The Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range have been world heritage sites for the past ten years. The three Kumano Sanzan shrines that represent Shinto are Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha, and the ancient pilgrimage routes that link them are called the Kumano Kodo.



Kumano Kodo Kan

The Kumano Kodo Kan Pilgrimage Center is a distinctive dodecagonal building opposite Takijiri-oji. This rest facility provides tourist information about Nakahechi with a focus on the Kumano Kodo, while also introducing the local history. It is filled with sightseeing information on Nakahechi and the Kodo, including exhibits of Kumano Gaishi and Takijiri-oji Shrine collections, and videos on Nakahechi.

9:00 to 17:00 *Closed New Year's holidays
A minute walk from Takijiri bus stop
1222-1 Kurisugawa, Nakahechi-cho, Tanabe
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After learning a little about the history and origins of the Kumano Kodo, how about taking a commemorative photo dressed in Heian period clothing? (rental fees apply)

2 min.



Kumano Kodo Walk 1
Takijiri-oji to Takahara to Kurisugawa bus stop
3 hours and 20 minutes (walking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route)

Takijiri-oji is one of the Gotai Oji, five major shrines revered as the most prestigious of the ninety-nine Oji of Kumano. It was considered the entrance to the sacred ground of Kumano. From Takijiri-oji the trail quickly steepens, climbing past Tainai Kuguri and Chichi-iwa Rock, then passing Nezu-oji before reaching the Tsurugi Sutra Mound. The trail is comparatively flat from the Tsurugi Sutra Mound, and intersects with a roadway after about 25 minutes. A climb of about 15 minutes up a stepped section follows, eventually reaching Takahara Village. From there a short walk along the roadway leads to Takahara Kumano Shrine. Close to Takahara Kumano Shrine is Kiri no Sato Takahara, a rest area featuring toilets, parking, and an excellent view.



According to local folklore, women who pass through Tainai Kuguri will have easy childbirth. It is very cramped inside, so take care when carrying bulky belongings such as backpacks.

13 min.



Kumano Kodo Walk 2
Gyubadoji-guchi to Chikatsuyu-oji
1 hour and 10 minutes

Starting from Gyubadoji-guchi bus stop in front of Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Michi-no-Eki, the trail winds its way toward the Gyubadoji statue. On the way from the Gyubadoji statue to Chikatsuyu there is a steep, stone-paved downward slope. This section can be slippery, so tread carefully. After crossing Kitano Bridge you will reach Chikatsuyu-oji.

Hashiori-toge Pass and the Gyubadoji Statue


The Gyubadoji statue has come to symbolize the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes. Many local songs and legends tell the tale of Emperor Kazan, who underwent a complete change from his prosperous lifestyle in Kyoto after being manipulated into abandoning the throne at the young age of 19. He became a priest, and headed to Kumano together with a handful of followers in his darkest days.

10 min.



Lodging in Chikatsuyu(Overnight stay)

When walking the Takijiri-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha section of the Kumano Kodo (Nakahechi route), the Chikatsuyu area located approximately at the midway point is the ideal place for an overnight stay. Chikatsuyu is a beautiful village where the original landscape of Japan has been preserved. All the lodgings in the village are small, but pride themselves on their hospitality, and you can sample dishes featuring local produce. Close by is the house (a historic building built more than a century ago) where Japanese artist Banka Nonagase was born. It currently operates under the name "Kameya," and provides tourist guidance and historical information. The old Japanese-style house has somewhat of an air of nostalgia to it, and is a good spot to relax at your own pace.


Kodo Lunch Boxes are the perfect meals to eat while on the Kumano Kodo walk. Examples such as Mehari Zushi and seasonal steamed vegetables feature liberal use of local produce, and sampling a taste of Kumano while walking these ancient trails comes highly recommended.



Kumano Kodo Walk 3
Chikatsuyu-oji to Hosshinmon-oji
6 hours and 30 minutes (walking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route)

The day starts out from Chikatsuyu-oji, said to be the oldest of the Nakahechi Oji. Chikatsuyu is home to the grave of the Nonagase Family, who served the Southern Court. Hisohara-oji is about an hour from Chikatsuyu. Climbing the hill from there, the trail passes between houses until it reaches Tsugizakura-oji, where the Nonaka-no-Ipposugi stand of large cedar trees is also located. Right below is Nonaka-no-Shimizu Spring, which was selected as one of the top 100 most excellent natural water sources in Japan, making it worth a visit. The trail then passes Nakagawa-oji before reaching Kobiro-oji. Next, the trail winds past Kumasegawa-oji and crosses Waraji-toge Pass before continuing to Yukawa-oji. Beyond Yukawa-oji, the climb to Mikoshi-toge Pass begins. At Mikoshi-toge Pass there is a rest area with toilets, and there will be an opportunity for a break before the descent. Your legs will no doubt be tired, so take care on the way down. You will eventually come to an unpaved woodland path that winds past Funatama Shrine and Inohana-oji before reaching Hosshinmon-oji. It is said an otorii called Hosshinmon once stood there, marking the entrance to the holy precincts of Kumano Hongu Taisha.

Hidehira Zakura

1 hour.



Yunomine Onsen Walk (Lodging)
Overnight stay. A walk of about an hour.

This hot spring was opened in 1800. Yunomine Onsen is renowned as Japan's oldest hot spring, and it's atmosphere remains unchanged from the past, offering a glimpse at the elegance of a traditional hot spring resort. Long ago people would cleanse themselves at Yunomine during pilgrimages to Kumano, purifying their souls at this sacred place and soothing their travel-weary bodies. The Tsuboyu Bath is said to change color seven times a day, and is a registered world heritage site as part of the pilgrimage routes. The Yunomine Onsen Public Bathhouse is also available for you to enjoy. There are a number of other highlights in the vicinity, including Yunomine-oji, one of the ninety-nine Oji, as well as historic remains of the Legend of Hangan Oguri.


This hot spring has become highly cosmopolitan, with a third of guests said to come from overseas depending on the season. Scalding 90°C water comes from some of the hot spring outlets along the river, so it might also be fun to try cooking some hot spring eggs.



Kumano Kodo Walk 4
Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha to Oyunohara
Travel from Yunomine bus stop to Hosshinmon-oji bus stop by bus. Walk the Kumano Kodo from Hosshinmon-oji to Oyunohara (two and a half hours).

The trail from Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha is the highlight of the Nakahechi section of the Kumano Kodo. Starting from Hosshinmon-oji, considered the entrance to the holy precincts of Kumano Hongu Taisha, the trail passes a number of Oji shrines near the grand shrine. One of these is Fushiogami-oji, where it is said that people prostrated themselves in worship, overwhelmed with gratitude after seeing the commanding view over Kumano Hongu Taisha. You may be moved by the experience in the same way as past worshippers who completed this long, hard pilgrimage.

Oyunohara, Former Precinct of Kumano Hongu Taisha


The Yatagarasu (three-legged crow) that appears on J-league soccer emblems is a legendary bird that guided Emperor Jimmu, the first emperor of Japan, from Kumano to Yamato.
It is worshipped at the three Kumano Sanzan shrines as a protective deity of Kumano, and there is a black Yata-post at Hongu Taisha featuring the Yatagarasu.




Tour of Kumano Hongu Heritage Center
(About 30 minutes required)

Kumano Hongu Heritage Center is located in the Hongu district that links Wakayama Prefecture, Nara Prefecture, and Mie Prefecture, and contains the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range that are world heritage sites.
It looks out over Kumano Hongu Taisha and the former shrine site at Oyunohara, and serves as a base of tourist and regional information for those visiting the world heritage Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (Kumano Kodo). Stop by for sightseeing information on the world heritage Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, as well as the Kumano region.

9:00 to 17:00 (Open all year round)
100-1 Hongu, Hongu-cho, Tanabe
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At the Wakayama World Heritage Center inside there is also an exhibit on Mount Koya, another world heritage site in Wakayama Prefecture. The Kii Spirit exhibition and exchange area features a design based on sunlight shining through a cedar grove.



Chichi-iwa Rock

Chichi-iwa Rock is associated with a local tradition. Legend has it that Hidehira Fujiwara of the Oshu Hiraizumi area came on a pilgrimage to Kumano with his wife to give thanks for her being blessed with child. On their way to the main shrine, his wife suddenly went into labor and gave birth at Takijiri. Though unable to complete the pilgrimage with the newborn, that night an avatar of Kumano appeared to him in a dream, telling him to leave the child at a grotto called Chichi-iwa in the hills behind Takijiri. He did so, and they continued their journey. The baby was protected by mountain wolves and nourished by milk that dripped from the rock, and it was unharmed when its parents returned.


Hashiori-toge Pass and the Gyubadoji Statue

The Gyubadoji statue is a small statue about 50 cm tall near Hashiori-toge Pass. It depicts a figure straddling the backs of both a cow and horse, and this is where its name comes from. According to one theory, it was made in the Meiji era in the image of the traveling Emperor Kazan, who came to Kumano on an imperial visit in 922. The following is said regarding the origins of the Hashiori-toge Pass where this statue is found.
After being driven from the throne, Emperor Kazan headed to Kumano with a small retinue of attendants.
On the way, he reached this pass and decided to stop for lunch, but realized he had forgotten to bring chopsticks. When an attendant broke off some wild grass to use as chopsticks, and presented them to the former emperor, a blood-like substance flowed from the within its stem. The puzzled former emperor then inquired whether the substance was blood or dew. Since then, the pass has been called Hashiori-toge, and the village at the bottom of the pass has been called Chikatsuyu.


Hidehira Zakura

Hidehira Zakura is also the subject of a legend regarding Hidehara Fujiwara.
Hidehira and his wife left their baby at Chichi-iwa Rock near Takijiri, then continued their journey. After reaching Nonaka, Hidehira broke off a branch of a sakura tree beside the trail, and vowed that if the branch withered, his child would perish. If the child lived on through the protection of the avatar of Kumano, the branch would not wither. According to the legend, he thrust it into the soil, and sure enough it took root, and his child survived.


Oyunohara, Former Precinct of Kumano Hongu Taisha

Oyunohara is said to be a clearing where the Kumano deities descended. In recent years it has been visited by many eager to see this power spot for themselves.
Kumano Hongu Taisha was formerly situated on a sandbank called Oyunohara at the confluence of the Kumano, Otonashi, and Iwata Rivers. At the time, the grounds covered approximately 36,000 square meters, encompassing five buildings and twelve shrines, including a tower gate, a kagura hall, and a stage. Its scale was several times larger than the current grounds.
There was no bridge across to the sandbank until the Edo period, so worshippers walked through the river to get there, and the tradition was to make the pilgrimage only after wetting the hems of your kimono. This final act of purifying the body was carried out in the cold waters of Otonashi River before visiting the shrine.
However, in August 1889 severe flooding swallowed up the Hongu Taisha shrine building, and washed away many of the shrines. As a result, four shrines that escaped damage were relocated to the current Kumano Hongu Taisha grounds. At Oyunohara, which once rang with the prayers of many, small stone shrines dedicated to four mid-tier and four lower-tier shrines lost in the flood have been built.


Provided by Keisuke Watanabe
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