hot springs in Japan and directly connected with the Kumano Kodo. It is a quaint little collection of inns tucked into a small valley.
Tsuboyu is an historic bath which was used by pilgrims past to purify themselves with the hot water. Tickets are sold at the booth next to the temple.
OVERNIGHT IN YUNOMINE ONSEN
There is a diversity of accommodations in Yunomine Onsen such as Ryokan inns, Minshuku lodgings, each with their own hot spring baths.
Traditional Boat Tour
Overnight: Katsuura area
DAY 3 OVERVIEW
DAY THREE journeys on the Kumano-gawa on a traditional flat bottom boat retracing the historic Kumano Kodo water pilgrimage route.
Visit Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Katsuura Onsen, a coastal hot spring fishing village famous for its hot springs.
Leave luggage at accommodation.
BUS FROM YUNOMINE ONSEN TO BOAT TOUR CENTERDepart: 8:31 Yunomine Onsen
Arrive: 9:08 Michi-no-Eki Kumano-gawa
PRICE: 950 yen
TRADITIONAL BOAT RIDE ON KUMANO-GAWA 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.
Picnic lunch or at restaurant in Shingu.
TIP: Kamikura-jinja is a nice spot for a picnic lunch.
Gotobiki-iwa, a gigantic rock located halfway up Gongen Mountain, is revered as a deity and is the site where the Kumano deities are first believed to have descended.
At the base of this monolith is a shrine called Kamikura-jinja with views of Shingu.
TRAIN FROM SHINGU TO KATSUURA (JR local)Depart: 15:30 Shingu
Arrive: 15:53 Kii-Katsuura
TIP: Sit on the lefthand side of the train for the best coastal views.
Katsuura 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 KATSUURA
There 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 4 OVERVIEW
DAY FOUR 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: 430 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 TAISHA
One 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.
Seiganto-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 FALLS
Nachi-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: 11:44 Nachi-no-Taki-mae
Arrive: 12:08 Kii-Katsuura
PRICE: 630 yen
There 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 OSAKA (JR Kuroshio 20)
Depart: 13:05 Kii-Katsuura
Arrive: 16:49 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 to enjoy some downtime to recuperate from the walk.
2. Head east up the coast towards Ise and Nagoya.
3. Stay in Kushimoto area to enjoy the rugged coast line.