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Kumano featured in "Essence of Japan" Newsletter

Organization of Kansai Unity, Newsletter Experience, the Essence of Japan Vol.21 (2011/8/03)

This newsletter introduces various tourist attractions in the Kansai region of Japan, including information related to history, culture, nature, latest shopping trends and entertainment.

1. Kansai's sightseeing spots recommended by foreigners living in Kansai: Introduction to Kumano Kodo (ancient pilgrimage routes) in Wakayama and local features.

Kansai's sightseeing spots recommended by foreigners living in Kansai

Sightseeing spots introduced in this issue are recommended by Brad Towle, the International Tourism and Promotion Director for the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau in Wakayama Prefecture.  Originally from Canada, Brad has been living and working in the area for over 10 years.

Ancient Kumano Region

Kumano is an ancient name for the southern portion of the Kii Peninsula.  It is a mountainous region with a rugged coastline, crisscrossed with historic pilgrimage routes and sacred sites.  Soothing, isolated hot springs are scattered throughout this beautiful area.  Blessed with verdant natural surroundings, the authentic cuisine is a delicious mix of local ingredients from the mountains, rivers and ocean.  For visitors looking for a cultural, experiential based trip, Kumano is the perfect destination.     (English) 

◇Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Routes

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.

◇ Kumano Sanzan Shrines

Kumano Sanzan is a term referring to a set of three Grand Shrines located in the southeastern part of the Kii Mountain Range: Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha. Originally, each of these three Grand Shrines had their own distinctive form of nature worship; later in the 10th century, they started to give worship to all of the three guardian deities at the same time under the influence of Buddhism. 

The trine deities of the Kumano Sanzan became a unique mixture of Shinto and Buddhism and were considered to be the strongest in Japan. In the 11th century these Grand Shrines became a pilgrimage destination for the imperial family and aristocrats. By the late 15th century, the majority of pilgrims to Kumano were commoners. There were so many people visiting this area that it was referred to as “ant processions”. From prehistoric times until the present, the Kumano area was, and still is, considered a place of healing; a sacred, mystical abode of the gods.

◇ Yunomine Onsen

Yunomine is a quaint little collection of inns tucked into a small valley deep in the heart of the sacred mountains of Kumano. The waters here are said to change color seven times over the course of a day. Yunomine Onsen was discovered about 1,800 years ago, and it is thought to be one of the oldest hot springs in Japan.

Yunomine Onsen is an integral part of the over 1000 year old Kumano pilgrimage tradition. Pilgrims performed hot water purification rituals in these piping hot mineral waters after their long journey in preparation to worship at Kumano Hongu Taisha.


◆ Recommended accommodation : One of the numerous friendly Minshuku guesthouses

There are many friendly Minshuku guesthouses in the Yunomine village, each with their own hot spring baths.  Enjoying the relaxed, family-like atmosphere is a highlight of a stay in one of these amicable accommodations.  There is more information available on the local Kumano Travel reservation site. 

◇ Kawayu Onsen

On a tributary of the Kumano River, the Oto River, one can dig their own hot spring bath in the soft gravel bed of the river; this is the very famous and unusual hot spring of Kawayu Hot Spring. In the summer you can enjoy playing in the pure flowing river, and in the winter (November to February), one section of the river is partitioned to make a gigantic outdoor bath. It is 40 meters long and is 15 meters across at its widest section and 60 centimeters deep. It is called "Sennin buro" implying that "One thousand people" can easily be accommodated at one time. It is fun to go with a large group of people.


◆ Recommended accommodation :  Fujiya Ryokan

Fujiya Ryokan is one of the largest accommodations in Kawayu Onsen and is located at the east end of the village.  All but three of the rooms are traditional Japanese style.  The other three are modern western theme rooms based on earth, bamboo and wood respectively, all with private baths on the balcony.  All rooms have a view of the Oto River which flows through the village.  The décor is traditional Japanese with Ikebana and other art throughout the facility.  Hot spring water bubbles to the river surface in front of the hotel.

◇ Ryujin Onsen

Ryujin Onsen  is situated in the flowing waters of the Hidaka River, where the fragrance of the surrounding woods and the murmuring of the river can be heard in a natural setting. 

In ancient times, this place was discovered by a founder of ascetic Buddhism, Shugendo's Ennogyoja. This hot spring has had a prestigious history from the time it was opened when Kobo Daishi had a divine revelation about it in his dream of a god of the sea, Nada-ryu-o. In the Edo era, it was used as a resort area for the Tokugawa ruling family, and the famous hot springs are overflowing with history. At present there are still Japanese inns with names such as "Kami-goden" (Royal Palace), and "Shimo-goden" (Lower Lodgings), and these names still remain as a reminder of the old feudal system.

Ryujin's high quality hot spring waters are clear with a high quantity of sodium bicarbonate and is considered to be the best in Japan. The smooth and silky waters are well known for making skin beautiful and is one of Japan's three famous Bijin-no-yu or "Beautifying Hot Springs."


◆ Recommended accommodation : Kamigoten Ryokan

Kamigoten Ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn with 100s of years of history located in the isolated Ryujin Onsen hot spring village.  It was built in 1657 for Yorinobu Tokugawa, the feudal lord of Kinokuni as a site for bathing and relaxing.  The main structure was designated in 1999 as a tangible cultural asset and precious cultural heritage.  The Onarino-ma (the room built for the ruler) is where the feudal lord used to stay, and is decorated with beautiful antique art.  There is a private outdoor bath overlooking the Hiki-gawa River.  The silky smooth hot spring water is famous for its beautifying properties.  The Ryujin family has been running this inn for 29 generations, and they pride themselves on serving delicious meals made with the best ingredients from the surrounding mountains.

◇ Izakaya Restaurant Experience

The entertainment area in front of the JR Kii-Tanabe station is called “Ajikoji” and is packed with over 200 restaurants and Japanese style pubs (Izakaya) . It is considered to be the most concentrated of its kind for a city of this size in the entire country of Japan. Every alley is full of quaint places to eat and drink. The Tanabe City Gourmet Map features 29 of these establishments including 26 with English menus.

Tanabe is a safe place for non-Japanese speakers to fully experience delicious local cuisine in an authentic environment. Unlike most tourist areas, Tanabe’s restaurants are geared toward locals, so the food is always fresh and cheap. The fish market even takes place at 3 pm, instead of the morning, so the seafood is world class. Enjoy!

◇ Kumano Travel - Local Reservation Site

Opened on November 1, 2010, Kumano Travel is the official travel company of the Tanabe City/Kumano Region. It is a local, community-based initiative created to supply visitors with quality information, services, and products so they can fully experience travelling in the area.

New accommodations and services are continually being updated, so if you have any questions or need some help creating an itinerary for your visit, please contact them directly for more information.  This is an excellent service to help with organizing a trip to the area.

Issued by: The Organization of Kansai Unity
Address: 11F, Osaka International Convention Center (OICC Grand Cube Osaka) 5-3-51 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka
What’s Kansai?
The Kansai region comprises 10 prefectures: Fukui, Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, Wakayama, Tokushima, and Tottori. Reputed as one of the best tourist destinations in Japan, Kansai is full of tourist attractions, including five UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites.
What’s Kansai Unity?
The Organization of Kansai Unity was established on July 1, 2007, comprising 10 prefectures, 4 ordinance-designated cities, and 6 economic organizations in the Kansai region. The purpose of the organization is to help Kansai develop into an attractive and energetic region by taking advantage of the overall strengths of the region.

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NEW Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass

NEW Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass
This is an easy way to do a loop of the Kii Peninsula.

From July 15, 2016 (Friday)
PRICE Adult 11,000 yen Children 5,500 yen (Children 6 to 11 years old)
NOTE: This pass is not available for purchase in Japan.
VALIDITY PERIOD Five consecutive days
AREA ●JR conventional lines: Nagoya-Shingu-within Osaka City (via lse Tetsudo Line or Kameyama, via Kisei Main Line/Hanwa Line) ●Nagoya-Kameyama-Nara-within Osaka City (via Kansai Main Line) Taki Toba (Sangu Line) ●Kansai International Airport-Hineno (Kansai Airport Line) ●Bus routes for accessing Kumano Kodo, Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha (Only Kumano Kotsu Bus); and Select bus routes
TRAIN TYPES ●Unlimited use of non-reserved seats on ordinary cars on all JR conventional line trains in the subject section. ●Reserved seats can be used up to four times on ordinary cars of limited express and rapid trains. ●Only non-reserved seats can be used on the limited express "Haruka' between the Kansai Inte…