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Walking the Kumano Kodo from Kii-Tanabe to Katsuura

6 days
Starting From

Walking the Kumano Kodo from Kii-Tanabe to Katsuura Map
A “Dual Pilgrim” is someone who has walked both the Kumano Kodo and the Way of St.James (Camino de Santiago). The Dual Pilgrim programme came about in 2015 when officials in Japan and Spain agreed to “twin” the only two UNESCO-listed pilgrimage routes on earth, the Kumano Kodo and the Camino de Santiago. The Dual Pilgrim programme was designed to honour and celebrate those who have walked both trails. To earn a designation as a Dual Pilgrim, you have to walk a significant portion of both routes. You can complete either pilgrimage route first. For the Camino de Santiago, you need to earn your Compostela (Pilgrims Certificate). That means you must walk at least the last 100 kilometres (Sarria to Santiago) or cycle at least the last 200 kilometres (various options are available) of the Camino de Santiago and that you walk one of four options for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. This is the classic Kumano Kodo Nakahechi trek from Takijiri-oji to Kumano Nachi Taisha via Hongu, with 4.5 days of walking. Overnights along the way feature hot spring baths and delicious, authentic Japanese food. An immersive experience for the adventurous pilgrim.


Kumano Sanzan

Kumano Sanzan is a trio of revered Shinto shrines situated on the Kumano Kodo. The shrines’ importance stems from the fact that they lie deep in the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture’s Kii Mountain Range, an area sometimes called the land of the gods. Religious pilgrims have travelled between the three—Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha, for over 1,000 years. 

Yunomine Onsen

Yunomine Onsen was discovered about 1,800 years ago, and it is thought to be one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. According to legend, the village owes its wealth of medicinal waters to the Buddha of healing, Yakushi Nyorai. There is a statue of Yakushi Nyorai inside the local temple Tokoji, and keen observers will notice a hole in its chest. It is said that fountains of water came gushing from this opening and that from there the original name of the area was born: Yunomune, “Chest of Hot Water.”

Nachi Waterfall

Nachi Waterfall is called “Misuji no Taki”, “Nachi no Taki” or “Ichi no Taki” as water falls down from three mouths of the waterfall, and has kept its form of Kumano Faith. Gathering four rivers from Eboshiyama, Okumotoriyama, Myohozan, and Funami Toge, water falls down a vertical 133m-high cliff from a 13m wide mouth of the waterfall, and is one of the most famous waterfalls in Japan.

Takahara to Kumano Nachi Taisha
Kumano Kodo
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Included in this package
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • Specially Hand-Picked Accommodation
  • Our Holiday or Pilgrim Pack
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Virtual Face-to-Face Pre-Departure Briefing
  • Premium Accommodation
  • Airport Pick-Up
  • Additional Nights
  • Dinners
  • Luggage Transfers from Hotel to Hotel
  • Day Tours to Local Sites of Interest
Not included
  • Flights/trains
  • Insurance
  • Drinks/Lunch


Day 1

TAKAHARA (Arrival)

Your first day is a transfer to the trailhead in Takijiri-oji by train and bus, followed by a shorter but steep walk on the Kumano Kodo to the Takahara Settlement. 

The train departs at 09:01 from Osaka: the JR train travels down the west coast of the Kii peninsula. As you head south the scenery changes dramatically from the large urban centers to agricultural and natural regions, with distinctively less populated mountains. Watch for terraced orange and ume orchards along the way. 

The train arrives at 11h21 to Kii Tanabe. Visit Tanabe tourist information centre, on your left as you exit the station. There are paper copies of maps and transportation timetables as well as Dual Pilgrim credential to collect stamps along the trail. This is the best place to get the most up-to-date information before you begin your walk! Drop your bags off at the TANABE Tourist Information Center and they will be delivered directly to your accommodation. 

The bus departs at 12h50 from Kii-Tanabe and arrives at 13h28 to Takijiri. Visit the Kumano Kodo Kan Pilgrimage Centre, located across the river from Takijiri-oji. There are introductory exhibitions in Japanese and English about the pilgrimage route.

Now walk 4km between Takijiri-Oji to Takahara. This is a short but steep uphill walk from Takijiri to the ridge top settlement of Takahara. The trailhead is located behind the Takijiri-oji shrine pavilion. Takahara is a small settlement on a ridgeline with panoramic views of the Hatenashi mountain range. It is the site of the mystical Takahara Kumano-jinja shrine, one of the oldest buildings along this section of the pilgrimage route. The shrine grounds are home to giant camphor trees, over 800 years old! Takahara is known as "Kiri-no-Sato" (Village in the Mist) because the scenic vistas are often blanketed with mist. The valley below dramatically fills with fog, creating a beautiful sea of clouds.

Day 2


Today is 13km of full day walk on the Kumano route from Takahara to the Nonaka area, passing through the village of Chikatsuyu. This walk continues into the forested mountains east of Takahara climbing up and over ridges into the next watershed, descending into the village of Chikatsuyu.

You can see clear Hiki-gawa river runs through the valley. On the east side of Chikatsuyu-oji is Hashiori-jaya cafe, a small and cozy spot for a break. Or a little further on the Chikatsuyu Experience Center's restaurant called Kotorinoki housed in a renovated historic home. Tsugizakura-oji is a small shrine featuring gigantic old-growth trees, with branches facing south, drawn by the power of Kannon's southern paradise. Directly below Tsugizakura-oji is the Nonaka-no-Shimizu spring, a nice stop to fill up a water bottle.

Day 3


This is a challenging full day walk with many climbs and descents, finishing at the Kumano Hongu Taisha.
You will have 3 options available: 
  • Option 1: ~21.5 km, 8/11hours full walk day 
  • Option 2: ~17km, 7/9hours. Take the early bus from Tsugizakura/Nonaka until Doyukaza-Bashi (30mins). Walk ~17km until Kumano Hongu Taisha.
  • Option 3: ~7km, 2/3hours. Take the bus from Tsugizakura/Chikatsuyu to Hosshinmon-Oji (1h30). Walk ~7km until Kumano Hongu Taisha. 
One of the three grand shrines, Kumano Hongu Taisha stands on a small ridge line in the north of the Hongu village. The austere pavilions are made of wood with impressive cypress bark roofs; it's architecture style dating back over 800 years. Watch for the sacred symbol of Kumano, the Yatagarasu three-legged crow. Kumano Hongu Taisha was originally located at Oyunohara, a sandbank at the confluence of the Kumano-gawa and Otonashi Rivers.Legend has it that the Kumano deities, in the form of three moons, descended into the branches of a giant oak tree in this clearing. All of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes lead to this sacred site.

Once in Kumano Hongu Taisha, take the bus to reach your accommodation in Yunomine Onsen. Busses depart from in front of the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center. You can also walk, by the Kodo Dainichietsu trailhead it will be 3km. Yunomine Onsen is one of the oldest hot springs in Japan and directly connected with the Kumano Kodo. It is a quaint little collection of inns tucked into a small valley. Tsuboyu is an historic bath which was used by pilgrims past to purify themselves with the hot water. Tickets are sold at the booth next to the temple.

Day 4


In the morning take the bus from Yunomine Onsen to Ukegawa. You can also take the walk back via Dainichietsu Trailhead and add 2.5km to your day. Today you will walk 13km, by walking a section called Kogumotori-goe; it is a pass over a mountain range between Hongu and Koguchi.

Koguchi is a tiny settlement in a valley bottom surrounding by lush green mountains, the stopping point for walkers between the Kogumotori-goe and Ogumotorie-goe sections. Several small rivers converge here, offering enticing swimming sites in the summer months.

Day 5


Today you will walk ~14km, (7/9hours) from Koguchi south on the Ogumotori-goe section of the Kumano pilgrimage route to the shrine-temple complex of Nachisan and Japan's tallest waterfall. This is considered one of the most difficult sections on the Nakahechi route: Not technically difficult but some long climbs and descents often with cobblestone lined trails, which can be slipperly, especially when wet.

Seiganto-ji temple was founded in the early 5th century and is one of the oldest buildings in the region. The view from the temple grounds is dramatic, featuring a pagoda with the falls as a backdrop.

One of the three grand shrines, Kumano Nachi Taisha is located halfway up Nachi Mountain, about 350 meters above sea level. It has its religious origin in the ancient nature worship of Nachi-no-Otaki falls. The branches of a giant camphor shades the roof of the worship hall. Nachi-no-Otaki is 133 meters high and 13 meters wide - the tallest waterfall in Japan. It's water source is the surrounding broad-leaf evergreen primeval forest, a sanctuary that has been protected since ancient times, used for ascetic training by mountain monks who practice Shugendo, a mixed religion of foreign and indigenous beliefs.

Day 6


This is the last morning of the visit. Spend some time in the morning to re-visit the shrine grounds and falls area before the crowds arrive or explore Katsuura before departure.

Take the bus from Nachisan to Katsuura (20mins). Katsuura Onsen is a fishing port on the rugged Pacific coastline. This coastal village is famous for its hot spring baths and world-class seafood. From Katsuura you can take the train back to Osaka or Nagoya.

Walking the Kumano Kodo from Kii-Tanabe to Katsuura Elevation

How to Get There

It is best to fly to Osaka airport directly, but you can also arrive into Tokyo and take the Shinkansen train to Osaka.


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