Walking the World Heritage Sites of the Kumano Pilgrimage Trail

Shingu Area, Hongu Area, Nachisan Area

The Ancient Kumano Pilgrimage Trail, which is walked along by worshippers on the way to the Three Kumano Shrines (Hongu-taisha Shrine, Hayatama-taisha Shrine, and Nachi-taisha Shrine), is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the second pilgrimage trail to be registered as a World Heritage site following the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Here is a course that takes you along the Ancient Kumano Pilgrimage Trail to visit the Three Kumano Shrines for two days.

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Day 1 - Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine, Kawayu-onsen Hot Spring

Shin-Osaka -- <JR Limited Express150 mins.> -- Shirahama -- <70 mins. by bus> -- Hongu-taisha-mae -- [Oyunohara] -- [Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine] -- <10 mins. by bus> -- Kawayu-onsen -- [Kawayu-onsen Hot Spring]

*The times required with public transportation are approximate.

Oyunohara (former shrine of Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine)

It was built here five hundred meters from where most of the pavilions of the large shrine that stood were destroyed in the great flood disaster that struck in 1889. On the grounds is the largest shrine gateway in Japan, which is a power spot that attracts many people.

Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine

Kawayu-onsen Hot Spring

In addition to the Yunomine-onsen Hot Spring, which is said to have been discovered over a thousand and eight hundred years ago, there are also the Kawayu-onsen Hot Spring and Watarase-onsen Hot Spring at the base of Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine. Kawayu-onsen is an interesting hot spring where the water at the bottom of the river bubbles up at over seventy degrees in temperature. When this hot water is mixed with the river water, the temperature becomes just right for bathing. A famous attraction here is visitors being able to dig up their own baths.

Yunomine-onsen Hot Spring, which still retains its old nostalgic atmosphere, has hot spring pools that reach ninety degrees in temperature and are used to boil food such as vegetables and eggs, which can be eaten. The natural “Tsuboyu” hot spring rock bath, which changes colors seven times a day, is a World Heritage site as it is part of the pilgrimage route.

Day 2 - Kumano Nachi-taisha Shrine, Nachi-no-Otaki Falls

Kawano-onsen -- <80 mins. by bus> -- Shingu -- <20 mins. by walk> -- [Kumano Hayatama-taisha] -- <20 mins. by walk> -- Shingu -- <15 mins. by walk> -- [Kamikura-jinja] -- <15 mins. by walk> -- Shingu -- <JR Kisei Line40 mins.> -- Nachi -- <15 mins. by bus> -- Daimonzaka -- <30 mins by walk> -- [Kumano Nachi-taisha Shrine][ Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple][ Nachi-no-Otaki Falls] -- Taki-mae Bus Stop -- <25 mins. by bus> -- Kii-Katsuura -- <JR Limited Express240 mins.> -- Shin-Osaka

Kumano Hayatama-taisha Shrine

The vermilion-lacquered gateway is a brilliant sight to see. Hayatama-taisha Shrine has 1,204 ancient sacred treasures including national treasures, some of which are on display at the sacred treasures museum.

Kamikura-jinja Shrine

Worshippers must climb a steep stairway known as the “Kamakurazumi”. It is so steep that it shocks who see it for the first time. The stairway has five hundred and thirty-eight steps and is said to have been donated in 1193 by the Shogun at the time, Minamoto no Yoritomo.

Kumano Nachi-taisha Shrine

Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple

This spot has a long history as a sacred site of the Kumano faith and was originally a major Shugendo training site involving the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism centering on the Nachi Falls. It was then divided into the Seiganto-ji Temple and Nachi-taisha Shrine at the beginning of the Meiji period. The shrine and temple are still located adjacently with many worshippers coming to pray at both.

Three-storied Pagoda

The bright red tower that stands between Nachi-taisha Shrine and Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple. The gold-colored rings at the roof of the tower look beautiful up against the green color of the surrounding hills and there are many people who take pictures of the tower with the Nachi-no-Otaki Falls in the background.

Nachi-no-Otaki Falls