Kumano: the Land of Gods
A visit to the Kumano region is to follow in the footsteps of pilgrims from down the ages, and step into the spiritual heartland of Japan. The World Heritage Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes allow you to explore the breathtaking beauty and mystic atmosphere of the Kii mountains. Pilgrims then and now travel these trails to reach the sacred Kumano Sanzan sites, which include three of the most revered shrines in Japan. Visiting all three is believed to bring good luck to your past, present, and future lives. Centuries ago, the journey took weeks; this itinerary introduces the area's must-see sights in just 3 days. From paper-making to power spots, pagodas to prayer, a trip to Kumano is full of unique experiences.
Kii-Tanabe Station is the hub for buses to the Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine. Take the 8:00 a.m. bus to arrive at Hongu Taisha-mae for 9:35 a.m. If starting the day in Shirahama, catch the 7:26 a.m. bus departing from Shirahama Bus Center.
The bus service from the Shirahama Bus Center to Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine is limited. Buses bound for Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine depart twice daily: 7:26 a.m. and 9:41 a.m.
1 Kumano Hongu Heritage Center
If the coin lockers are all in use, bags can be left with shop staff.
2 Kumano Washi Paper Otonashi
Pick up some snacks at a nearby store for lunch on the go, and catch the 12:00 noon bus from Hongu Taisha-mae to Hosshinmon-oji.
3 Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Route
4 Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine
After a day on your feet, catch the 4:45 p.m. bus from Hongu Taisha-mae to either Yunomine or Kawayu Onsen. These onsen hotspring hamlets are only a short ride away.
5a Yunomine Onsen
5b Kawayu Onsen
Bring your swimsuit along if bathing in the river naked doesn't appeal. It is a mixed-bathing location.
6 Hot Springs Hamlet Stay
Day 2 takes you to the Nachisan area and the second Kumano Sanzan shrine, Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine . To get there, catch the Shingu Station-bound bus departing from Hongu Taisha-mae at 8:40 a.m. It also picks up passengers from Yunomine, Kawayu, and Watarase Onsen stops. Alight at Gongen-mae, the stop before Shingu Station, and ride the 10:04 a.m. bus to Nachi Station. From there, connect to the 10:33 a.m. service bound for Nachisan. Alight at Daimonzaka Chushajo-mae.
Taxi tours to Nachisan from either Shingu or Katsuura are also available. These can be arranged at Shingu Station with the Shingu City Tourist Information Center . Tours start from around ￥10,000 and take anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours.
7 Daimon-zaka Slope
8 Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine
9 Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple
10 Nachi Waterfall
Buses from Nachisan run approximately once every hour until dusk. After taking in the falls, catch one of the afternoon buses into Katsuura from the Nachi-no-Taki-mae stop. The last bus leaves at 5:41 p.m.
11 Katsuura Onsen
Complete your Kumano Sanzan pilgrimage with a visit to Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine and its predecessor, Kamikura-jinja Shrine. Buses run roughly every 30 minutes between Katsuura and Shingu train stations. If taking the bus, alight at the Gongen-mae stop—a short walk from Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine. Alternatively, take the train to Shingu Station and either walk or take a taxi.
12 Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine
13 Kamikura-jinja Shrine
After ticking the Kumano Sanzan off your list, you may wish to continue on sightseeing elsewhere. For onward travel to Wakayama City and Osaka, take the Kuroshio express from Shingu Station; for Tokyo, a time-saving alternative to rail travel is a flight from Nanki Shirahama Airport; to travel to Nagoya or Ise, take the Wideview Nanki express.
Able to spend more time in the area? Consider the following: