destinations

Kumano Ancient Trail

Hiking Along the Top of Old Japan

The Kumano Kodo, or Kumano Ancient Trail, is a pilgrimage route to Kumano, part of the mountainous Kii Peninsula which stretches south from the Kansai cities of Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto. The well-maintained trail threads its way through deep valleys, mountains, and small villages to offer a wonderfully-varied hike over four days. Stay at comfortable family-run inns with excellent food, soak in natural hot springs, and visit the shrines along the way. The pilgrimage routes to the three great Kumano Shrines – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha, and Hayatama Taisha – were popularized during and after the Heian Period (794-1185), when the Imperial family and nobility began to seek salvation in sangaku shinko (a belief in the supernatural power of mountains), rather than through common religious practices. Emperor Gotoba (1180-1239) made no fewer than thirty pilgrimages to Kumano, recording his thoughts and feelings in the Kumano poems. Our journey begins in the modern city of Kyoto, and we travel south by train along the coast and spend four days hiking the Nakahechi, one of the Kumano Kodo trails, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is a day mid-way to relax, with a gentle ride along the Kumano River to the Hayatama Taisha Shrine. We cross the Kii Peninsula on foot to its eastern coast, and the fishing town of Katsuura, with two nights at a hot-spring hotel and a further optional day of hiking. We finish by traveling on to Kyoto by train. On small-group guided tours with Oku Japan, your guide takes care of luggage arrangements for you.

Small Group tour
April 12 to April 20, 2020
May 6 to May 14, 2020
May 18 to May 26, 2020
October 5 to October 13, 2020
October 21 to October 29, 2020
November 4 to November 12, 2020
November 11 to November 19, 2020

Dates subject to change without notice.
9 days
Minimum 5, maximum 12 travelers
* per person
* subject to change

Tour price includes all transportation between destinations, accommodation, entrance fees, full-time services of tour leader. Contact for single supplement.
Full time services of Japanese/English speaking tour leader.
Day 1 - Kyoto - (Hotel)

Day 1 Meet in Kyoto

Meet at the tour hotel in central Kyoto in the evening. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

Meals: Welcome Dinner

Day 2 - Takahara - (Hotel)

Day 8 Transfer to Kyoto

We leave the Kii Peninsula this morning, traveling on the coastal rail line to Kyoto. Our final tour night is at a central western-style hotel in the city and we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant with our guide.

Meals: Breakfast, Farewell Dinner

Day 3 - Chikatsuyu - (Minshuku Inn)

Day 9 Tour ends

On our final day, we will say farewell in Kyoto after breakfast at the tour hotel. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for your journey to the airport or onward travel in Japan.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 4 - Yunomine Onsen - (Hot Spring Ryokan)

Day 4 Hike Chikatsuyu to Hongu Grand Shrine

Today we hike two scenic sections of the Kumano Kodo trail, passing ridge-top villages and oji shrines. Nobles would rest at these sub-shrines to refresh themselves and compose poems. From Chikatsuyu we walk first to Kobiro, then take a local bus to Hoshinmon-oji. From Hoshinmon-oji we descend to Hongu Grand Shrine. The symbol of the shrine is the mythological three-legged raven, representing the Hongu, Nachi, and Hayatama shrines – the same motif as the one used by the Japan Football Association. The three-legged crow was in mythology sent to guide Emperor Jimmu on his journey from Kumano to the Yamato Plain.

After visiting the shrine, we transfer by local bus to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan, or to Kawayu Onsen famous for the thermal water bubbling to the surface of the crystal clear river. We stay overnight in a comfortable Ryokan with its own hot spring bath or ‘rotemburo’.

Walking distance: 12.9km / 8 miles
Elevation gain: 321m/1,055 feet ascent; 360m/1,180 feet descent
Time required: 4 hours

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5 - Yunomine Onsen - (Hot Spring Ryokan)

Day 5 Boat ride on the Kumano River

We transfer by local bus to the Kumano River. We board a traditional wooden flat-bottomed boat to take us on a gentle one and a half-hour ride along the Kumano River to the Hayatama Taisha Shrine, just as Imperial pilgrims did in olden times. Afterward, we will travel back by bus to Yunomine Onsen for another night at our hot spring Ryokan. There will be time to soak in one of the natural hot spring baths before dinner.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6 - Katsuura - (Hot Spring Ryokan)

Day 6 Hike to Nachi Grand Shrine and waterfall

We transfer by local bus to Koguchi and hike the final section of the trail over the Ogumotorigoe Pass, to glimpse the Pacific Ocean and then descend to Nachi-taki waterfall and Nachi Taisha (Grand Shrine), one of the three ‘Grand Shrines of Kumano’. From there we take a short bus ride to the fishing port of Katsuura and to our hotel.

Walking distance: 14.5km / 9 miles
Elevation gain: 980m/3,215 feet ascent; 920m/3,020 feet descent
Time required: 6 hours

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7 - Katsuura - (Hot Spring Ryokan)

Day 7 Optional coastal hiking or relax at the Onsen hot spring Today there is an optional hike along a different section of the Kumano Kodo. This is a coastal part of the Iseji route, which has some lovely views over the Pacific ocean, pretty villages and the oldest paved section on the entire Kumano Kodo network, with stone blocks dating back eight hundred years. Alternatively, you can choose to relax and try the various hot spring baths in your hotel. You can also explore the town, with its excellent seafood, old-fashioned Japanese shopping arcade, and a few interesting backstreets.

Optional walk
Walking distance: 6.4km / 4.1 miles
Elevation gain: 546m/1790 feet ascent; 539m/1768 feet descent
Time required: 3 hours


Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8 - Kyoto - (Hotel)

Day 8 Transfer to Kyoto

We leave the Kii Peninsula this morning, traveling on the coastal rail line to Kyoto. Our final tour night is at a central western-style hotel in the city and we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant with our guide.

Meals: Breakfast, Farewell Dinner

Day 9 - - (Tour Ends)

On our final day, we will say farewell in Kyoto after breakfast at the tour hotel. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for your journey to the airport or onward travel in Japan. Meals: Breakfast