The cobblestone paths and mountain trails that form the Nakahechi section of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route have been well trodden by Japanese emperors and aristocrats. Follow in their illustrious footsteps on this three-day course of spiritual adventure visiting grand shrines and natural gods via river boats, walking paths, and hot baths.
Abundant and vibrant flora and fauna
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.
To access the Shirahama and Kii-Tanabe area, take the Kuroshio Limited Express. Hugging Wakayama’s scenic coastline as it passes through the major access points of the area, the train rolls out of Kyoto Station, through Shin-Osaka and Tennoji, reaching the area in just over two and a half hours. The service is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
From there, buses are your best option. A bus from Shirahama Airport—stopping off and sometimes starting from Kii-Tanabe Station—runs to the onsen resort areas of Kawayu, Yunomine and Watarase Onsen.
Tips: Other travel options from throughout Japan are available.
Take the local bus to the Hosshinmon-oji stop. The bus takes between twenty and thirty minutes depending on where you alight. Check with the front desk of your chosen hotel because some accommodation spots run a shuttle-bus service to the area. From here, take the half-day trek through forest trails and mountaintop villages stopping off at the spiritual signposts on the way to Kumano Hongu.
5 Hongu Taisha
6 Overnight in Hongu
A variety of local buses servicing the Hongu area will take you to down to the Hitari bus stop, from where you can begin your Kumano-gawa River Boat Tour. The bus trip will take between 25 and 45 minutes depending on which one you choose to take. There is only one boat tour in the morning starting at 10:00, so make sure to check the bus timetable because you need to arrive by 9:30 to take the tour.
7 Kumano-gawa Boat Tour
Tips: Reservations required. In the event of a cancellation, inform the center by 12:00 the day before you are planning to ride. Cancellations after this time will incur a 100% cancellation charge for all members of the party.
8 Hayatama Taisha
Once you have been suitably spiritually refreshed, take the local bus from nearby Gongen-mae Station for your final journey of the day to Kii-Katsuura—around 30 minutes.
If you still have the energy, you can walk a little further to Shingu train station and board the Kinokuni Line bound for Kushimoto. You will arrive in Kii-Katsuura in around 20 minutes.
9 Overnight in Katsuura
Walking refreshed after your evening of hot-spring relaxation, hop back on the bus from Kii-Katsuura Station to the spiritual hotbed of Nachisan. Get off at the Daimonzaka Chushajo-mae stop to start your day at the bottom of a spiritual stone staircase. The bus journey takes around 25 minutes.
11 Nachi Taisha
13 Nachi Waterfall
The Nachi-no-Taki-mae bus stop is conveniently located near the waterfall. You can take this local bus back to Kii-Katsuura, where it is possible to continue your journey on the connecting trains at JR Kii-Katsuura station. The Kuroshio Express will take you back to Shin-Osaka and Kyoto, along with the main Wakayama hubs along the way.