Photo: Kanenori

A guide to hiking the Kumano Kodo

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By GaijinPot Travel

Buddhist monks and other religious pilgrims have walked the roads of the Kumano Kodo for over 1,000 years to reach some of Japan’s most sacred shrines and temples. Also known as the Kumano Old Road, the Kumano Kodo is a collection of interconnecting ancient trails in western Japan.

Connecting modern-day prefectures like OsakaNaraWakayama, and Mie to Mount KoyaIse Grand Shrine, and other spiritual sites, the Kumano Kodo takes hikers through breathtaking landscapes, rural villages, and relaxing onsen.

One of the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano, where the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage leads to. Photo: Beau Saunders

All of the Kumano Kodo routes eventually lead to Kumano Sanzan (The Three Grand Shrines of Kumano) in the mountains of southeastern Wakayama. The Kumano area is often thought of as the “Land of the Gods” where you can commune with the divine. Though modern infrastructure now provides easy access to these places by car or train, the preserved trails are great for hiking.

This ancient holy road holds such cultural significance it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The only other pilgrimage route holding such a distinction is the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Hikers who have completed both legendary trails are known as “Dual Pilgrims.”

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© GaijinPot Travel

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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If anyone's considering going to the Kumano Kodo, I'd say do it now before the mass tourism starts in the region. Even if you're not particularly physically fit or well, you can easily get to at least Kumano Nachi Taisha and Hongu Taisha by a short bus trip. Nachi Taisha, with the Nachi Falls behind it, in my opinion is one of the most fabulous sights of Japan.

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