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Tourism and Community Development: Regenerating Japan's Spiritual Roots


The sacred Kumano region has directly benefited from well planned and implemented grassroots community based tourism, regenerating the spiritual roots of Japan.


Tanabe is a small city (pop. ~80,000) in the ancient Kumano region.  Kumano's history dates to pre-historic times and is the legendary "Land of the Dead" in Japanese mythology, a sacred otherworldly site linking the world of man to the spiritual realm.  The religious origins are based on nature worship, with natural objects believed to be imbued with the divine. Pilgrims have walked the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes to the Kumano Grand Shrines for over 1000 years in search of healing, regeneration, and salvation.

There have been many recent changes in the area both social and politically.  Villages are suffering from rapid ageing and depopulation, young people are moving to large urban centers, few return, risking the integrity of these settlements.  There is an urgent need for community regeneration.

Kumano was registered in July 2004 as part of the "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes of the Kii Mountain Range" UNESCO World Heritage property, verifying the global significance of this precious cultural landscape.


Through strategically planned projects with a diversity of stakeholders, we strive to build a strong foundation for a sustainable future by focusing on preservation, cultivating human resources, and developing effective tourism systems. The local people are intimately engaged in every step of this process.

To improve human resources in our community, communication level-up workshops have played a vital role.  These original and unique training and educational opportunities focused on a number of key players in the local tourism industry.  They teach skills to facilitate the transfer of information smoothly to visitors without being able to speak a foreign language.

During discussions with local accommodations, there were many issues with processing reservations.  They could not understand faxes or telephone calls. Some accommodations couldn't afford costly website creation or contracts with credit card companies.  To solve these problems the idea of a regional reservation system evolved.

After years of planning, in 2010, Tanabe city opened the Kumano Travel Community Reservation System, an all inclusive bilingual Japanese and English reservation website: the first in Japan!

This is a pioneering platform to give local business a chance to connect with the growing online market for tourism around the world. Currently there is a membership of over 100 service providers (and growing!), from all types of service providers.


With this community-based tourism development, Tanabe City is many steps closer to making our vision a reality; proving that it is possible for a rural Japanese town to take responsibility and control, to reshape itself into a positive, sustainable, high quality tourism destination.

The energizing power of community-based tourism has brought new life to Japan's spiritual roots, inspiring an invigorated sense of pride in our citizens, and hope for the future.

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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…