Kumano Kodo and Koyasan Tour Overview
Since ancient times the “Kumano” has been considered a place of healing; a sacred, mystical abode of the gods.
On this tour, just over one week in length, walk the sacred Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail to the revered shrines of the Kumano and visit Koyasan; for over 1200 years the home of Shingon Buddhism. Both the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail and its shrines and Koyasan (or Mt Koya) are included in UNESCO’s World Heritage listing as “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountain Range”. Koyasan and the Kumano Kodo are located on the Kii peninsula, the largest peninsula on the island of Honshu, not far from where we start our tour in Japan’s second largest city of Osaka.
After leaving Osaka, we travel by train high into the Kii mountain range to Koyasan, home of Shingon Buddhism and more than 100 Buddhist temples for over 1200 years. A highlight of the time we spend at Koyasan is an atmospheric night walk along a stone lantern lit path through Okunoin, Japan’s largest Buddhist cemetery.
From Koyasan, our private bus takes us to Takijiri oji where we commence our Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail passes through mountains and forests and alongside streams to the revered Kumano “Sanzen”; the three grand Shinto shrines of the Kumano. The trail is mainly through forest with magnificent views to mountain ranges and to the ocean. On occasions the trail passes through rural hamlets, rice paddies, orange groves and small tea plantations.
The Kumano Kodo is demanding and some will find it quite challenging. Over four and a half days we hike about 70 kilometres, with a number of steep ascents and descents. The first 40 kilometres takes two and half days as we walk into the mountains to the main shrine; Kumano Hongu Taisha. From there we walk a further two days to Nachi Taisha, the second of the grand Kumano shrines. Nachi Taisha is situated on a mountain slope with views to the Pacific, with the highest waterfall in Japan forming a spectacular backdrop. On the longer or more challenging days we offer options to reduce the amount of walking.
We stay in a variety of traditional Japanese accommodation along the walk, bathe in hot spring fed “onsens” and are treated to the meticulously prepared regional cuisine. At Koyasan we stay in a Buddhist temple and enjoy “Shojin Ryori” vegetarian meals. Along the walk we carry only a day pack and our luggage is shuttled each day to our accommodation.
The Kumano and Koyasan are both highly significant from a cultural and religious stand point, but it is not necessary to have any particular interest in the history of Japanese religions to enjoy these beautiful and still relatively rarely visited areas.