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Stairway to Heaven, Kansai Scene Magazine

Stairway to Heaven, Kansai Scene Magazine

Text: Natalie Emmons
Published by Kansai Scene
December 1, 2012


The serene beauty of the Kumano Kodo is as legendary as its history. For centuries, this network of mountainous pilgrimage routes has granted each traveller a stimulating physical and spiritual journey. The divine panoramas, the moss-covered shrines, and the ethereal stillness of the forest create an atmosphere of otherworldly transcendence. Regrettably, there is nothing like sore calves to yank you back to reality.

For Kumano Kodo novices, the Nakahechi section of the pilgrimage is a great place to start. Stretching across the southern tip of the Kii Peninsula, this popular trail connects three renowned Shinto shrines known as the Kumano Sanzan. Originally used by the Japanese aristocracy, the Nakahechi route has existed for over 1,000 years. Judging by the trail’s terrain, the imperial family must have been in great shape. Don’t let nomenclature fool you. The word “trail” is a euphemism for “eternal staircase that will turn your legs to noodles.” From towering cobblestone steps to slippery muddy slopes, it’s hard to imagine how the ancestors did the entire pilgrimage in straw sandals. No wonder the ancient resting places called out “We have tofu and hot baths!” to passing travellers. Even in the midst of idyllic landscapes, you will soon be yearning for a different sort of paradise, the kind that involves a long, hot soak and a hearty meal.

Luckily, there are magnificent onsen along the trail, several of which are clustered around Hongu Grand Shrine. Located roughly at the center of the Nakahechi trail, Hongu Shrine is the head of over 3,000 affiliated shrines and the ultimate goal of the Kumano Kodo. No trophy awaits you at the finish line, but a visit to the nearby hot springs is an excellent way to reward your efforts and revive your strength.

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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…