Kumano Ancient Trail | Travel Information

The Kumano Ancient Trail, also known as ‘Kumano Kodō‘, is one of the most cultural and historically significant pilgrimage routes in Japan. The Kumano Kodō is not just one trail, but a series of intertwining routes, which date back over a millennium! In 2004, the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Pilgrimage routes spread across three prefectures, which is why this one page is listed across Nara, Wakayama, and Mie Prefecture destination pages. These routes cover large portion of the Kii Peninsula  

All of the Pilgrimage routes all lead towards the Kumano Hongu Taisha, The Grand Shrine. Approaching the grand shrine, you will notice Otorii, The world’s largest torii Gate (Hence, where it gets it’s name), marking the official entrance to the Kumano Hongu Taisha. Otorii weighs an astonishing 170 tons, and took one year to make, assemble, and erect. 

What to expect on the Kumano Kodo

Kumano Kodo will not be the easiest of walks to do, with some routes taking several days to complete from start to finish. Of course, there are places you can walk for short periods of time if you lack the time necessary to walk the complete route. 

The trail will be very rugged and rocky for large periods of time. You can expect to be walking up and down mountain sides pretty much on every section of the trail. If you have a hard time walking due to fitness, physical or mental mental conditions, then we would highly recommend against walking on the trail without evaluating it yourself to ensure you can walk it with your ability. 

Of Course, each trail has a different difficulty. Please read our descriptions below to get an understanding of the difficulty of each route. Each Route will be listed in Alphabetical order. Please note, Off The Track Japan accepts no responsibility for any injuries or fatalities caused on the Kumano Kodo trails. 

Scale: 1 = Easy – 5 =  Difficult

Iseji:  Difficulty; 2.5/5

Iseji Kodo is a route departing from Ise Grand Shrine, in the city of Ise, Mie Prefecture. The Total length of this trail is about 170km in length,primarily following close to the coast. This trail has large sections which have paved roads, as you will be cutting through towns and villages. Still, there is a good amount of trekking through the mountains on stone, or dirt tracks.

Kohechi: Difficulty; 4.75

Kohechi is a trail that begins at Koyasan, a small town with great spiritual influence, boasting over 100 shrines and temples in the small confines of the town. Kohechi is a very mountainous trail, with elevation changes up to a kilometer high within 5km. The trail has a length of 70km, and will take 4 days from start in Koyasan, to the finish at the Kumano Hongu Taisha. The trail will often zigzag up and down mountain sides, and you will be isolated for long periods of time, with towns and villages few and far between.

Due to the mountainous conditions, weather is extremely inconsistent. Rain and fog can come out of nowhere at the altitudes you reach along the trail, so it’s very important to fully prepare for the pathway. This trail is only suited for skilled mountaineers, and should not be attempted if you are a novice climber, or lack Japanese language skills.

Nakahechi: Difficulty; 1.5

Nakahechi Kodo is the easiest route on the ancient pilgrim routes. If you’re looking for a pretty easy walk, then start in the town of Takajiri Oji, where the trail to Kumano Hongu Taisha is only about 30km in length, taking 2 days to complete, just make sure you take a rest at one of the inns, you don’t want to be caught out as night falls.

Although there are some large hills to scale, the pathway is well maintained, and can be walked with relative ease – a perfect trail for beginners or casual climbers, as high levels of fitness are not required – but you should be kind of fit at least so you can walk along the trail with ease. 

Ohechi: Difficulty; N/A

Due to the development of roads and cities along this stretch, the Ohechi trail has been essentially wiped off the face of the earth. In it’s prime, around about the 10th to the 15th century, the path had an average of  80 travellers a day, or roughly 30,000 per year. There is still a trail in places, and was actively used until the end of the Edo Period (1868), where it was used for worship, and sightseeing as it follows along the coast line, which attracted artist, seeking to capture the beautiful scenery. 

Omine Okugake: Difficulty; 4.75

This route is very similar to Kohechi, and should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers. Towns and villages are few and far between. You will expect to climb high ridges which are exposed to the elements. Quite a dangerous route and we do not recommend taking this route to anyone.

No Suitable for Children & Families

Good for 1 - 2 People

Never hike alone.

Good for Groups

Not Wheelchair Friendly