Japan's Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage

The UNESCO World Heritage trek

By Kat Davis

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Guidebook to walking Japan's Kumano Kodo, a network of ancient pilgrimage trails on the Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka. Covering the Nakahechi, Kohechi and Iseji trails, as well as Koyasan and the Choishimichi route, the guide has all the practical information needed, along with notes on the routes' rich history and culture.



Spring and late autumn are best, although the Nakahechi can be walked year-round. Summer is humid and wet. Expect snow in winter at higher elevations such as Koyasan, and a dusting at lower altitudes.


Tanabe, Hongu, Shingu, Nachisan, Nachi-Katsuura, Koyasan, Owase, Kumano


No specialist equipment is required on any of these trails, however sturdy hiking shoes/boots, trekking poles, wet-weather gear and a good level of fitness are necessary. The Kohechi is a mountain trail recommended for experienced hikers only. Many of the trails feature moss-covered flagstone paths, intricate tree roots and steep ascents and descents.
Must See

Must See

The three grand shrines of Kumano, Koyasan spiritual complex, coastal views from Gotobiki-iwa rock and Funami-chaya teahouse remains, the Hyakken-gura sea of mountains, Obako-toge summit, Hatenashi settlement, historic ishitatami flagstone paths, traditional Japanese inns, delicious local cuisine, hot-spring bathing
Not Yet Published
15 Apr 2019
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.4cm
  • Overview

    Guidebook to Japan's Kumano Kodo, a series of UNESCO-listed pilgrimage routes that crisscross the mountainous Kii peninsula, south of Osaka. Centred on three Shinto-Buddhist shrines known as the Kumano Sanzan, the ancient trails blend great hiking and exceptional natural beauty with a unique insight into Japan's rich history, culture and spirituality. The guide covers the 64km Nakahechi and 63km Kohechi trails in full, as well as the Choishimichi route to Koyasan (20km), the Hongu loop (17km) and highlights of the Iseji trail. It can be used to plan and undertake an independent trek or to enrich an organised tour.

    Clear route description and mapping is accompanied by comprehensive details of accommodation and facilities, as well as notes on local points of interest and inspirational colour photography. You'll find a wealth of practical information to help plan your trip, covering transport, climate, accommodation, budgeting, equipment and safety, as well as fascinating background information on history, religion and wildlife. There is also a Japanese glossary and helpful advice on Japanese customs and etiquette.

    The Kumano Kodo offers a different view of Japan: far removed from the modern cities, this is a world of forested slopes, hidden valleys, waterfalls, traditional villages, moss-covered stone deities and tranquil oji shrines. There are opportunities to experience hot-spring bathing and to sample local cuisine as you follow in the footsteps of emperors, samurai, priests and ascetics traversing traditional flagstone paths and forest trails.

    To celebrate both the trails and those who travel them, the Kumano Kodo and Spain's Camino de Santiago were twinned: if you complete both you can register as a 'dual pilgrim'.

  • Contents

    Japanese spirituality
    The pilgrimage trails
    Dual Pilgrim status
    Group travel or independent?
    Getting there
    Getting around
    When to go
    Food and drink
    Post, phones and internet
    Cultural etiquette
    Hiking in Japan
    What to take
    Luggage transfers
    Maps and GPS
    Staying healthy and safe
    Using this guide
    The three grand shrines and Koyasan
    Kumano Hongu Taisha
    Kumano Hayatama Taisha
    Kumano Nachi Taisha
    Hongu and surrounding area
    Route 1 Hongu loop walk (including Dainichi-goe and Akagi-goe)
    Nakahechi 中辺路
    Route 2 Nakahechi route
    Stage 1 Takijiri-oji to Nonaka
    Stage 2 Nonaka to Kumano Hongu Taisha
    Stage 3 Kogumotori-goe route: Ukegawa to Koguchi
    Stage 4 Ogumotori-goe route: Koguchi to Kumano Nachi Taisha
    Koyasan 高野山 – Choishimichi 町石道
    Route 3 Choishimichi route
    Kohechi 小辺路
    Route 4 Kohechi route
    Stage 1 Koyasan to Omata
    Stage 2 Omata to Miura-guchi
    Stage 3 Miura-guchi to Yanagimoto-bashi suspension bridge
    Stage 4 Yanagimoto-bashi suspension bridge to Kumano Hongu Taisha
    Iseji highlights 伊勢路
    Route 5 Magose-toge Pass
    Route 6 Matsumoto-toge Pass

    Appendix A Facilities tables
    Appendix B Glossary
    Appendix C Useful contacts
    Appendix D Further reading

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