Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo

Kyoto, Japan

Changi Airport Terminal 1

This adventure is: #on the weekend, #tastebud tickling, #scenic

Kyoto: Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan -...

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“Hi, it's u­­­s, Georg­i­n­a, Bri­tt­a, and ­Lee­ Lin­g­”

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Highlights

This is a walking trip to the bamboo forests, deeply forested valleys, shrines, secret learning place of ninjas, rice fields, green tea fields, onsens, waterfalls, and finally the sacred and beautiful ancient pilgrimage trails the Kumano Kodo.  This will be an easy walk of 5 to 6 hours a day and walking for 6 to 7 days , staying in hotels, Japanese inns and even temples.  The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage walk like the Camino walk is the only other walk that UNESCO has classifed as the two pilgrimage routes in its World Heritage list.  Let's join me for this unique walk, starting from Kyoto, led by a local expert guide

Kyoto was Japan's capital for over 1000 years and due to its exceptional historic value, the city was saved from the atomic bomb and escaped destruction during World War II.  We will be visiting the famous shrines, temples, and gardens that survived. Then we will head to Arashiyama, a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty.  The area that has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), where the nobles come to enjoy its natural beauty and its bamboo forests. 

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanArashiyama Bamboo Forest Kyoto, photo by Roan Retera

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanPeople on vacation during Golden week take shots of the tall, mesmerizing Sagano Bamboo Forest, a natural bamboo forest, photo by Reginald Pentinio

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanThe scenic Sagano train, photo by pang yul iu licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

We will be taking the scenic Sagano miniature train passing the Hozukyo Ravine and depending on the season we can see Cherry blossoms in spring, lush greens in summer, Japanese maple in fall.

The next day we will head to Arame 48 falls.  Before we start our exploration, let's learn some basic ninja skills. This remote land is where the ninjas honed their skills of stealth and combat, it was used as a training ground for the Iga-ryu ninja between the 15th and 18th centuries.

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanNinja demonstrating in Akame 48, photo by Ninja Valley

After our unique ninja excitement we will start our hike and hopefully see all the 8 waterfalls of Akame, hiking to the mysterious trails, and hopefully we get to see the enormous amphibians the 2nd largest amphibians in the world.

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanAkame 48 waterfalls ravine,photo by conifer conifer licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

We will then head to the best tea planatation in Kyoto, Wazuka Town with 800 years history of tea production.  Which was also home to two world heritage sites, the Byodoin Temple and Ujigami-jinja Shrine.Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanGreen tea fields at Wazuka, photo by Kyoto Tourism

If time permits, we can try making matcha green tea sweets and Japanese tea.  After which we will head to the trail head of Kumano Kodo for the night and get ourselves ready for the next 3.5 day walk.  We begin our 2 hours exploration of ancient pilgrimage trails of the Kumano Kodo at Takijiri-Oji towards Takahara, where a steep but not too long a climb to a ridge awaits us. We climb at an easy pace to the top from where the trail is much gentler for the rest of our walk today. 

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanWe will be walking forest path such as this along ancient pilgrimage trails, photo by Nao Iizuka licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The next day we will leave Takahara on foot heading higher into the mountains along the pilgrimage trail.  The hike is about 6 hours for 13km.  We continue to pass by reminders of the old highway, including an ichirizuka distance marker, before descending to our lunch spot, which serves local delicacies.  Continuing on we reach the Hashiori-Toge pass after a short climb.  Then we will descent taking us along a cobbled path and staircase to Chikatsuyu, a small village. Our final stretch of the day takes us on a climb to Tsugizakura-Oji , famed for giant cedar trees and a thirst-quenching spring. From here we transfer by bus to Yunomine Onsen.  

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanSettlement in the kumano-kodo kohechi, photo by Roderick Eime licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanView of Mt.Tamaki along the trail, photo by Roderick Eime licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanHatenashi Settlement in the Kumano-Kodo Kohechi during autumn, photo by Roderick Eime licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

At Yunomine Onsen, one of the most venerable hot spring villages found in Japan. A hot spring village with 1800 years of history. Yunomine Onsen has such a long history that one of its baths, Tsuboyu, is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pilgrims would perform purification rituals in the hot spring water as part of the religious process of their pilgrimage. Tsuboyu is one of two public bathhouses in Yunomine.  
Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanSteam from Yunomine Onsen, photo by maja kuzmanovic licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanTsuboyu is one of two public bathhouses in Yunomine, photo by Nekosuki licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0  

If we have energy left we can walk attempt to hike to Kumano Hongu Taisha area.  It is the original site of Kumano Hongu Taisha, the 12 shrine pavilions that made up the grand shrine in Oyunohara that were swept away by a ferocious flood in 1889.

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanOyunohara, the original site of Kumano Hongu Taisha, photo by Nao Iizuka licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The next day we will head to Hosshinmon-oji, start our 7km hike from Hosshinmon-oji to Hongu Grand Shrine. Several panoramic viewpoints can be found along the way.  Hosshinmon-oji is known as the "gate of awakening of the aspiration to enlightenment" and marks the outermost entrance to Kumano Hongu Taisha's sacred precincts.

The route follows a road through Hosshinmon Village from here to Mizunomi-oji. Keep a look out for the folk-art word carvings along the way.

The trail enters the forest at Mizunomi-oji, the site of an old school house, and exits at the west end of the Fushiogami settlement, with its numerous tea plantations and terraced fields.

Kumano Hongu Taisha is one of the Kumano region's three famous shrines. Kumano Nachi Taisha, famed for its tower and waterfall. The charming, old fashioned trains wind their way through the mountains at a relatively slow pace, taking about 25 minutes to make the seven kilometer journey and giving passengers a pleasant view of the scenery as they travel from Arashiyama through the forested ravine and into rural Kameoka.  We will overnight at Kii Katsuura area.

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanKumano Hongū Taisha is a Shinto shrine deep in the rugged mountains of the Kii Peninsula of Japan. All of the ancient Kumano Kodo leads to this Grand Shrine. Photo by 顔なし licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0  

The next day we will make our way to Nachi Taisha shrine and the Nachi-no-Otaki waterfalls.  Before that we may visit a fish auction in the morning.  Our hike will end at the waterfall and we will make our way back to Osaka airport.

Let's walk the ancient pilgrimage trail of Japan - Kumano Kodo starting at Kyoto, JapanNachi Taisha shrine with Nachi-no-Otaki waterfalls, photo by Big Ben in Japan licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Note:
Please take note this hike will be done on spring and autumn, therefore some photos are of different seasons, we should not expect a spring scene when we are hiking in autumn and vice versa.  Also, depending on our speed and energy we may be able to cover more or less areas, for example Hatenashi Settlement and Oyunohara we may be able to cover if we have the energy.