Kumano Kodo – A Holy Hiking Experience[Special Extra]

Prayers’ routes bound for the mountains of God

Prayers' routes attract many worshippers
(C) Mie Prefecture

Kii Mountain Range including a series of 1,500m-high (approx.4921ft) peaks is located at the center of Kii Peninsula protruding from the south of Kansai region to the Pacific Ocean. Regarded as an exclusive site which enshrines Gods from mythological age, Kii Mountain Range has “Koyasan” established by Kukai, the founder of Shingonshu, one of the Buddhism sects. It also holds “Yoshino Omine”, the sacred place of ascetic training and “Kumano Sanzan” (Kumano hongu-taisha, Kumano hayatama-taisha, Kumano nachi-taisha) having attracted novel people, where various religious style has developed. The Prayers’ Routes to the Sacred Sites have attracted many visitors and influenced Japanese religion as well as the propagation and development of culture.

In 2004, the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes of Kii Mountain Range were designated as the World Cultural Heritage. Among very few Cultural Heritage of routes, Kumano Kodo, the pilgrimage route to Kumano Sanzan and the Way of St. James are the world’s only examples of routes heritage over 100km (approx. 62.1 miles).

In the late 11th century, parties of the imperial family and aristocracy started to visit the sites frequently guided by ascetics. In the late 15th century, general public became the major worshippers, followed by the bustle in the 16th century. It must have been a special experience for Japanese back then to walk through the depths of a mountain with all their prayers.

The route linking two sacred sites attracts people

Visitors' favorite, Kumano Kodo Iseji Route
(C) Mie Prefecture

The Pilgrimage Routes include Iseji Route from Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture, Kohechi Route from Koyasan, and Nakahechi Route from Tanabe in Wakayama Prefecture. Kumano Kodo Iseji Route in particular, has been preferred by many of the general public.

With over 20 mountain passes, nearly 170km (approx. 105.6 miles) of Kumano Kodo Iseji Route has lots of ups and downs. Despite its raggedness, people still favored Iseji Route as it was the irreplaceable route from sacred Ise Grand Shrine to another sanctuary Kumano Sanzan.

World Heritage Pilgrimage Route “Kumano Kodo Iseji Route”

With its thick and board-leaved forest and stone pavements subtly lit by sunlight filtering through foliage, Kumano Kodo Iseji Route maintains the atmosphere of ancient times. Walking along the route in peace and quiet provides you the feeling of being an old-time traveler.

Kumano Kodo Iseji Route

Matsumoto-toge Pass filled with the beauty of Kumano Kodo

Matsumoto-toge Pass
(C) Mie Prefecture

With its perfect access from the express stop Kumano-shi Station, Matsumoto-toge Pass provides the easy experience of Kumano Kodo Iseji Route.

Kumano Kodo
(C) Mie Prefecture

20-minute walk from Kumano-shi Station and entering into climbing route to Matsumoto-toge Pass from national road, takes you to totally different ambience, where you can explore ancient landscape of Kumano Kodo.

Under 135m (approx. 442.9ft) of Matsumoto-toge Pass provides ultimate and safe climbing experience for beginners.

Giant Jizo
The Jizo, a stone statue of the guardian deity of children was said to have been mistakenly identified as a monster and shot on the day it was founded. There remains a bullet hole on its left sleeve.
(C) Mie Prefecture
Two-hour walk through Matsumoto-toge Pass
Approx. 5km (3.1 miles) of Matsumoto-toge Pass takes about 2 hours on foot.
(C) Mie Prefecture
Beautiful and complete view of Shichirimihama Beach
(C) Mie Prefecture

Among Kumano Kodo, only Iseji Route has its 22km (approx. 13.6 miles) of coastline path along Shichirimihama Beach. From the small arbor, located east side of and 10- minute walk from the top of Matsumoto-toge Pass, you can enjoy stunning and complete view of Shichirimihama Beach.

Access to Matsumoto-toge Pass (Kumanoshi Station)

From Nagoya: JR Nagoya Station <Approx. 3 hrs. and 10 min. by Limited Express Wide View Nanki>–Kumanoshi Station

From Chubu Centrair International Airport: Chubu Centrair International Airport <45 min. by High-speed boat Airport Line> — Tsu-nagisamachi <10 min. by bus> — JR Tsu Station <2 hrs. and 20 min. by Limited Express Wide View Nanki>–Kumanoshi Station

From Kyoto: Kintetsu Railway Kyoto Station <approx. 1 hr. and 50 min. by Kintetsu Limited Express> — Kintetsu Railway/JR Matsusaka Station <approx. 2 hrs. by Limited Express Wide View Nanki> — Kumanoshi Station

From Osaka: Kintetsu Osaka Namba Station <approx. 1 hr. and 50 min. by Kintetsu Limited Express> — Kintetsu Railway/JR Matsusaka Station <approx. 2 hrs. by Limited Express Wide View Nanki> — Kumanoshi Station

Local cuisine cooking experience in 120-year old ancient building

Experience local cuisine cooking
Enjoy delicious rice cooked with firewood oven (upper right) and the series of cooking lecture from wood chopping, rice cooking and sushi making. 120-year old ancient building is also a can’t-miss.

“Kinan Tour Design Center”, 10-minute walk from Kumano-shi Station offers special experience of cooking “Mehari Zushi”, the specialty food of Kumano region (reservation required). “Mehari Zushi”, freshly cooked rice wrapped with a salt-pickled leaf mustard is a traditional food of the area and perfect for lunch on Kodo walking.

To reserve Mehari Zushi experience

Please contact below number (available in English).

Tel: 0597-23-3784 (Higashikishu Chikishinko Kousha, Kihoku Office)

Stop by additional sites to enjoy memorable and breath-taking landscape

Matsumoto-toge Pass has various tourist destinations created by nature and history in its proximity. Just take another side trip to enjoy exclusive beauty of this area.

(C) Mie Prefecture

Onigajo, 1.2km (approx. 0.7 miles) of uniquely-shaped rock outcrops formed by coastal erosion and rapid land uplift, is known as the setting of the legend that 8th-century Busho (military commander), Sakanoueno Tamuramaro exterminated pirates based on the area.

(C) Mie Prefecture

Shishiiwa (25m high/approx. 82ft) at Shichirimihama Beach is considered to have protected the shrine approx. 6.5km (4 miles) behind due to its shape of lion roaring towards Kumanonada Sea.

Otsunakake Shinji Festival
At Otsunakake Shinji Festival, shrine parishioners arch the rope in usually off-limit area
(C) Mie Prefecture

Hanano Iwaya known for the grave of Izanamino Mikoto, the mother of land and deities, has Japan’s oldest Hanano Iwaya Shrine on its foot. At semi-annual festivals on February 2nd and October 2nd, 170m (approx. 557.7ft) of giant rope is bridged between 45m (approx. 147.6ft) high object of worship and the southernmost sacred tree of the shrine, which conveys the ancient landscape of natural worship to the present day.

Terraced rice-fields, Maruyama Senmaida
Currently used for rice farming

Maruyama Senmaida, the terraced rice-fields, consists of many small paddy fields is another can’t miss for Kumano Kodo Iseji Route. Some 1,340 paddy fields are still used for rice farming and show various landscapes by season or time of day. Bus access from Kumano-shi Station (approx. 30min. to Senmaida/Toritoge Iriguchi) is available and you can enjoy pretty stone pavements and stunning view from observation deck.

Kumano Kodo Iseji Route presents sacred walking experience as well as the beautiful nature of Kii Peninsula. Explore the origin of Japanese mindset with your five senses!

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