The Kumano Kodo is a pilgrimage route registered on July 7, 2004 as part of the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range,” Japan's twelfth UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only one located in Mie Prefecture.
The “Kii mountain range” is an area that extends over Mie, Nara, and Wakayama prefectures. "Sacred sites and pilgrimage routes" refers to the spiritually powerful places where people practiced religious asceticism, the temples and shrines located therein, and the routes that people traveled to reach these places.
Kumano Kodo sustained the people's lives in the past as an ancient road to Kumano.At the same time, it was valued as a pilgrimage route to Kumano Sanzan (Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha) and recognized as a unique World Heritage Road by UNESCO.
Where does it go?
The Kumano Kodo Iseji Route is a pilgrimage route that runs along the eastern side of the Kii peninsula connecting Ise Jingu to the "Kumano Sanzan": Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha. The Iseji Route's hallmarks include the many beautiful views of the sea visible from its mountain passes, and its well-preserved sections of ancient cobblestone paths.
When is the best season to visit?
The scenery along the Kumano Kodo is beautiful in all four seasons, but spring and fall are the best times to visit. However, when it rains or on the day following rain, the road's cobblestone path becomes slippery when wet and may present a risk, so if you are not confident on your feet it's better to come on a sunny day.
What do we do about trash?
Generally speaking, there are no waste baskets on any of the mountain passes along the route, and visitors are expected to take their trash with them. Cigarette butt littering is also prohibited.
Are there any toilets on the mountain passes?
There are no toilets on the mountain passes. Please plan accordingly and be sure to use the toilets before challenging the mountain pass.
For information on public toilets along the Kumano Kodo Iseji Route, please access the Kumano Kodo Iseji Route Navigator: contents→tour guide →toilet
Are there any vending machines on the mountain passes?
Generally speaking, there are no vending machines on the mountain passes. Please prepare sports drinks, tea, water, and so forth before you set out.
Is it possible to walk the mountain passes at night?
There are no lights on the mountain passes, making them very dangerous to walk at night. Please certainly stop entering the mountain pass in the night.
Is there cell phone service in the mountains?
Depending on the cell phone model, signal strength, and the surrounding topography, there may be spots where service is unavailable. If service becomes unavailable please try moving or finding a spot with clear visibility.
Is it possible to walk the routes with children?
It is, as long as you allow enough time for your trek. If you are traveling with children please supervise them closely to ensure their safety.
Is it possible to take our dogs?
While not prohibited, please refrain from taking untrained pets into the mountains.
Are there any places to stay on the Kumano Kodo?
There are lodgings along each of the walking courses of the Kumano Kodo. For information on where to stay when walking the Kumano Kodo Iseji Route, please access the Kumano Kodo Iseji Route Navigator: contents→tour guide →stay
What are the minimum belongings for walking the Kumano Kodo?
Preparations depend on the season and time of year, but please enter the mountain passes fully prepared.
Recommendations for must-bring articles: a hat, long-sleeved shirt, warm clothing (such as a fleece or sweater), long pants, hiking boots or shoes with ankle support, rain gear (a raincoat is best), water/sports drink, a towel, first aid kit, a bear bell, a map, etc.
What kind of clothes should I wear?
It depends on the season and your destination, but generally speaking you should wear clothes that are easy to move in. Clothes and accessories made of quick-drying material are suggested for the best comfort. Jeans and other thick fabrics that restrict movement are not recommended. It is also suggested that you wear clothing that fully covers your skin to protect yourself from direct sunlight and insects (ticks, hornets, horseflies, etc.). Long sleeves are recommended even in the hot summer months.
What kind of shoes should I wear?
As the Kumano Kodo requires walking on cobblestone and unpaved mountain paths, trekking shoes, athletic shoes, or other footwear that provide good traction are suggested, especially those that cover the ankles to offer the best support and protection.
It looks like rain, so should I bring an umbrella?
Carrying an umbrella while walking makes it difficult for you to maintain your balance. Since falls can easily lead to unexpected injuries, raincoats are the recommended rain gear.
Beware of bears!
Because it is possible to encounter a bear when walking the Kumano Kodo, please carry a bell, whistle, a radio, or anything else that makes noise and announces your presence to wildlife.
Are there any good guides and maps for walking the Kumano Kodo?
Please see the "Maps and Brochures" section of this website where you will find useful materials for preparing for your trip as well as walking the Kumano Kodo.
I would like to give walking the Kumano Kodo a try, but is there a recommended course for people coming for the first time?
The Magose-toge Pass course is popular because it offers a convenient way to enjoy the beauty of the cobblestone pavement
and the panoramas of colorful scenery visible from the top of its mountain passes.
Walking the Matsumoto-toge Pass course along with a visit to the Hana-no-Iwaya is also highly recommended.
First time travelers on the Kumano Kodo are encouraged to consult the brochure "Kumano Kodo Iseji Route: A Beginner's Guide".
How can I arrange a guide to the Kumano Kodo?
You can hire a "Kataribe" guide to walk with you and be your guide to the Kumano Kodo and the history, culture, and nature of the Higashi Kishu region (fee required). To hire a "Kataribe" guide, contact the "Kumano Kodo Street guide club".
English speaking guides are available, but you must apply no later than two weeks prior to the day you plan to use the guide services.
How can I get to the Kumano Kodo, and how long does it take to walk one of its mountain passes?
I'm going by train and bus. How do I get to the Magose-toge Pass?
Please use the "Kumano Kodo Iseji Route Access Guide Map" available from the "Maps and Brochures" section of this website. See page 8 for access to the Magose-toge Pass and Owase Downtown (from Nagoya and Shingu). All major passes of the Iseji route are listed, so please use this guide when you visit the Kumano Kodo.
Iseji Route Travel Journal
Can I walk the entire Kumano Kodo Iseji Route?
Yes you can. It is possible to walk the entire 170km from Ise to Kumano all at once by staying in overnight in lodging facilities.
For an account of thru-hiking the route, please refer to the website "Iseji Route Travel Journal"
You can also take on the challenge at your own pace by using JR trains and other forms of public transit to divide the route and walk it in sections.
Are there any rules or guidelines for walking the Kumano Kodo?
When the Kumano Kodo was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004 the Three Prefectures Council to promote World Heritage Registration obtained the cooperation of many people to establish the guidelines and rules to be observed by visitors to the pilgrimage route. Let's all cooperate to protect the precious Kumano Kodo so that we can preserve it for future generations.
Rules and Guidelines for the Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range The UNESCO World Heritage "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” is a group of cultural heritage sites that epitomize the spiritual culture of Japan, where reverence for the nature--the source of all life--and the cosmos has been passed down in the form of prayer to the Gods and Buddhas that are believed to dwell in sacred mountains and forests.
1. Cooperate to protect the heritage of humanity. By experiencing and learning all about the natural environment and culture of the Kii mountain range, we can combine our efforts to continually pass on this wonderful shared heritage to future generations. 2. Seek the ancient spirit of prayerThe traces of the innumerable pilgrims who came to offer their prayers remain on these paths. As we trace their footprints by walking the Kumano Kodo, let us honor them by turning our thoughts to the continuing prayers of humanity. 3. Deepen human connectedness by greeting people with a smileLet's exchange friendly greetings with those we meet on the route and interact with people in the community.4. Cherish the nature of the Kumano Kodo by refraining from removing any plants and animals along the route.Always appreciate nature and protect it.5. Plan well, come fully prepared, and walk at your own pace.Unforeseen things can happen while walking the Kumano Kodo. Some of the mountain passes are steep, so take your time and give proper consideration to the weather, your physical condition, and your equipment.6. Stay on designated routes and pathsVenturing off the designated path is dangerous and may harm precious plant and animal life. Refrain from entering the areas along the roads and paths. 7. Use fire with careThe slightest carelessness, such as tossing a cigarette butt, can cause a fire. Be very careful when handling fire.8. Carry your trash home and keep the paths and trails cleanThe people of this region have preserved this road since ancient times. Bring your trash home with you and leave the Kumano Kodo more beautiful than when you came.
How can I confirm my location in case of any emergency, such as an injury or sudden illness?
Wooden signposts are placed at about 100 meter intervals along the mountain passes registered as World Heritage Sites. Please use them as landmarks for walking the Kumano Kodo.
For example, on the signpost inscribed "Tsuzurato-toge Pass 10/18", the number "18" indicates the total number of signposts on the pass, and the number "10" shows your current position--the tenth signpost on the pass counting from the northern terminus of the path.
In case of emergencies such as injury or sudden illness, you can obtain help quickly by giving authorities the name of the pass you are on and the numbers on the nearest signpost.
Please note that depending on the model of your cell phone, signal strength, and the surrounding topography, cell phones may not work on mountain passes.