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Kumano Kodo featured in DestinAsian

Japan’s Ancient Kumano Kodo Trail
Text & Photos: Leisa Tyler
Published by: DestinAsian
Nov, 2013


A millennium ago, in the heyday of Japan’s imperial court, nobles from Kyoto would embark on weeks-long treks to pray at the three main Shinto-Buddhist shrines of Ku- mano, a rugged swath of the Kii Peninsula in southernmost Honshu. The journey would take them over waterfall-laced mountains that in spring were awash with the blossoms of wild cherry trees, and through dark forests threaded with raging streams. Dressed in byakue, the white coat of the pilgrim, they would make offerings to the dozens of smaller subsidiary shrines, or oji, that marked the way, as well as to the trees and rocks themselves. Trekking the Kumano Kodo, as the network of trails came to be known—kodo means “old ways”—was as much a purification rite as a celebration of nature.

And people have been walking the ancient pilgrimage circuit ever since. Yet by the dawn of Japan’s modern era in the late 19th century, the Kumano Kodo had begun to slip into obscurity, its tracks grown over and its shrines and temples falling into disrepair. Then in 2004, it became one of only two pilgrimage routes in the world to be recognized as a World Heritage site (the other is Spain’s Way of St. James). Restorations began and visitor numbers grew, mainly among Japanese keen to visit the three grand shrines of Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha, collectively referred to as the Kumano Sanzan. But thanks to the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau, which has developed detailed route maps, a handy online hotel-bookings system (in English as well as Japanese), and drop-off and pick-up bus services along the country roads that parallel the walking trails, the Kumano Kodo is increasingly attracting foreign trekkers as well.

Read more online >>

NOTE: In March, 2013, the Wakayama prefecture government sponsored a press tour for Leisa Tyler and the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau supported her during the visit.

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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…