Walk of the Week - The Kumano Kodo
While the Camino de Santiago or the Via Francigena get all the press for the great walking pilgrimages of the world, there is one that perhaps trumps the two for its peace and natural beauty, the Kumano Kodo. Visiting Japan is not traditionally associated with peace and tranquility, with hectic Tokyo or Kyoto being the main destinations people visit, but to truly experience rural Japan, get to know its people and customs, then there is no better way than to strap on your boots and take this pilgrimage from Temple to Temple in hidden Japan.
Classic Mountain View
In a Nutshell
Distance: 68 km.
Grading: Moderate. Some steep sections and long days, but the paths are really well laid out and the way marking and documentation are superb.
Where is it?
The walk itself is in the mystical Kii Peninsula in south west Japan. However on our longer itinerary, we start off with a couple of days in Kyoto, basically to get you acclimatised to the culture of Japan, but mainly because Kyoto is unbelievably beautiful and shouldn't be missed. From Kyoto it is a straightforward train and ride down to Takijiri to begin your walk. At the end of the trip you transfer to Osaka to sample Japan's gastronomic capital and see another side of Japanese life.
Why walk it?
Japan and Japanese culture are so incredibly unique that even paying a visit to the major tourist sites gives you a plethora of memories and experience of the way of life. However to really experience Japan, getting out into the countryside and exploring is how you really find out how Japan functions. After all, visiting London is not indicative of Britain as a whole, so it is no different in Japan.
The Kumano Kodo itself is incredibly spiritual. It is a quiet route, filled with ancient temples and shrines, where you are alone with your thoughts and surrounded by some of the most dramatic scenery that you will ever encounter. Hilltop villages, bamboo forests, and soothing hot spring baths will tempt you along the path.
The real draw is the way of life, however. Every night you will stay in local Minshuku (guesthouses) where you will be provided with your own robe and slippers, so there is no need to have a change of clothes as these should be worn from arrival, right through dinner and beyond. You can even walk around the village in your robe, it is all part of everyday life.
Yunomine outdoor Onsen
Planning to walk the Kumano Kodo
It is a big deal for most people to be travelling to Japan and there is a large language and culture barrier, however this is not something that should dissuade you. The locals are intensely friendly, particularly on the walk itself, where foreign travellers are rare. With a guidebook and a big smile any situation is easily resolved, but you know that you will always have Macs Adventure and our local agents to hand should you need us.
The route itself is very well marked and the instructions that we pass on to you mean that you will be able to slot right into the Japanese pace of life. Japan's seasons are very similar to ours, so walking March - November is the best, with spring and autumn being amazing for the spring blossom and autumn colours respectively. You can contact Macs Adventure on firstname.lastname@example.org for advice or reservation enquiries, or browse macsadventure.com for more trips to inspire adventure on foot.