This is a two day hike on the Kumano Kodo trail from Hongu to Nachisan. Initially I was gonna start in Tanabe and do the whole Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trek in 4 days but then I decided to see other parts of Japan too so I cut down the length to two days only. However, this part of the trail is apparently the most beautiful one… It’s about 39km long and on the way to Nachisan I stayed in Koguchi.
The Kumano Kodo trail is not difficult at all – the path is well maintain and it’s impossible to get off it thanks to the sign posts you pass by every 500 m. So although it wasn’t really a challenging route I really enjoyed it because of its magical atmosphere and the fact it felt really secluded. I walked it in mid-June and hardly met more than 5 people. That’s exactly what I was after… Initially I was even going to wild-camp there but apparently camping in Kumano Kodo outside designated areas is not accepted well by the local and you might end up pissing a few monks off.
The night before I started the hike I had come from Koyasan to Hongu by bus and stayed in a hostel called Kumano Backpackers that is just 3 minutes or so from the bus stop. The hostel was cheap, quiet and clean. Nothing unforgettable but exactly what I needed.
In the morning before you start the hike it’s worth checking the Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine that is literally 2 minutes from the hostel. From there you’ll need to get to the beginning of the trail, which is in Ukegawa. You can either take the bus from the nearby bus stop or walk for about 3.5km along the road. I chose the latter as the bus is not that frequent and I didn’t feel like waiting…
Once you join the trail in Ukegawa it’s really straightforward and it’s almost impossible to get lost. Most of the time you’ll be in a deep forest with some occasional stunning viewpoints. There are also a few resting places – a set of benches under a roof that might prove very handy if it rains. In my case it was heavy raining for most of the first day so I was really happy to find them. In Koguchi I stayed in Koguchi Shizen-no-Ie Lodging. It’s a school turned into a guesthouse. It’s a fun experience as my room still had a blackboard and other typical school equipment but on the other hand it was quite pricey – 8000 yen (dinner and a breakfast included). Note that no one from the staff speaks a word in English (not even the most basic English) and there’s no booking online system. Thus, the only way to book this accommodation is to ask someone who speaks Japanese to book for you.
The second day is definitely a bit tougher and more exciting. The hike begins with a 6 km long ascend that will make you sweat. Like the previous day the route is very easy to follow and most of the time you’ll be in a deep forest full of wild life and little shrines. Probably the most stunning bit of the trek is the very end when you arrive to the Seiganto-ji temple, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The whole area is magical and I was personally blown away by the three-story pagoda with Nachi Falls in the background. The waterfall has a drop of 133m that makes it the tallest waterfall in Japan. It’s probably worth starting the hike early in the morning so you have more time to enjoy the area of the Seiganto-ji temple. I was in a bit of a hurry so I didn’t manage to go to the bottom of Nachi Falls unfortunately.
You can download the Kumano Kodo route in the GPX format under the map by clicking on ‘Download’. Please note: you can notice that in Koguchi my GPS watch went a bit crazy and the blue line / route is all over the place. Please disregard it. Probably time to update my Garmin Fenix 3…
I’m happy to answer any of your questions in the comments below.