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Written by
Laura
Laura

Walking in Japan - the Nakasendo or the Kumano Kodo Trail?

Here at Macs Adventure we offer two fantastic walking holidays in Japan - the Nakasendo Trail and the Kumano Kodo Trail. The Nakasendo Trail goes through rural Japan and the central mountains on a route used since feudal times which linked Kyoto and Tokyo. The Kumano Kodo Trail is one of a series of pilgrim's trail dating back to the 11th century which leads to the three grand shrines of Kumano in the remote Kii Peninsula. Both walks are spectacular in their own right and both give you a really authentic, off-the-beaten-path experience of 'real' Japan but they are both quite different walks each with their own unique qualities to offer. Here are my recommendations for why you should choose either the Nakasendo Trail or the Kumano Kodo Trail (if you can't do both that is!)

nakasendo-trail

The Nakasendo Trail

Whilst the walking is by no means easy, the days are mostly quite short and it is highly customisable. There is some ascent and descent involved but nothing too strenuous (the toughest day involves approx 700m of ascent but this can be shortened if required) so it makes for a fairly relaxed walk giving you plenty of time to explore the villages when you arrive. The villages you stop at on the Nakasendo Trail are very pretty and delightfully quaint. If you enjoy visiting local craft shops then places like Tsumago and Magome have plenty of them and you will be able to purchase some lovely authentic Japanese gifts to take home to your friends and family As you walk through forests of bamboo and Japanese cedar you really feel like you are in Japan. Even though you don't climb up that high, as you come to clearings in the forest the views over the valleys are spectacular! An overnight stay at Komanoyu Ryokan in Kiso-Fukushima is a real experience and highlight of the Nakasendo Trail! This beautiful Ryokan is a very luxurious experience  - their food is delicious and the outdoor hot spring baths are very special. Find out more about walking the Nakasendo Trail on our website.

Kumano Kodo 2 (3)

The Kumano Kodo Trail

If you would prefer a bit more of a challenge and prefer more challenging walking then the Kumano Kodo Trail may suit you better. The mountains you pass through are not the highest but this trail does involve quite a bit of ascent and descent and the terrain underfoot is a bit more tricky. You walk through heavily forested mountain trails which have you feeling quite in the wilderness. As you walk through the mountains between remote villages on the Kumano Kodo trail you can enjoy the Pilgrim experience and imagine what it must have been like for the imperial family and aristocrats who made this pilgrimage dating back to the 10th century. As you encounter the various Oji shrines along the route where the Imperial family and aristocrats performed purification rituals and prayed for protection on their pilgrimage,  you do feel very spiritually aware and in touch with nature.

  • The villages on the Kumano Kodo are quieter and more remote than on the Nakasendo Trail so it gives you a much more rural experience.
  • An overnight stay in the village of Yunomine Onsen is quite the highlight as it is one of the oldest natural hot spring onsen villages in Japan. Here you will be served eggs which have been boiled in onsen waters and the healing properties of the water here are quite amazing!

Find out more about walking the Kumano Kodo Trail here. Here is a little overview video of my time in Japan, which may help you out with which walk to choose.

I hope this helps you decide which is the right walk-in Japan for you or if you can do both even better! Our team of specialists are here to help you plan your adventure, contact us for advice & inspiration.

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