【Kumano Kodo】6 sightseeing courses recommended for beginners that only take 3 hours
In this article, we will introduce 6 trekking courses that are recommended for first-time visitors to Kumano Kodo. Kumano Kodo, which spans Wakayama Prefecture, Mie Prefecture, and Nara Prefecture, has a long distance and various routes. Among them, we have picked up the recommended routes for beginners of trekking and first-time visitors to Kumano Kodo.
How steep is the road? How far is it? How long does it take? What kind of scenery can be seen? We will answer all questions! We also have advice on belongings and equipment for first-time Kumano Kodo walkers.
Where is Kumano Kodo？Is day trip possible？
The pilgrimage route that pilgrims have walked since ancient times is called the Kumano Kodo, aiming for the Kumano Sanzan (Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha, and Kumano Hongu Taisha) in Wakayama Prefecture. It is over 600 kilometers long and was registered as a World Heritage Site in 2004. Even today, the old shrines and nature remain, and many people are captivated by their mysteriousness. Many people say that their lives have changed since they visited Kumano Kodo for a retreat.
The area which Kumano Kodo is in is called “an isolated island ” and is located in a relatively inaccessible location. However, it takes about an hour and a half to two hours from the Kansai area (such as Osaka Station), and from Tokyo, you can travel near Kumano Kodo in an hour by flight from Haneda Airport to Nanki Shirahama Airport. If you narrow down the number of spots to visit, you can go on a day trip.
“Walking the entire route is physically and schedule-wise difficult…! But I want to try walking along Kumano Kodo!” For those who have similar thoughts, please visit Kumano Kodo to take our recommended model courses for beginners.
Recommended for sightseeing for beginners! Kumano Kodo trekking courses that you can walk in a short time
Kumano Kodo can be divided into 5 main routes.
「Nakahechi）」…The main route of Kumano Kodo begins at Tanabe to Nachi.
「Iseji）」…The route that connects Ise Shrine and Kumano Sanzan.
「Kohechi」…The shortest but the most difficult route that connects Mt. Koya and Kumano Hongu Taisha.
「Kiiji）」…The route from Kyoto to Kumano Sanzan via Osaka.
「Ohechi）」…The southward route along the coast. A spot with a panoramic view of the sea.
Here, we will introduce 6 courses among Nakahechi and Kohechi that do not have big ups and downs and can be walked in about 2~3 hours.
Recommended route ①【Nakahechi】Daimon Zaka～Kumano Nachi Taisha／Nachi Falls
The first recommended route is from Daimon Zaka to Kumano Nachi Taisha which only takes about an hour by foot. You can walk along the Kumano Kodo with plenty of nature, and you can also visit the Nachi Falls which is considered symbolic among the three mountains of Kumano.
Daimon Zaka is a slope characterized by stone paving, and an uphill climb of about 1.3 km (about 40 minutes) continues from the entrance. The height difference is about 100 meters. Walking on a mossy road will calm you down.
When you complete the climb, you will arrive at the vermilion-painted Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine building. After visiting the shrine, you pass through the bamboo forest and go down the stone stairs to arrive at Nachi Fall, a symbol of Kumano Kodo. It is one of the 3 biggest waterfalls in Japan, and because it is Japan’s highest waterfall, its power is overwhelming.
The starting point, Daimon Zaka, has a free parking lot and a bus stop, so it is convenient for both people who come by car and public transportation.
About 1 hour
Level of Difficulty
Recommended route ②【Nakahechi】Dainichigoe〜Yunomine Onsen
Dainichigoe is also located on Nakahehi, which is recommended for beginners due to its short distance. However, the climb is a little steep, so please make a plan with plenty of time to spare. The attraction of this course is that when you arrive at the goal, Yunomine Onsen, you can heal your tiredness with “Tsuboyu,” the only World Heritage site where you can take a bath, and make boiled eggs with Yutou.
Danichigoe, the route connecting Kumano Hongu Taisha and Yunomine Onsen, has a height difference of about 240 meters. First, go to Oyunohara, a 10-minute walk from the Hongu Taisha. Oyunohara used to be the site of Hongu Taisha. This is the tallest Great Torii in Japan. After passing through Great Torii, go down the national road to the entrance of “Dainichigoe.”
As soon as you start climbing the Dainichigoe, you will see the shrine of Tsukimigaoka-jinja. It is standing in a dense forest as if you were lost in the world of Totoro. If you go 10 minutes further, you’ll find Hanakake Jizo, and if you go downhill for about 20 minutes, you’ll find Yunomine Oji. If you can see the Torii of Yunomine Oji, the goal, Yunomine Onsen is just around the corner.
For those who come by car, it is recommended to park in the parking lot of Yunomine Onsen, the goal, and then take a bus back to Kumano Hongu Taisha. If you use public transportation, go to Kumano Hongu Taisha by bus.
About 2 hours
About 3.7km（２km for Dainichi-goe）
Level of Difficulty
Recommended route ③【Nakahechi】Takijioji～Takahara／Takahara Kumano Shrine
The next route is a little more difficult, but it is a route in which you can enjoy the sea of clouds.
The starting point is Prince Takijirioji. Get off at the bus stop Takijiri. There is also a parking lot, so please use it if you are visiting by car.
The confluence of the Tonda and Ishiburi rivers, “Takijiri-oji,” was once considered the beginning of the Kumano Sanzan sacred area. There is a steep slope right after the start. Between the steep slopes, there are four things to see: Tainai-kuguri, Nursing rocks, Nezu-oji, and the remains of Tsuruginoyama Kyouzuka.
It is a flat road from the remains of Tsuruginoyama Kyouzuka, and if you walk for about 25 minutes, you will join the roadway to Takahara. If you walk down the stairs for about 15 minutes, you will reach Takahara no Sato. If you walk a little along the roadway, you will arrive at Takahara Kumano Shrine.
The building of Takahara Kumano Shrine is said to be the oldest shrine building in Nakahechi. There is also a record of Fujiwara Sadaie stopping by. Please feel the history.
If you walk further, you will arrive at Kogen Kiri no Sato! This place is known as a spot where you can enjoy the sea of clouds. The best time is from autumn to winter. Let’s aim for the early morning (within an hour of sunrise) when the temperature difference between day and night is large, humid, and the wind is mild. Of course, you can enjoy a wonderful view even if you visit during the day.
If you visit Takahara, we recommend staying a night at 「SEN.RETREAT TAKAHARA」. Have a relaxing night in a space where you can only hear the sounds of nature (Pilgrimage route of Mount Koya).
About 3 hours
Level of Difficulty
Recommended route ④【Nakahechi】Sangenjaya～Kumano Hongu Taisha
The starting point, Sangenjaya, is the junction of Nakahechi and Kohechi. As the name suggests, there used to be three teahouses. Now, there are rest areas that resemble tea houses. From there, walk along the Kodo for about 2km. Overall, it’s a gentle downhill, so it’s an easy road to walk on.
On the way, we would like you to stop by at the observatory. It is such a scenic point was selected as one of the “100 Best Sunsets in Wakayama Prefecture,” and you can also see the best Great Torii in Japan from above.
A short walk from there leads to the “Haraido Ishizuka Iseki,” a place where pilgrims purify themselves and pray for safety on the way. Just in front of the Kumano Hongu Taisha, is the “Haraido-oji.” It is like a small forest. There are two oak trees that are said to be over 300 years old and a stone shrine. If you go further, you’ll get to the back of Kumano Hongu Taisha. Turn around and enter from the front.
If you want to visit by car, park in the parking lot of Kumano Hongu Taisha and get off at the “Hiraiwakuchi” bus stop near the starting point. If you use public transportation, it takes about 10-15 minutes on foot to Sangenjaya by using the Hiraiwakuchi bus stop.
About 1 hour
Level of Difficulty
Recommended route ⑤【Nakahechi】Akagigoe
If you prefer to try much time-required longer route, the 7km worth ‘Akagigoe’ route, is a path from ‘Funatama Jinjya’ (Shrine) to ‘Yunomine Onsen’.
If you hop off at the Hosshinmon-oji bust stop, walk down the hill for about 5 minutes to enter the woodland path. Walk towards Nakahechi direction and you will see ‘Akagigoe-bunk’.
Follow a written sign of ‘Akagijyo direction’「赤木越へ」 and you will see a winding steep slope with stairs, so climb up for 30 minutes! If you endure the steep slope, the remaining route is gentle and walkable.
You will encounter ‘Nabewara Jizou’ in about 1 hour from the starting point. Additional 20 minutes will take you to ‘Kakihara-chaya Ato’ which is a juncture point. It separates into several paths, so take a good look at your map to choose the right path to ‘Yunomine Onsen’.
As you get closer to ‘Yunomine Onsen’, our goal, a downhill will welcome you. Please watch your steps when it is muddy and slippery. The exit of ‘Akagigoe’ is next to the onsen called ‘Tsuboyu’, which is registered as the world’s heritage site.
If you visit by car, parking is available in the Yunomine Onsen parking lot or the Kumano Hongu-Taisha parking lot. Please take a bus from there to Hosshinmon-oji. Or else, you could take an opposite route from ‘Yunomine Onsen’.
About 3~4 hours
Level of Difficulty
Recommended route ⑥ 【Kohechi】 Nyonin Michi (Pilgrimage route of Mount Koya)
Since Mountain Koya was known for its ‘forbidden to women’ rule, females used to go through the ‘Nyonin-michi’ to make a pilgrimage to ‘Nyonin-do’, which is located in every 7 entrances. Today’s introduction is a round route of these Kouya-nanakuchi. How about enjoying the route while reminiscing the history? Only the remaining Nyonin-do exists in Hudou-Sakaguchi. and the rest of the 6 entrances represent past traces.
Mountain Koya is surrounded by mountains at an altitude of approximately 1000 meters and you can visit several summits through this ‘Nyonin-michi’. To master the entire route, you may start the journey from ‘Hudou-Sakaguchi Nyonin-do’ and walk 17km to come back. We will introduce a partial route for this time.
The route begins from ‘Hudou-Sakaguchi’ and enters ‘Nyonin-michi’, and gets out from Ichino-hashi of Kouya-san. You will be able to find a wooden sign showing which number of Nyonin-michi you are at (‘女人道○番’), so there won’t be much of a problem. The distance itself is quite long, 10km plus, however rarely has few ups and downs, which makes it easier to walk.
If you are visiting by car, park at the ‘Kouyasan-shinrinkouen’ parking lot and take a bus to ‘Hudou-Sakaguchi Nyonin-do’. You may enter the woodlands path from the bus stop, referring to a sign of ‘Nyonin-michi’. It may be challenging to find the right entrance since it is in between of landed houses. You will find a Torii (Shrine entrance gate) right after the entrance. If you walk through the road, you will find the first spot, ‘Hudou-zakaguchi Nyonin-do’. Right across the ‘Nyonin-do’ is ‘Otake-Jizouson’, which is a statue of Jizo.
After the spot, climb ‘Benten-dake’, which is an altitude of 984 meters. It is quite a steep slope, but the handrail is well maintained alongside. On a summit, you will witness ‘Dakeno-benzai-tensya’, which has a number of Torii in line. It is quite a view, so you may take a break while enjoying the sights.
When you descend the mountain, you can enjoy seeing ‘Daimonkou-Nyonindo-ato’, ‘Ryujinkou-Nyonindo’, ‘Rokuro-touge’, ‘Otakikou-Nyonindo-ato’. And you will join ‘Kohechi’, which is the main route of ‘Kumano Kodo’. You will head to ‘Okunoin’ through ‘Ominekuchi-Nyonindo-ato’.
At ‘Okunoin’ (Gorin-to), there are numerous memorial towers and tombstones, surrounded by tall cedar trees. You will arrive at ‘Tourou-do’ with lit lanterns after passing ‘Ichino-hasi’, ‘Nakano-hasi’, and ‘Gobyou-bashi’ bridges.
If you are using public transportation, take a bus from Kouya-san station to Nyonin-do stop. After walking ‘Nyonin-michi’, it is highly recommended to take a walk and pray in the Kouya-san. Currently, there are 52 temples offering an accompanying, you may spend a night in Kouya-san. You may experience early morning Buddhist religious service, which is only allowed by having a night.
About 3~4 hours
Level of Difficulty
Advice for beginners in trekking! What should you wear?What should you prepare?
©Wakayama Prefecture Sightseeing Federation Information Center
Lastly, we will introduce the preparations for walking on Kumano Kodo safely and pleasantly. This is an equipment for beginners course which can be walked in a few hours, so when you walk on a more difficult course, please prepare according to the difficulty level.
- Quick-drying innerwear
- Long-sleeved shirts and pants for mountain climbing
- Thick socks
- Cape for sunshade, rain shield, and head protection
- Warm clothes (winter)
- 1 extra clothes to put on such as a windbreaker（autumn to winter）
※Choose a functional material that dries quickly, not cotton.
- hiking boots and trekking shoes (high-top ones)
※Choosing shoes is important to prevent injury and reduce fatigue. Specifically, we recommend the Caravan C1_02S and C4_03 series, and Altra’s Olympus series.
What to bring
- Backpack (check the amenities of the inn and make it as light as possible)
- Split rainwear
- Cane (It is helpful for people who are worried about their physical strength)
- Lunch and snacks（Easy calorie intakes like chocolate and mochi）
- Kumano Kodo Map
Tourist spots if your are walking the Nakahechi
Among the routes introduced this time, if you want to walk along the Nakahechi, there are some sightseeing spots that we recommend visiting as well.
The article below introduces them, so please take a look.
Recommended accommodation along Kumano Kodo
You can visit on a day trip, but we recommend that you plan your trip for 2 days to 2 nights and 3 days with plenty of time. Especially for trekking beginners since it often takes longer to walk than expected, and it often doesn’t go as planned due to the lack of public transportation.
There are various types of accommodations such as hotels, hot spring hotels, guest houses, etc., along Kumano Kodo. However, there are not many in numbers, so we recommend you make an early reservation for those who plan to travel during the busy season.
The recommended accommodation along Kumano Kodo is introduced in this article. We have a wide range of recommendations.