The Kumano Kodo is a network of ancient pilgrimage trails located in the Kii Peninsula of Japan. The trails connect the three Grand Shrines of Kumano, which are considered to be some of the most sacred places in Japan. The trails were used by emperors, samurais, and commoners to make religious pilgrimages to the shrines. The Kumano Kodo trails are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and are considered as one of the most important pilgrimage routes in Japan.
The most famous trail of the Kumano Kodo is the Nakahechi route, which starts at Tanabe and ends at the Hongu Taisha. This trail is considered to be the main route of the Kumano Kodo, and it’s around 80 km long. It passes through remote, mountainous regions and offers scenic views of forests and rivers. The trail is well-maintained, and it’s possible to walk it in about five to seven days. Along the way, you can find small towns, hot springs, and traditional inns called “ryokan” where you can rest and enjoy traditional Japanese meals.
Today, the Kumano Kodo trail is a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers from all over the world, and it’s an opportunity to explore Japan’s rich cultural and spiritual history.
When is the best time of the year to walk Kumano Kodo?
The best time of year to walk the Kumano Kodo trail depends on personal preference and the type of experience you’re looking for. The trail can be hiked year-round, but different seasons offer different conditions and highlights.
Spring (March – May):
- This is a popular time to hike the trail as the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the weather is mild.
- The trail is less crowded than in the peak summer months.
Summer (June – August):
- The weather is generally hot and humid, but it’s also the time when the trail is busiest.
- Summer is also the rainy season, which can make the trail muddy and slippery.
Autumn (September – November):
- This is a great time to hike the trail as the weather is mild and the fall foliage is beautiful.
- This is also the time when the trail is less crowded.
Winter (December – February):
- The trail is less crowded, but it can also be colder and wetter.
- Some of the mountain passes may be closed due to snow.
In general, the best time to walk the Kumano Kodo trail is between late March to early May, and between September to November. The trail is less crowded during these times and the weather is more favourable. However, if you want to avoid the crowds, you can also consider hiking during the winter months. It’s always important to check weather forecast and trail conditions before planning your trip, and to be prepared for all types of weather.
Can you do Kumano Kodo self guided and group guided? What is the better option?
Yes, it is possible to do the Kumano Kodo trail both self-guided and group-guided. The decision of which option is better for you depends on your individual preferences and needs.
- Allows for flexibility and independence
- You can set your own pace and decide when to take breaks
- You have control over your itinerary
- You can adjust your plans if the weather conditions change
- You can also save money
- You can also have a more intimate experience with the culture, landscape, and history of the trail.
- The guide will be knowledgeable about the trail and provide information on the history, culture, and nature of the area.
- You can learn from the guide’s experiences
- You will be accompanied by others who also enjoy hiking
- You can also share the cost of accommodation and transport
- You can also save time in terms of planning
- You can also have a more social experience, as you will be walking with other people.
Both options have their pros and cons, so it’s important to think about what you’re looking for in your experience. If you prefer more flexibility and independence, then a self-guided tour might be a better option for you. If you prefer to have a guide and learn more about the culture and history of the trail, then a group-guided tour might be a better option. It’s also good to check the level of difficulty of the trail and make sure you are well-prepared for the trip, whether you choose to go self-guided or with a group.
How do I know if I’m booking with a trusted walking company before I book Kumano Kodo?
When researching and booking a guided walking tour with a company for the Kumano Kodo trail, it’s important to make sure that you are booking with a reputable and trustworthy company. Here are a few things to consider when researching a company:
- Check for reviews: Look for reviews from past customers on the company’s website or on independent review sites such as TripAdvisor. This will give you an idea of the level of service and the quality of the tour provided by the company.
- Check the company’s environmental policies: check if the company has environmental policies in place to minimize their impact on the environment and to protect the natural resources.
- Check their insurance: Make sure the company has adequate insurance coverage in case of accidents or emergencies.
- Look for certifications: Make sure the company is certified by the appropriate industry organizations, such as the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) or the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)
- Look for safety accreditation: Make sure the company has the necessary safety accreditation, such as those from the Japan Professional Guides Association (JPGA) or the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA)
- Check the company’s commitment to the local community: check if the company supports the local communities by hiring local guides, using local accommodation, and promoting sustainable tourism.
By doing your research and checking for these factors, you can be more confident in your decision to book with a particular company and have a safer and more enjoyable experience on the Kumano Kodo trail.
What do I need to pack for the Kumano Kodo trail?
When packing for the Kumano Kodo trail, it’s important to consider the trail conditions and the time of year. Here is a list of items that you should consider bringing:
- Hiking boots or shoes with good traction: the trail can be rocky and uneven, so it’s important to have footwear that provides good support and stability.
- Clothing suitable for the weather: pack layers of lightweight, breathable clothing that can be easily removed or added as needed. Be prepared for both warm and cool temperatures, and also for rain.
- Rain gear: bring a waterproof jacket and pants, as well as a hat and gloves if you expect it to be cold.
- A backpack: to carry your gear, water, and food. A backpack with a capacity of at least 30-40L is recommended.
- Food and water: bring enough food to last you for the duration of the hike, as well as a water bottle or hydration system.
- Navigation tools: bring a map and compass, or a GPS device, to help you navigate the trail.
- First aid kit: include items such as band-aids, antiseptic, pain relievers, and any personal medications you may need.
- A headlamp or flashlight: for use in case you finish the hike late.
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat: to protect yourself from the sun
- Cash or credit card: for emergencies or for buying supplies along the way
- Trash bags: to help keep the trail clean and maintain the environment
- Insect repellent: to protect yourself from mosquitoes and other insects.
Camera or phone to capture memories
Lightweight towel and toiletries: as you will be staying in traditional Japanese inns called “ryokan” along the way.
It’s also important to check the forecasted weather conditions and adjust your packing list accordingly. Keep in mind that you will be carrying all your stuff with you, so try to pack light. Also, note that some traditional inns may have specific dress codes, so it’s good to check and pack accordingly.