Tori gate Hongu Start of the Kumano Forests of the Kumano forest shrine kimono Japanese style room japanese style dinner yunomine hot springs Nachi shrine

Hiking the Kumano Kodo

The Imperial Pilgrimage Routes of Japan


Trip Details

Location Kii Peninsula, Japan
Length 14 days
Grades Moderate, Strenuous
Accommodations Hotel, Small Inn, Ryokan
Group size 6 - 10
Dates Oct 16, 2022 - Oct 29, 2022  
Land Cost $6,750.00
Single Supp Cost $800.00

Hiking Trip Summary

Extending out into the Pacific Ocean just south of Osaka and Kyoto, the southern mountainous region of the Kii Peninsula was once referred to as Kumano and regarded as a mystical “holy ground where gods dwell.” A region of spiritual and cultural significance, it was here at Gotobiki Rock that the three “spirits of nature”, or kami, were thought to have alighted from heaven to reside on earth. And, it was here that Jimmu, the first Emperor of Japan and descendent of Amaterasu the sun goddess, is thought to have been guided through the mountains by the mythical three-legged crow of the Kumano on his quest to unite the country.

Over the centuries, the three Grand Shires of Hongu-Taisha, Hayatama-Taisha, and Nachi-Taisha were constructed to honor each of the kami and the Kumano faith evolved as an embracing of both a Shinto reverence for the sacred in nature and the arrival of Buddhist teaching. Imperial pilgrimages to the three grand shires, known collectively as the Kumano Sanzan, began in the 11th century. Starting in the ancient city of Kyoto, these journeys would often take 30 – 40 days and require an entourage of up to 800 people. 

While the popularity and accessibly of these pilgrimage routes have ebbed and flowed throughout the ages, today the Kumano Kodo (Kodo meaning “old ways”) is recognized as one of only two UNESCO World Heritage-listed pilgrimage routes. 

During this 14-day journey, beginning in Osaka and ending in Kyoto, we’ll experience the historical, cultural, and spiritual significance of the Kii Peninsula as we follow the old imperial ways to the sacred sites of the Kumano region. 

From Osaka, we’ll travel south to Mount Koya, the home of the Shingon (Pure Word) Sect of Esoteric Buddhism. After spending the night in one of the 117 temples in the area, we head south deeper into the Kii Mountains where we’ll hike the Nakahechi, one of the Kumano Kodo routes to the Three Grand Shrines. After visiting the village of Yoshino home to the Kimpusenji Temple, we’ll head out of the mountains to the ancient capital city of Nara, stopping en route to hike along historic Yamanobe-no-Michi. Our journey will end with a day spent in the cosmopolitan and truly fascinating city of Kyoto.

Along the way, we’ll immerse of selves in the Japanese way of travel, staying in old-world traditional Japanese inns called ryokan, bathing in hot spring onsens, and perfecting our chopstick skills as we enjoy classic Japanese cuisine. Join us for an unforgettable journey through this remote and mystical corner of Japan!

 


Itinerary

Show itinerary

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Additional Information

SINGLE TRAVELERS

If you wish to have your own room, a single supplement charge will apply.  If you are traveling alone and would like to share a room, we will do our best to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If there is no one with whom you can share, there will be a “forced” single charge of $400 will apply.

  • Note: Some of the smaller inns may only have a limited number of single rooms available. It may be on these occasions that those who have opted for single rooms may have to share. 

INCLUDED

  • All accommodations
  • All meals
  • All group transfers from start to end of the tour as described in the itinerary, by private vehicle or train
  • Luggage transfers
  • Guides
  • Entries and activities as specified in the itinerary
  • Great hiking and happy memories!

NOT INCLUDED

Airfare, optional/individual transfers or excursions, items not on set dinner menu, beverages, insurance, tips to guides/leaders, items of personal nature (phone calls, laundry, excess baggage charge, passport fees, etc.). 

LUGGAGE

The trip is vehicle-supported. This means most days you will need only carry a daypack with those items you will need during the day’s hike. Each day, our luggage will be transported ahead to our night's accommodation, with the exception of Day 2 when we will be staying at a Shukubo temple. We suggest a 30-liter pack or one large enough for those additional items you will need for our night at the temple.  We ask that each participant bring one medium size piece of luggage, preferably with wheels. Japanese inns tend to have narrow corridors and steps rather than elevators, so bear this in mind.

ACCOMMODATIONS AND FACILITIES

We will be staying at a range of accommodations during this trip, including hotels, temples, and ryokans. Some of our accommodations may be western-style while others will be more traditional Japanese inns called ryokans. When possible, we will “go Japanese” staying in Japanese-style rooms. These rooms are usually spacious and double occupancy with woven tatami mat floors, low tables, and futon beds with warm comforters. 

Most accommodations will be “ensuite” with shower/bath and toilet facilities in the room; others will have shared facilities on the floor. Some ryokan may have baths or showers in the room, but most will have an onsen or o-furo (Japanese-style bath). Most accommodations will provide yukata, simple cotton robes, used for wear to the onsen, and meals. Meals at the ryokans may be served at low tables with seating on pillows on the floor. Slippers are generally provided at the entrance of the accommodation for use everywhere, except for in tatami rooms. You might like to bring your own (probably more comfortable!) slippers.

Rooms are double/twin occupancy unless a single is requested. Single rooms cannot always be guaranteed in temples and ryokan, but we will endeavor to secure these where possible. 

Japanese Baths: Japanese baths (o-furo) and natural hot springs (onsen) offer a unique and wonderful cultural experience if sometimes a challenge for the unprepared! 
A centuries’ old tradition, there is a three-step process to taking a Japanese bath. Communal o-furo and onsen will have a changing room, a shower room, and the bath or hot spring. All clothing and belongings are left in individual baskets or lockers in the changing room. Showering with soap and thoroughly rinsing is done before entering the bath “au naturel” to relax. Baths are always separated into men’s and women’s areas. 

There are 3 days on this trip where accommodations have shared bathing and toilet facilities; Days 4, 5, and 6. This is not uncommon in traditional inns in Japan. 

On Days 4 and 5, our accommodation in Yunomine Onsen has a private outdoor hot spring tub for use by lodgers. There is also an indoor, shared (segregated) hot spring bath. The shared toilets facilities are spotless, of course, have cubicles, and are adjacent to the rooms across a corridor. 

The accommodation on Day 6 is an old school that has been converted. The facilities here are simple but adequate and perfectly clean. There are shared (segregated) baths with separate male/female toilets. Small wash towels are generally provided for bathing use at each accommodation.

On a couple of other days when we stay at ryokan, where you will have both private facilities as well as the option of enjoying the communal hot spring baths.

Meals: The Japanese diet is quite different from ours. Most meals, including traditional Japanese breakfasts, consist of rice, miso soup, tofu, fish, and an amazing array of small dishes of pickled vegetables, and vegetables in broth. Sashimi, raw fish, or sushi may be served as well as other meat dishes.  Western-style breakfasts may be available at some of our accommodations. Delicious Japanese food is definitely a highlight of this tour. Brush up on your chopstick skills! Some meals will be in tatami mat rooms with low tables, again traditional in Japan.

TRAVEL

Osaka’s Kansai International Airport is most convenient to the start and end of the trip. It is also possible to fly in and out of Tokyo, you need only allow for additional travel time.

MEETING POINT

The group will meet at about 6:00 pm on Day 1 at our hotel in central Osaka. 

ENDING POINT

The trip will end after breakfast at our hotel in Kyoto on the last day of the trip, Day 14. Rail transfer to Kansai International Airport from Kyoto is easy and direct, taking about 70 minutes. Access is more or less directly from the train platform into the airport.

ABOUT THIS TRIP

Our Hiking the Kumano Kodo trip is a new trip for us this year, and we are happy to be working in collaboration with Bob Hefill, a professional freelance translator and founder of Hike Japan. Bob has been organizing and running trips in Japan since 2003 and is eager to infuse our trip with his knowledge of and enthusiasm for Japan and its culture. For those interested in joining us on this inaugural trip, don't forget to bring along your flexibility, good humor, and love of adventure and discovery!

WHO WOULD LIKE THIS TRIP

This trip is as much a cultural experience as it is a hiking and walking trip. It would be a fabulous experience for any fit, active traveler, but especially so for experienced hikers who have hiked in other parts of the world but have yet to travel to Japan. While the hiking routes may not feel as remote or landscapes as expansive as those in the Rockies or European Alps, the cultural aspect adds an intriguing and captivating dimension. Very basic things, like eating and sleeping, can be quite different in Japan. Breakfast might look very much like dinner, and getting up and down off a futon can be an interesting new exercise. The Japanese are generally extremely polite and respectful. Certain social etiquettes require more mindful attention and others, such as bathing at hot springs, less inhibition. An openness and willingness to try new things is an essential and rewarding part of this journey.

WHAT MAKES THIS TRIP DIFFERENT

Many things! The tour is designed to give you great hiking experiences as well as insights into Japanese history and culture. The itinerary focuses on imperial pilgrimages, with visits to many of the most important sacred sites in the Kii Peninsula. The other destinations we’ll visit - Yoshino, Asuka, Nara, and Kyoto, are all significant in gaining a good understanding of pilgrimage routes in this part of Japan and how Japanese culture developed in the Yamato area around Asuka, Nara, and Kyoto. We’ll gain insights into Japanese culture other visitors rarely have. Highly experienced guides, carefully chosen lodgings, some with onsen - wonderful natural hot spring baths, delicious Japanese food, all contribute to making this tour truly special.

MORE INFORMATION

Please contact us for a more detailed itinerary, for more information, or to register

Reserving This Trip

A deposit of $500 along with your completed registration forms will reserve a space on your requested trip. We accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express card as well as personal checks. To make a deposit, you may either follow one of the “Reserve a Trip” links below, give us a call at 1-888-845-5781, or include your payment information in the area provided when completing your registration forms.

The balance is due 75 days prior to departure for most of our trips. When applying less than 75 days prior to departure, full payment is due. For final payments, we accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express, as well as personal checks.

As confirmation of receipt of your deposit, we will send you a comprehensive packet of information pertaining to your trip, an invoice for final payment and additional information including release agreement form, medical information form, travel information, and packing list. Upon receipt of final payment and no later than 30 days prior to your trip start, you will receive trip rendezvous information and a list of accommodations. Returning trip participants will receive a 5% discount on most trips.

Receipt of all forms will finalize your registration.

Reserve Your Spot


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