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Kumano Kodo — a pilgrimage in the sacred forests of Japan

Nao Iizuka (CC BY 2.0)

Kumano Kodo — a pilgrimage in the sacred forests of Japan

Hiking Collection by komoot

4-9

days

3-6 h

/ day

50.4 mi

13,475 ft

12,200 ft

Away from the crowded subway stations, glaring neon signs and the speeding express trains of the major cities, the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route gives you the chance to get acquainted with Japan’s soul. This trail, which leads you along ancient forest paths, over countless mountains and through magical, primeval forests, will reveal the character of the country in a way few ever get to experience. And as the huge cedars and cypresses rise above you, trees which serve as wild shrines, worshipped by the local population—you’ll be blown away by this wilder, more calming side of Japan.

The Kumano Kodo and its associated sacred sites span the entire Kii Peninsula in the south of Osaka. In 2004, the historical paths and grounds were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site through which our trail, the Kiji Route, meanders. Well signposted and easy to follow, it leads you from the Takajiri Oji Shrine to the grand shrine of Hongu and further to the Nachi Waterfall.

In six daily stages, you’ll hike a total of 50 miles (81 kilometers) from west to east, and you’ll conquer more than 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) of elevation. And while that might sound like quite a challenge, we promise it’s worth the effort as there’s no better way to experience the solitude of the Japanese mountains. Just bear in mind that the trail will get noticeably busier on the weekends through the summer, although the beautiful hotels with their local cuisine and access to hot springs will be sure to keep your nice and relaxed.

Although the Kii Peninsula seems remote, the pilgrimage route is easily accessible by bus and train. From Osaka, there is an express train directly to Kii-Tanabe, from where you can reach all the villages of the hike by public bus. This way, you can also opt to complete individual sections of the pilgrimage if you’d rather not do the full six stages. As one final piece of important advice, Japanese hostel owners are seldom prepared for spontaneous visitors, so it is advisable to book accommodation along the way in advance. And so you can at least get by, here are three helpful phrases you might want to master:

"Arigatou gozaimasu" - "Thank you very much."
"Sumimasen” - “Please forgive me.”
"Eigo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu ka?" - "Do you speak English?"

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Kumano Kodo — The Kiji Route

42.2 mi

10,750 ft

10,250 ft

Last updated: November 25, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Kumano Kodo E01 – von Takijiri-oji nach Takahara

    Intermediate
    01:35
    2.55 mi
    1.6 mph
    1,250 ft
    450 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Your first leg starts at the bus stop of Takijiri-oji. After rummaging through the Pilgrimage Center, your path leads you straight to the Takijiri-Oji.

    

    Oji is the name given to the numerous tiny, smaller and sometimes larger shrines and places of worship on the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage. At almost all Ojis

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  • Intermediate
    04:45
    8.57 mi
    1.8 mph
    2,650 ft
    2,075 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From Takahara, after breakfast, you will continue through numerous shorter ascents and descents towards the village of Chikatsuyu. Along the way, you'll pass a total of six Oji shrines that have sprung from the Kumano Kodo over many centuries: Daimon-Oji, Jujo-Oji, Osakamoto-Oji, Chikatsuyu-Oji, Hisoharo

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  • Intermediate
    04:12
    8.01 mi
    1.9 mph
    1,625 ft
    2,225 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    On the third leg, you will first go from Nonaka back to the pilgrim's way and then start in the direction of the Waraji-Toge-Pass, which you will pass at a height of almost 600 meters.

    

    In the next valley, cross a stream and follow the signposted diversion over the next pass. The climb is steep, but it

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  • Difficult
    05:50
    11.4 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,350 ft
    2,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The fourth stage will take you today in a generous round along the main points of the Hongu area. Of course, even if our planning starts in the spa town of Yunomine, you can of course adapt the starting place to your needs and your place of stay.

    

    From Yunomine-Onsen we head north to the small shrine Funatama

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  • Difficult
    05:33
    10.5 mi
    1.9 mph
    2,375 ft
    2,600 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The section from Yunomine to Koguchi is called Kogumotori-goe. The actual starting point is located approximately four kilometers from Yunomine in the small village of Ukegawa. There you will also find a small supermarket where you can provide you with provisions for the hiking day.

    

    Over a long and even

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  • Difficult
    05:25
    9.31 mi
    1.7 mph
    3,225 ft
    2,550 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The final stage, called Ogumotori-goe, holds a great challenge but also great moments for you. From the sleepy village of Koguchi, the trail climbs incredibly steeply over stone and wooden steps to the highest point of the entire hike. On less than five kilometers, you will climb over 800 meters in altitude

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    6
  • Distance
    50.4 mi
  • Duration
    27:19 h
  • Elevation
    13,475 ft12,200 ft

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