Kumano Pilgrimage Trail
A journey of a thousand years
Day 1 - 26th May: Kyoto
For those arriving in Japan today, please make your way to our hotel for an evening tour briefing and opportunity to meet with Nicky and the others in your group. For those that wish to spend time pre- tour in other parts of Japan, Nicky is happy to provide suggestions on how best to maximise your holiday.
Day 2 - 27th May: Kyoto Highlights
We head out after breakfast for a full day exploring Kyoto. Kyoto is a great city to travel by bicycle and we will hire bikes for a flat and easy cycle around some of Kyotos famous landmarks, including a visit to Kinkakuji-the Golden Pavilion and Arashiyama’s famous bamboo forest in Western Kyoto.
At Arashiyama there will be time to visit Tenryuji Temple with its famous landscaped garden, or simply relax beside the beautiful Hozu River and watch the river boats glide past. You can also explore the number of small local shops selling snacks and icecreams and grab a bite to eat or a coffee before we head back to the centre of town.
This evening, we will regroup at the hotel and head out for an optional dinner at a local restaurant for an opportunity to sample some traditional fare, and a few local beverages.
Meals included: B
Day 3 - 28th May: Kyoto - Tanabe - Takahara
Total walking: Approx. 4km over 2-3 hours, Elevation: Start at 100m (328ft) and end at 310m (1,017ft) , Highest elevation: 361m (1,184ft), Total ascent: 357m (1,171ft)
This morning we meet with our local walk guide and transfer together from Kyoto to Tanabe by train. We then journey to the start of our walk and the Kumano Kodo proper. Our climb from Takajiri-Oji to Takahara is short in terms of distance, but relatively steep, and we will allow at least two hours to reach the open ridge line from where remarkable views of the mountainous peninsula can be enjoyed. Reminders of the old highway, including Buddhist statues, line our route.
Our accommodation tonight is Takahara, a rural hamlet, noted for its ancient shrine surrounded by giant kusu-no-ki, or camphor, trees.
Meals included: B D
Day 4 - 29th May: Takahara - Tsugizakura - Yunomine Onsen
Total walking: Approx. 13km, 5 - 6 hours, Elevation: Start at 310m (1,017ft) and end at 502m (1,647ft) Highest elevation: 711m (2,333ft) Total ascent: 1047m (3,435ft)
After breakfast, we leave Takahara on foot heading further into the mountains along the old trail. We continue to pass by reminders of the old highway, including an ichirizuka distance marker, before arriving at our lunch spot, which serves local delicacies.
Continuing on, we crest the Hashiori-Toge pass after a short climb. At the top of the pass is an unusual statue of an emperor sitting astride both a horse and cow. Our descent takes us along a cobbled path and staircase to Chikatsuyu, a small village. Our final stretch of the day takes us on a climb to Tsugizakura-Oji, famed for giant cedar trees and a thirst-quenching spring. From here we transfer by vehicle to Yunomine Onsen, where we stay for two nights. The onsen thermal hot spring baths are an important part of the tradition in Yunomine with pilgrims performing hot water purification rituals in preparation for visiting the Grand shrine of Hongu Taisha itself. For us, the onsen provide us with a fabulous way to slake off the day’s exertions before enjoying our sumptuous evening meal, created from local ingredients
Meals included: B,D
Day 5 - 30th May: Yunomine Onsen - Hongu Taisha - Yunomine Onsen
Total walking: Approx. 14.2km, Elevation: Start at 502m (1,647ft) and end at 65m (213ft) Highest elevation: 662m (2,172ft) Total ascent: 1078m (3,537ft)
Following breakfast at our inn, we set out from our accommodation and quickly find ourselves deep in forest following the trail across mountain ridges and through isolated village communities. Panoramic views are afforded us at many points on our walk and at Fushiogami we gain our first view below of the giant torii gate of Hongu Taisha shrine.
Our path descends to the Taisha. In contrast to its torii, which is an imposing structure towering 33.9 metres high above us, the Taisha is composed of simple, elegant buildings that are seemingly at one with the surrounding, verdant forests. From Hongu a vehicle transfers us the short distance back to our accommodation at Yunomine Onsen.
Meals included: B,L,D
Day 6 - 31st May: Yunomine - Nachi Taisha - Kii Katsuura
Total walking: Approx. 8km Elevation: Start at 800m (2,625ft) and end at 321m (1,053ft)
A short road transfer takes us to the start of our walk this morning. The trail takes us through forests and along ridges, the path ascending and descending, until we reach the top, from where we can see over mountains to the Pacific Ocean. We then descend to Nachi Taisha shrine, Seiganto-ji temple and the spectacular Nachi-no Otaki waterfalls, which have an uninterrupted drop of 133 metres.
We transfer by vehicle to Kii-Katsuura on the Pacific Ocean coast. Here we stay the night in a modern hotel complex with onsen hot springs baths for us to luxuriate yet again.
Meals included: B,D
Day 7 - 1st June: Kii Katsuura - Shingu - Tokyo
Total walking: Approx. 5km over 3- 4 hrs. Elevation: Start at 15m (49ft) and end at 11m (36ft). Highest elevation: 510m (1,673ft). Total ascent: 130m (427ft).
A relaxed day compared to yesterday’s exertions. Nevertheless, an early start for those who wish to visit the local fish market, if it is open, to observe the largest tuna auction in Japan. (The auction is dependent on the weather, which can preclude fishing boats leaving harbour, and also holidays).
We return to our hotel for breakfast, before taking a local train to nearby Shingu, where the last of the three Kumano Shrines, Hayatama Taisha, is found. The final climb of our tour is a short but very steep ascent of Mt. Gongen to Gotobiki Iwa, a giant rock that is revered as a natural deity.
We say goodbye to our local guide at Shingu Station. Express trains connect Shingu to Nagoya where onward Shinkansen Bullet Trains will speed us to Tokyo for the last part of our stay in Japan.
On arrival in Tokyo we will make our way to our hotel in the Ginza and relax for the evening. Those that wish to venture out for a meal will find plenty of choices nearby and Nicky can help you with suggestions.
Day 8 - 2nd June: Exploring Tokyo.
It is our last full day in Japan and we will head out to explore Tokyo after breakfast with a short walk from our hotel to the grounds of the Imperial Palace.
The Tokyo Imperial Palace is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan and is built on the site of the old Edo castle. The total area is 3.41 square kilometres. We will explore the grounds of the palace, which provide a calm oasis surrounded by the skyscrapers of modern Tokyo.
From here we will head to Ueno where you can choose to make a visit to the National Museum to view the largest collection of national treasures and important cultural items in the country, or Ueno Zoo to see the zoo’s most popular residents, the giant pandas.
From here it’s on to Ameyoko-cho, one of Tokyos oldest street markets, with a fascinating array of greengrocers, fishmongers and tea shops as well as shops selling souvenirs, bags and jewellery. We will make time for a lunch stop here and you can make your choice from one of the noodle bars or cafes nearby.
From here, with the remaining time we have left to us today, we will branch out to visit other parts of Tokyo on the Yamanote loop line train and complete one final circuit of this fascinating city.
This evening we will group together to enjoy a meal at a local Izakaya (Japanese style pub), with a chance to share a few sakes and reflect on our journey. (Additional cost)
Meals included: B
Day 9 - 3 June: Tokyo
Our tour ends after breakfast today. For those returning home today on an evening flight, the morning is free to take in some last minute sights, such as the nearby Kabuki-za Theatre or do a spot of shopping on the Ginza before catching the Narita Express to Narita Airport to make your journey home.
If you wish to stay on and explore Japan further, Nicky will be happy to help with suggestions on how to extend your time in Japan.