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.
Kumano Kodo Testimonials
After almost a month in Japan where we loved every day experiencing a range of fun activities, for me the highlight was the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage trail that Carolyn and Alison guided so wonderfully. From the very beginning we knew we were in good hands. Any questions or concerns we had were expertly dealt with before, during and after the walk. Carolyn and Alison are a great team. They complement each other and to have two guides for a group of nine was such a bonus. Their love and knowledge of Japan, attention to detail, reassuring and patient ways and an ability to form a cohesive and happy group despite the differing ages and walking abilities led to a very memorable walk and new found friendships. The guides have over the years formed great relationships with the local people along the trail and we were made to feel so welcome at all of the fabulous and diverse accommodations. A major highlight of the walk was not only the beautiful scenery but the carefully prepared healthy and delicious food at every stop. This is much more than a walk. It is a wonderful cultural and gourmet experience in a safe and happy environment. I will certainly be recommending Kumano Camino tours to friends and family. Thank you Carolyn and Alison for the great adventure.November 2019 | Kumano Kodo Autumn Tour
We had a really enjoyable trip to Japan (as all our friends said we would!) but the highlight was undoubtedly the Koyasan and Kumano Kodo walk. We enjoyed the opportunity to see and even participate in a side of Japan that many who follow the usual tourist routes would not see close-up: the forests, the hills, rural life and hospitality, the practice of traditional Buddhist and Shinto rites and much more. We had the opportunity to learn aspects of Japan’s history and some of its religions and customs. All of this was made available to us in a seamless, no-fuss manner although no doubt there was a lot of work done beforehand and behind the scenes with great attention to detail to ensure it ran so smoothly. Briefing notes were provided each evening along with a short discussion to help us prepare for the next day’s walk. All we had to do each day was rise, dress, eat and walk! The meals were a highlight for us. At the end of each day (and sometimes in the middle of them) there were culinary treats that introduced us to the variety and delicacy of healthy Japanese cuisine. Some of these were prepared by local people that Carolyn and Alison had developed special friendships with during their many trips to the area so we experienced plenty of warm Japanese hospitality. The mood of the group was relaxed and encouraging, very much a reflection of the way Carolyn and Alison run their tours. Individual concerns and needs were dealt with sympathetically and positively. Their enthusiasm for Japan was infectious. Getting the group together before leaving Australia – in person or via Skype – was a welcome way to break the ice and help manage everyone’s expectations. So, many thanks to you Carolyn and Alison. I can’t really think of much I’d want to change. We even had perfect autumn weather! I’d recommend the tour to anybody interested in experiencing a different side of the culture, traditions and cuisine of Japan.November 2019 | Kumano Kodo Autumn Tour
The Kumano Kodo was everything I hoped for and more. Great Japanese food, lovely traditional accommodation and a relaxing Onsen at the end of every day. Carolyn and Alison were very supportive, knowledgeable, both speak fluent Japanese, complement each other and are a lot of fun. Having 2 guides is a definite asset for the varying levels of fitness in the group. The walk is challenging in parts, but the beauty and peacefulness make it well worth the effort.April 2016 | Kumano Kodo Spring Tour
The Kumano Kodo experience highlights totally different aspects of Japan. Whilst some sections of the walk were challenging, the scenery was nothing short of spectacular, the food was fabulous, & the hosts in the various locations were extremely accommodating. The temple experience in Koyasan is a definite must. The guides had good knowledge of the area & local customs.April 2016 | Kumano Kodo Spring Tour
The Kumano Kodo walk was one of the happiest of holidays. The scenery is spectacular and so tranquil. We were provided with daily briefings and every day was a new experience. The walk is challenging at times. Having two guides offers the flexibility for guests to walk at their own pace. I would highly recommend this guided walk.November 2015 | Kumano Kodo Autumn Tour
Walking the Kumano Kodo was one of the best holidays I have ever had. The walk was certainly tough but the sights, the company and the great food and accommodation made every day worth the challenge. Alison and Carolyn were wonderfully knowledgeable and accommodating guides. Pre-trip and daily briefings provided all the information that I needed. It was an immersion into Japanese culture combined with a physical challenge that I enjoyed enormously. Alison and Carolyn love to share what they love about Japan and they are fun and engaging host(esses)!November 2015 | Kumano Kodo Autumn Tour
We had an awesome time walking through spectacular landscapes culminating each night with an exquisite feast of locally grown food, and relaxing in the onsen. Thanks to our very caring and knowledgeable guides, Alison and Carolyn, who made our experience so memorable.April 2015 | Kumano Kodo Spring Tour
Thank you Alison and Carolyn. This was a great introduction to Japanese walking and to authentic Japanese regional cuisine. The ryokans were very well chosen, each with their own individual character. A visit to an onsen is definitely the way to finish a day’s hiking!March 2014 | Kumano Kodo Spring Tour
Walking the Kumano Kodo was an amazing adventure. Alison and Carolyn were thoughtful and engaging guides who took care of every detail. The inns were fantastic and the food was sensational. More importantly the scenery was breathtaking with the highlight being Nachi Taisha.March 2014 | Kumano Kodo Spring Tour