Kumano Kodo

This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series Discover Japan's Natural Beauty  1

Hello, I’m Mio. Today, I’m going to share detailed information about the Kumano Kodo, one of Japan’s most famous pilgrimage routes.

Basic Information about the Kumano Kodo

The Kumano Kodo is a network of ancient pilgrimage trails located on the Kii Peninsula in Japan. These trails connect the three grand shrines of Kumano, known as Kumano Sanzan: Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha. In 2004, the Kumano Kodo was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The trails offer a unique combination of history, culture, and natural beauty.

The Routes of Kumano Kodo

There are several main routes of the Kumano Kodo, each with its own distinct characteristics. Here are the most popular ones:

  • Nakahechi Route: This is the most popular and historically significant route, often referred to as the Imperial Route because it was used by the imperial family. It starts from Tanabe City and leads to Kumano Hongu Taisha. Along the way, you can experience beautiful forests and historical sites.
  • Kohechi Route: This route connects Koyasan, a sacred Buddhist site, to Kumano Hongu Taisha. It is a challenging mountain route that passes through remote and rugged terrain, offering a true adventure for experienced hikers.
  • Ohechi Route: This route runs along the coast of the Kii Peninsula, providing stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. It connects to Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha.
  • Iseji Route: This route links Ise Jingu, one of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines, to the Kumano Sanzan. It offers a combination of coastal and mountain scenery.

Highlights of the Kumano Kodo

Kumano Hongu Taisha

Kumano Hongu Taisha is one of the three grand shrines of Kumano and serves as the spiritual center of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. The shrine is known for its beautiful architecture and serene atmosphere.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha

Located in Shingu City, Kumano Hayatama Taisha is famous for its ancient camphor tree and vibrant red torii gate. The shrine is situated near the Kumano River, adding to its scenic beauty.

Kumano Nachi Taisha and Nachi Falls

Kumano Nachi Taisha is situated near the breathtaking Nachi Falls, the tallest waterfall in Japan with a drop of 133 meters (436 feet). The combination of the shrine and the waterfall creates a stunning and spiritual landscape.


Koyasan, or Mount Koya, is the starting point of the Kohechi Route. It is a significant Buddhist site with many temples and monasteries. Visitors can experience staying overnight at a temple lodging, known as shukubo, and participate in traditional Buddhist practices.

Onsens (Hot Springs)

The Kumano Kodo is dotted with many onsen, or hot springs, which have been used for centuries by pilgrims to rest and rejuvenate. Some notable hot springs include Yunomine Onsen, Kawayu Onsen, and Wataze Onsen. Soaking in these natural hot springs is a perfect way to relax after a long hike.


Access to the Kumano Kodo varies depending on the route you choose. For the Nakahechi Route, you can take a train to Kii-Tanabe Station and then a bus to Takijiri-oji, the trailhead. For the Kohechi Route, you can reach Koyasan by train and cable car. For the Ohechi and Iseji Routes, access points are along the coastal towns of the Kii Peninsula.

Tips for Hiking the Kumano Kodo

  • Preparation: Wear comfortable hiking shoes, bring rain gear, and pack enough food and water. Some parts of the trail can be quite remote.
  • Weather: The weather can change quickly, so check the forecast and be prepared for different conditions.
  • Respect: The Kumano Kodo is a sacred pilgrimage route. Respect the natural environment and cultural sites by taking your trash with you and being mindful of your behavior.


The Kumano Kodo offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re interested in a spiritual journey, a challenging hike, or simply enjoying beautiful scenery, there’s something for everyone. I, Mio, am deeply moved by the rich experiences this pilgrimage offers. I hope you have the chance to explore the Kumano Kodo and discover its magic for yourself. Happy hiking!

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