Ten Days walking in wonder
on the ancient pilgrimage routes of the kumano kodo

nov 3 to 12, 2019

[1] SUN nov3: Welcome

Overnight in osaka (nambA)

We will meet in the hotel lobby for a welcome dinner in town where you will have a chance to meet your guides and the other members of the group, and get oriented for the pilgrimage.

Meals: Dinner in local area (not included)
Accommodation: Western style business hotel

[2] Mon Nov 4: Crossing the threshold

transfer/hike to koyasan-Overnight at koyasaN

After purchasing our lunch for the trails and transferring our luggage (optional), we’ll leave Osaka on a local train bound for Koyasan, the seat of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. Enjoy the first hike of this pilgrimage from Kii-Hosokawa station to arrive at Mount Koya by the traditional approach, on the Choishi-Michi trail or Stone Marker trail, dating back to the foundation of the Mount Koya monastery complex by the priest Kukai, also known as Kobo Daishi. There are 180 individually numbered stone markers or stupas, set at 109 metre intervals. We will start our walk on the trail at marker number 60 and then travel through wide forest trails to finish with a steep section as we emerge opposite the great Daimon Gate, the main entrance to this sacred site.

Hike: Choishi-Michi trail- 10km- 7mi- 4 to 5 hours
Meals:
- Breakfast (Osaka hotel)
- Lunch on trail (not included)
- Dinner at accommodation (vegetarian Buddhist ‘shojin-ryori’ cuisine)
Accommodation: Temple lodging (Shukubo)/ futon on tatami mat
[Shukubo are lodgings in Buddhist temples originally meant for monks or pilgrims, but now open to anyone. The rooms are traditional Japanese rooms, similar to Ryokan or Minshuku, but usually without private bathrooms.]

[3] Tues Nov 5: Making the Way by Walking

hike arounD/visit koyasan- Overnight at koyasan

After an early morning buddhist service at our accommodation followed by breakfast and a group meeting, we will walk to Nyoindo Temple where we will start hiking the Nyoinmichi (Women’s Pilgrimage Trail). Because Koyasan was a monastery for men, women were forbidden to enter Koyasan until 1872. For this reason, temples especially for women were built on the periphery of Koyasan. Of the original seven, only Nyoindo remains. Similarly, a trail was dedicated to women. After a lunch at a local restaurant, we will visit the Danko Garan complex of temples, Kongobuji Temple (head temple of Koaysan Shingon Buddhism) and the Reihokan Museum which hosts many of the artworks held by the temples of Koyasan.

Hike: Nyoin Michi Trail- 7km-4.5mi- 3 hours
Meals:
- Breakfast: at accommodation
- Lunch (not included): at local restaurant
- Dinner: at accommodation (vegetarian Buddhist ‘shojin-ryori’ cuisine)
Accommodation: Temple lodging (Shukubo)/ futon on tatami mat

[4] Wed Nov 6: Making the Way by Walking

hike arounD/visit koyasan- Overnight at koyasan

After an early morning buddhist service at our accommodation followed by breakfast and a group meeting, we will continue our visit of Mount Koya: beneath towering Japanese cedar trees at Okunoin, a cemetery and sacred area that extends about 2km, are thousands of gravestones and memorial pagodas of all shapes and sizes. We’ll then visit Kobo Daishi mausoleum, the religious heart of Koyasan, where the founder of Shingon Buddhism is said to rest in eternal meditation, concentrating on the liberation of all beings. After lunch, we will hike the Koya Sanzan trail before returning to our Skukubo for the night.

Hike: Koya Sanzan Trail 8.5km-5.5mi- 3 hours
Meals:
- Breakfast: at accommodation
- Lunch: bento box for trail
- Dinner: at accommodation (vegetarian Buddhist ‘shojin-ryori’ cuisine)
Accommodation: Temple lodging (Shukubo)/ futon on tatami mat

[5] Thu Nov 7: Letting go

transfer to kumano- hike to hongu- OVERNIGHT AT Yunomine onsen

Today we will transfer by taxi to Kumano and we’ll hike the Hosshinmon to Hongu trail, leading to the first of the three grand shrines that we will be visiting on our pilgrimage: Hongu Taisha. All the Kumano pilgrimage routes radiate from this austere Grand Shrine whose Torii gate we will get a peak of, from a scenic lookout point on the trail. After visiting the site, we will transfer by local bus to our accommodation at Yunomine Onsen, a village with a history of over 1,800 years that was the site of hot water purification linked to the Kumano Pilgrimage due to its naturally emerging hot springs.

Hike: Hosshinmon to Hongu 7.5km-4.75mi- 3 hours
Meals:
- Breakfast: at accommodation
- Lunch: kumano kodo lunchbox for the trail
- Dinner: at accommodation
Accommodation: Ryokan with Onsen / futon on tatami mat
[An Onsen is a Japanese cultural icon. The term refers to a hot spring and all of its facilities. Japanese baths are the ultimate place to relax after a long day of walking.]

[6] Fri Nov 8: Letting go

hike to/visit hongu- OVERNIGHT AT Yunomine onsen

The dainichi-goe route is a short but relatively steep trail over Mount Dainichi that links Yunomine Onsen with Hongu Taisha. So today, we will retreat our steps back to Hongu arriving at the giant Torii gate that symbolizes Hongu. At the end of our day, we’ll transfer back to Yunomine Onsen by local bus to enjoy the hot springs and dinner at our ryokan.

Hike: Dainichi-goe trail 2.5km-1.5mi- 2 hours
Meals:
- Breakfast: at accommodation
- Lunch: bento box for the trail
- Dinner: at accommodation
Accommodation: Ryokan with Onsen / futon on tatami mat

[7] Sat Nov 9: Embracing the Unknown

Boat Tour to Shingu- OVERNIGHT AT Kii-katsura

After a morning at leisure, we will be taking an afternoon boat tour to Shingu, a town at the mouth of the Kumano-gawa river to visit Hayatama Taisha. This was the traditional means for pilgrims to reach the third Grand Shrine of Hayatama Taisha. After our visit, we will transfer to Kii-Katsura, our destination for the night by local bus or train. Tonight, dinner is on your own at a local restaurant. Kii-Katsura is a lovely coastal town known for its hot springs which you can enjoy free in the street (foot bath) and for its local tuna.

Hike: This is a rest day from walking
Meals:
- Breakfast: at accommodation
- Lunch: bento box for the trail
- Dinner (not included): at local restaurant, on your own
Accommodation: Hotel with Onsen / futon on tatami mat

[8] Sun Nov 10: leaning into discomfort with grace and acceptance

NACHI TAKI- OVERNIGHT AT Kii-katsura

To reach the second Grand Shrine of Nachi Taki, we will start with a bus ride to the Daimon-zaka trail, an impressive cobblestone staircase (600m long with 267 stairs). It is lined with centuries old trees and runs from the valley bottom to Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine sanctuary. Nachi-San is a spiritual compound built on a mountainside facing the Nachi-no-Otaki waterfall, a sacred cascade descending from the mountains, as if connecting this world with the spiritual cosmos. After visiting this amazing site of worship, we’ll transfer back to our hotel in Kii-Katsura

Hike: Daimonzaka trail 0.5km-0.3mi- 1.5 hours
Meals:
- Breakfast: at accommodation
- Lunch (not included): at local restaurant or on trail
- Dinner: at local restaurant
Accommodation: Hotel with Onsen / futon on tatami mat

[9] Mon Nov 11: Beginning Again

hike nakahechi route- OVERNIGHT AT Takahara

Today we’ll transfer to Chikatsuyu, situated at the center of the Kumano Nakahechi route, by local bus and hike to Takahara, also called kiri no sato or “mist village” since it’s often blanketed in fog.

Hike: Nakahechi trail from Chikatsuyu to Takahara 10km-6.2mi- 6 hours
Meals:
- Breakfast: at accommodation
- Lunch (not included): at a local restaurant or on trail
- Dinner: at accommodation
Accommodation: Lodge with onset-like bath / futon on tatami mat or beds

[10] Tues Nov 12: Coming Home

hike nakahechi route- goodbye lunch- depart for kix

For our last day, we’ll hike from Takahara to Takijiri-oji, the western entrance to the sacred area of Kumano, and then transfer to Tanabe for a goodbye and celebration lunch. For those of us who have also walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, this will be the time to get our Dual Pilgrim Completion status.
[It’s interesting to note that the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage has been officially paired with the Camino de Santiago. A “Dual Pilgrim” program is administered by the tourism offices in both Tanabe City and in Santiago de Compostela. The dual pilgrim credential features the logos of both routes - the scallop shell for Spain and the three-legged raven or Yatagarasu for Japan. These two routes are the only pilgrimage routes currently designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.]

Hike: Nakahechi trail from Takahara to Takijiri 4km-2.5mi- 3 hours
Meals:
- Breakfast: at accommodation
- Lunch: Goodbye lunch in Tanabe