Friday, 20 March 2015

Kumano Kodo - Japan Pilgrimage

Well what does one do after the long walk across Europe? Opportunity knocks and I'm in Japan about to start a short 4+ day walk on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail on the Kii Peninsula. The reason I am in Japan was to accompany my daughter Lise and my 4 month old grand-daughter Rose back to Japan after their 4 week visit to Canada (the sacrifices one has to make 😃)

Is there a sweeter baby in the world? (Steven and Lise...proud parents don't think so...neither does anyone else in the two families!)


Well back to the Kumano Kodo. I must admit that until fairly recently I did not know much about this pilgrimage route. For those of you who are in the same position as I was here is a little info from the Kumano Kodo website.

"For over 1000 years people from all levels of society, including retired emperors and aristocrats, have made the arduous pilgrimage to Kumano. These pilgrims used a network of routes, now called the Kumano Kodo, which stretched across the mountainous Kii Peninsula.

The walk itself was an integral part of the pilgrimage process as they undertook rigorous religious rites of worship and purification. Walking the ancient Kumano Kodo is a fantastic way to experience the unique cultural landscape of Kumano's spiritual countryside.
In July 2004, the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes were registered as UNESCO World Heritage as part of the "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range" property."
I will be walking/ stumbling in the footsteps of countless pilgrims over the last century on the Nakahechi route which is the most popular of the Kumano Kodo routes.

The focus of the Kumano pilgrimage is to worship at the three Grand Shrines of Kumano. As a set they are referred to as the Kumano SanzanKumano Hongu TaishaKumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha.

On my 4+ day walk I will be visiting two of the three shrines Kumano Hongo Taisha and Kumano Hatyatama Taisha. In total the walking distance (assuming I don't get lost) is approximately 70 kilometres and is considered challenging walking due to the many ups and downs associated with walking in the mountains.

I was lucky enough to stumble on an incredible website which provided me with the opportunity to pre-book with them accommodation at traditional Japanese inns on the walking route. Really looking forward to the Japanese food and traditional hot springs after some good walking during the day.

Someone also pointed out to me a CNN travel article which had some neat comments about the pilgrimage route.

"And there is good reason for that. The views and little stops along the way make this one of the best (and possibly most overlooked) treks on the planet, a glorious march -- or in my case, occasional scramble, that includes hot springs retreats, delicious local food and rich cultural insight into a relatively unexplored part of Japan.
When I say unexplored, I mean for international travellers. Though the pilgrimage has been in operation for more than 1,000 years it remains quite off the map for most visitors to Japan who consider Kyoto or Osaka a far enough detour from the main access point of Tokyo."
"To characterize the experience solely as "a pilgrimage" doesn't do Kumano Kodo justice.
Though there is some stiff competition, Kumano Kodo just might be one of the world's top nature hikes."
At the end of the walk here is what I am looking forward to seeing!
Kumano Naichi Taisha Shrine

I also hope to obtain the Dual Pilgrim Credential for having walked the only two Unesco recognized pilgrimage routes being the Camino de Santiago and the Kumano Kodo....that would be pretty neat!

Dual Pilgrim

So on Monday I start the long subway/train/bus ride to the start of the Kumano Kodo at Takijiri-oji shrine. Adventure, dangerous animals, pantomiming as a way of communicating and the possibility (some might say certainty) of getting lost await me.

The plan is to purchase a 14 day SIM card which in theory will allow me to update the blog with pictures however who knows what the Internet access will be! 

Yikes...a little out of my comfort zone at this early stage!


  1. Hey Guy! Great to hear about ur new adventure!! Wish u all the fun as u take on this new experience!!
    Sunil Singh

    1. Thanks Sunil...very nice to hear from you once again. Trust all is well with you these days.