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Voices: Japan - Trekking the Kumano Kodo

Blog entry about the Kumano Kodo by Bertrand



Following his Enlightenment, Buddha (6th-5th century BCE) is reputed to have travelled during 45 years in northern India and southern Nepal to disseminate the outcome of his decades-long meditation to a variety of audiences. He advocated for the Middle Way – a path of moderation between self-indulgence and self-mortification leading to the supreme liberation or Nirvana. There is little doubt that Buddha trekked a lot in the latter part of his life, thanks also to his strong physical condition.

Buddhist pilgrimages were historically common and popular in Japan. Although pilgrimage routes are nowadays less frequented, their religious legacy remains deeply engrained into Japan’ contemporary culture, as illustrated by the pilgrimage across Okunoin cementary to the resting place of Kobo Daishi Kukai in Koya San.

From Koya San, I could have trekked southward across the Kii Mountain Range to reach Hongu area. The 70km-long Kohechi trail represents one of the five branches of Kumano Kodo. Kumano Kodo depicts a set of famous historical Buddhist pilgrimage routes crisscrossing the Kii Peninsula. All these pilgrimage routes converge to Kumano Hongu Taisha – one of the holiest Buddhist sites in southern Kansai.

Instead of the Kohechi route, I am advised to consider the Nakahechi trail connecting Tanabe town to Hongu area. The latter itinerary is better equipped, less physically demanding and less exposed to late autumn wind and cold. Fair enough. After a long train and bus journey, I reach Takijiri-oji – the entry point to the sacred area of Kumano. From there, I spend three days in rugged mountainous landscape before reaching the mystical Kumano Hongu Taisha.

The Nakahechi trail is well maintained and posted, including for non-Japanese-speaking trekkers. However, trekking in southern Kansai means going up and down again and again. Born in the Swiss Alps, I won’t complain. I rather enjoy the stunningly wild landscape.

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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…