Japan's Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage
The UNESCO World Heritage trek
By Kat Davis
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.
SeasonsSpring 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.
CentresTanabe, Hongu, Shingu, Nachisan, Nachi-Katsuura, Koyasan, Owase, Kumano
DifficultyNo 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 SeeThe 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
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 with planning, 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.
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Originally from Melbourne, after graduating from university, Kat moved to Japan. Working as an adventure tour guide in Japan helped Kat develop her skills to seek out the local hotspots and also develop a love for hiking. 'A wise man climbs Mt Fuji, a fool climbs it twice' is a popular Japanese saying, so Kat climbed it 7 times. From Japan to Canada to London, she quit her office job in 2013 to walk the Camino de Santiago and has never looked back. She completed seven Caminos and walked over 10,000km in Spain, Portugal, England, Italy, Japan and America, including the 4240km Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.Sadly Kat's life was cut short in early 2020. She is fondly remembered for her meticulous work, inspiration and energy.View author profile
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