What is Kumano Kodo?
Kumano Kodo is a pilgrimage route that has continued since ancient times. The Kumano Kodo is the collective name for pilgrimage routes from Kyoto, Yoshino, Koyasan, and Ise to the three sacred sites of Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha, and Kumano Hayatama Taisha.
The Kii Peninsula was formed by the eruption of a huge volcano 14 million years ago. With its many giant rocks and strange stones, it has been considered a mysterious place since ancient times. The great and rugged nature of the peninsula has made it a place of ascetic training for ascetic practitioners (shugendo).
In the Heian period (794-1185), the imperial family and aristocrats began to make pilgrimages to Kumano. In the Edo period (1603-1867), the Kumano Pilgrimage spread to the general public. It is precisely because countless people have walked this path over a long period of time that it still exists today.
The Kumano Kodo is 1,000 km long, of which only about 200 km are designated as World Heritage sites. Moreover, the Kumano Kodo is not a single road, but is divided into six major paths. This makes it difficult to easily decide where to go.
- Ise-ji from Ise
- Omine Okugake-do from Yoshino
- Kiiji (Kii road) from Kyoto to Tanabe
- Kobeji (Koheji) from Koyasan
- Nakahechi (Nakahechi Road) from Tanabe to Kumano Sanzan
- Oheji, a route along the sea from Tanabe to Kumano Sanzan
Travel on your own or join a tour
Since the Kumano Kodo are in remote areas and most of them are mountain paths, it is best to avoid visiting them on your own unless you have sufficient experience, information, and equipment.
Of course, there are some short sections, such as the Ise Route, which are not so dangerous. There are also several one-day tours that take shorter routes. For example, the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Tour with Licensed Guide & Vehicle is a very convenient tour with a choice of departure points.
If you prefer to walk further, the Kumanokodo 1 Day Walking Tour is a great option. This tour departs from Tanabe in the early morning by bus. Buses are very infrequent, so there is no other choice.