Itineraries

Mountain Villages Mark the Way

Treks, Stay, Mountain Village, Spiritual

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Known for its steep slopes and stone pavements, this beautiful section of the Nakahechi route takes you along mountain passes and through deep forest. Pass by statues and supplementary shrines as you climb up to a night’s rest in a misty village perched on a mountain ridge top and a picturesque village in a valley.

Mountain Village

Small settlements nestled in the mountains

Takahara—also known as the Village in the Mist—and quaint Chikatsuyu Village are your two stop off points along the trek. 

Takahara

Stay

Warmth and nourishment at places of rest

Enjoy nourishing food at the Organic Hotel and a warm welcome at the family run guesthouses and cottages of the Chikatsuyu Village area.

Kiri-no-Sato Takahara Lodge

Treks

Follow in pilgrims’ footsteps

Climb up the steep slope to the mountain village of Takahara, dip down into forest glades and over mountain passes.

Takahara

Spiritual

Enlightenment awaits at grand shrines

The supplementary Oji shrines are spiritual signposts leading you to your goal—the grand shrine of Hongu Taisha.

Hongu Taisha

Tips: Fly to Nanki-Shirahama airport to begin your exploration of Wakayama. Japan Airlines offers affordable domestic fares with the JAL Japan Explorer Pass. The easy-to-use English website makes booking flights very easy.

Take the bus from Kii-Tanabe Station to the trailhead of Takijiri—the start point for your trek. The bus journey takes around 40 minutes. Grab an early lunch to fuel up before boarding the bus as there are no places to stop off and eat once you set foot on the cobblestone paths. Aim to arrive at Takijiri by early afternoon. Once you step foot off the bus, check into the information center to find out about the history of the ancient pilgrimage routes.

40 min 〜

1 Takijiri-oji

Takijiri-oji marks the beginning of your passage into the sacred mountain range. The three-kilometer trek to Takahara is well signposted in English and Japanese, however be warned, the path is rocky and very steep. Even for experienced climbers, it can be a difficult trek.

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2 Takahara

The three-kilometer climb on the Kumano Kodo path leads you to the small ridge top settlement of Takahara. A welcome stop-off point for pilgrims, the area offers great views of the surrounding mountain range. The view is particularly beautiful when blanket mist creates a sea of clouds in the valley below.

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3 Overnight in Takahara

The glowing lights of Kirinosato Takahara Lodge mark the end of your first day and a chance to relax and unwind with a hot bath and cold beer (other beverages available). Take in panoramic views of the forested mountain paths that you scaled during the afternoon. Also known as the Organic Hotel, the food served is locally sourced providing you with nourishing dinners and breakfasts.

After breakfast, head back out into the forest and continue your trek on the mountain paths heading for the Gyuba-doji Statue. The path climbs and falls as you wander through the remains of an ancient teahouse and breaks in the forest that give you great views of the mountainscape. The Michi-no-Eki—roadside stop—is located near the end of this stage of your trek presenting an opportunity for a lunch break.

4 Gyuba-doji Statue

A short climb up from the Michi-no-Eki, you will find a cluster of statues. Here, you can pay your respects to one of the first emperors to make the imperial pilgrimage, Emperor Kazan (968-1008).

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15 min 〜

5 Chikatsuyu Village

It's downhill from here as you descend into picturesque Chikatsuyu Village. Be careful, the path can be very slippery in wet weather. Have a coffee or a hot bubbling foot bath and pick up some snacks and souvenirs. If you have time, drop into the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Art Museum.

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1 h 10 min 〜

6 Tsugizakura-oji

Follow the old highway through the village on the way to the shrine grove of Tsugizakura-oji. Huge cedar trees over 800 years old tower above the subsidiary shrine. The thatch roofed Toganoki-jaya teahouse is located nearby. 

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5 min 〜

7 Nonaka-no-Shimizu Spring

Bubbling quietly next to the shrine is the Nonaka-no-Shimizu—a natural spring with water pure enough to drink. Quench your thirst here before heading to your residence for the night.

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8 Ryokan Stay

There are a number of options for staying in the Chikatsuyu/Tsugizakura area. Around ten cozy guesthouses and cottages offer room and board, and are often renovated wooden buildings with modern amenities. Some guesthouses have bicycles for guests to use, and gardens to relax in. The number of rooms and services available depend on each individual place, so research thoroughly to find the best match for you. 

9 Kobiro-toge

Continue your journey to Hongu Taisha by joining the trail from Kobiro-toge that follows the old highway. The trail passes through forest on climbing and descending paths. Bring something for lunch as there are no restaurants along the way.

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2 h 30 min 〜

10 Mikoshi-toge to Hosshinmon-oji

When you reach the Mikoshi-toge area—the last of the big passes on this section of the trail—stop off for lunch. The wooden pavilion you will find there is a simple wooden structure open to pilgrims looking for a place to sit and rest for a while.

1 h 20 min 〜

11 Hosshinmon-oji

From here, the trail runs downhill towards one of the most important sites on the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route. Hosshinmon-oji Shrine marks the outermost entrance to the divine precinct of the grand shrine of Kumano Hongu Taisha.

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1 h 〜

12 Fushiogami-oji

When you reach Fushiogami-oji Shrine, you will get your first sight of the grand shrine as well as a view of all six of the subsidiary oji-shrines.

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20 min 〜

13 Sangen-jaya

 When you arrive at Sangen-jaya, you have made it to an old woodland crossroads, where you can see old tea house remains and an Edo period (1603 - 1868) stone signpost pointing you in the direction of the Buddhist complex of Koyasan and Kimiidera Temple—close to Wakayama City.

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40 min 〜

14 Hongu Taisha

 A steep stone staircase is your final obstacle before arriving at the spiritual ground of Hongu Taisha. Once you set eyes on the sweeping cypress bark roofs of the grand shrine, you have reached the end of your trek and a higher state of enlightenment.

15 Overnight in Hongu

There are clusters of small hotels, guesthouses and other places to stay near and around Kumano Hongu Taisha. It is also possible to take a bus to the onsen resort areas of Yunomine, Kawayu and Wataze from nearby Hongu Taisha-mae bus stop. Make sure to check the bus schedule carefully as the last buses are relatively early—around 16:30.

Whether you are planning to explore other areas of Wakayama Prefecture or move on to destinations further afield, the local bus will take you to the hub stations of Shingu, Kii-Katsuura, Kii-Tanabe, and Shirahama Airport. The Kuroshio Express train stops at these hubs and connect with Osaka and Kyoto, and the airport has daily flights to Tokyo.