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Sample Itinerary

The tours featured throughout our website are intended to give you ideas for what's possible when you travel with us. Treat them simply as inspiration, because your trip will be created individually by one of our specialists to match your tastes and budget.

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

We travel south along the coast by train to Tanabe (about 3 hours), then transfer by local bus (about 40 minutes) to Takijiri, at the beginning of the Nakahechi, part of the network of ancient pilgrimage trails known as the Kumano Kodo, or Kumano Ancient Trail. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Kumano Kodo became popular from the 11th century as a place of pilgrimage from Kyoto by Emperors. The Kii Peninsula, which extends south from Nara and Osaka, has long been considered sacred in Japan, the entrance to the land of Yomi, the mythical afterworld. It is also the site of the three sacred shrines of Kumano, the Kumano Sanzan. We continue with a 2-hour hike to the small hilltop village of Takahara, where we spend the night. Our accommodation is a delightful Japanese-style Ryokan built by local craftsmen in wood with rooms affording spectacular views over the surrounding mountains. There are hot-spring baths and the sumptuous evening meal is made with organic locally-sourced ingredients.

Walking distance: 4.5 km / 2.8 miles
Elevation gain: 370m/1,200 feet ascent, 175m/575 feet descent
Time required: about 2 hours

Starting from Takahara, we continue eastwards along the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail. Along the path we pass small jizo bodhisattva statues, placed there by locals to protect travellers. There are also the sites of old cha-ya (tea houses), which provided rest to pilgrims right up until the early 20th century. We descend to the village of Chikatsuyu and our accommodation for tonight. We stay in the friendly guest house run by local couple Mr and Mrs Kinoshita. A former company-worker in the coastal town of Tanabe, Kinoshita-san moved to his home village to set up the popular guesthouse. Next door they have their own natural hot-spring baths. In the evening the dinner menu might include their delicious ‘takikomi-gohan’ (rice steamed with vegetables), freshly-caught fish, and tempura. After dinner, a local Shamisen music group will treat us to a private performance in the lovely setting of our Chikatsuyu Branch. Enjoy this rare opportunity for a close-up experience of Japanese musical tradition.

Walking distance: 11.3km / 7 miles
Elevation gain: 350m/1,150 feet ascent, 360m/1,180 feet descent
Time required: 4 hours

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

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. Afterwards, 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.

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

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

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.

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.

What Our Customers Have To Say

The tours featured throughout our website are intended to give you ideas for what's possible when you travel with us. Treat them simply as inspiration, because your trip will be created individually by one of our specialists to match your tastes and budget.

John Moawad

Classical Japan Tour

It was our first trip to Japan. Working with Jeff was a pleasure. His knowledge of the country and local contacts were very helpful. Choice...

Marina Boyer

North Central Exploration

Working with Jeff at Rediscover Tours was a wonderful experience. He helped me plan a 10 day trip of a lifetime to Japan with my mother...

Edan Ecker

Shoguns and Samurai

I would like to take this opportunity to commend and thank you for the marvelous vacation we recently enjoyed in Japan. The entire experience exceeded...

Our Team Of Local Experts

Years after years we have selected the best specialists about Japan. They have at least lived a minimum of 10 years in the country. They are here to answer all your questions and to make your tour just the way you want it.

Jeff Aasgaard

Tour Sales Director

Jeff was born in a south suburb of Chicago named South Holland and lived in Japan for 14 years. He now lives in Commerce Township, Michigan with his wife Yoshimi, son Shota, and daughter Mina. He enjoys playing with his kids, volunteering with his daughter’s marching band, cycling and training & teaching Aikido.

Michiyo Kakiuchi

Tour Arrangement Manager

Michiyo was born in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido Prefecture though currently lives in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture. Her main passions in life is traveling all around the world and enjoying their cultures.

Noriko

Tour Arrangement team

Noriko was born in Nagoya. During her childhood she moved around Japan following her father’s office transfer. She especially liked her time in Shizuoka, facing Mt Fuji. She now lives in Minoo (in the suburb of Osaka). Noriko graduated from Hiroshima university. She’s been to Malaysia, Thailand and Europe (Germany and Bulgaria). Her hobbies are hiking, reading and surfing.

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