First of all, if you want to go to Japan this summer 2019, you have to visit the Kumano and Koyasan area.
For example, you can choose the simple version of Kumano Kodo, which consists of visiting the Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine in Nachi; the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine in Shingu; and walking the almost 8 kilometers between Hoshinmon-Oji and the Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine.
In addition, if on your trip you have little time to explore this area of the Wakayama region, in this post we explain how to organize a visit to the Kumano Kodo area in three days.
Itinerary Kumano Kodo and Koya-san in three days (Example)
1st day: Kumano Nachi Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha.
2nd day: Kumano Kodo: from Hoshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha.
3rd day: Koyasan (night in the great Buddhist temple of Koyasan).
Above all, the first day of the itinerary is the most complex to organize. Also, the transport in the Kumano Kodo area is infrequent.
Day 1: Kumano Nachi Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha on a day from Kyoto
06:44h Local train from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka
Firstly, for this trip, you have to buy the five-day Kansai Wide Pass (70€/9,000 yen), which comes in handy if you travel in the Kansai area. Anyway, this not include the bullet train from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka.
07:30h Train from Shin-Osaka to Kii-Katsuura
The 7:30 a.m. train is the first to depart for Shingu and takes 240 minutes to reach KiiKatsuura Station.
12:10h Bus to Nachisan (arrival at 12:35h)
In front of the Kii-Katsuura train station, there is the bus station that leads to the Kumano Nachi Taisha. We recommend you to buy a one-way ticket for 620 yen.
Visit the Kumano Nachi Taisha (from 12:35h to 14:50h)
The most beautiful temple of the Kumano Sanzan is Kumano Nachi Taisha. You have to visit the different enclosures of the sanctuary.
After the visit, you can go to the Nachinotaki-mae bus stop. In that area, there are several restaurants where you can eat and the shops where they sell souvenirs.
14:51h Bus from Nachi Taisha to Nachi Eki (arrival 15:07h)
This bus ride cost us 480 yen. Nachi station is very small and has less train frequency than Kii-Katsuura station. Also, in this station, there is very few services.
15:37h Train from Nachi-eki to Shingu (arrival 15:56h)
At 3:37 p.m. the local train to Shingu arrives. It is a very small train with only two carriages. Take us the train because it is included in the Kansai Wide Pass.
Visit Kumano Hayatama Taisha (16h to 17h)
The Kumano Hayatama Taisha is about 15 minutes walk from the station and close at five o’clock in the afternoon. In front of the station, is the restaurant Katsuda, a sushi restaurant.
18:15h Bus from Shingu to Kawayu Onsen (arrival 19:16h)
At 6:15 p.m. the last bus leaves for Kawayu Onsen. The bus takes one hour and cost us 1,540 yen.
Night in Kawayu Onsen
You can stay at night in the Kawayu area because it is cheaper than in Hongu.
Day 2: Kumano Kodo: from Hosshimon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha
8:26h Bus from Kawayu Onsen to Hosshimon-Oji
At 8:26 the bus leaving Hosshimon-Oji passes through Kawayu Onsen. You have to be at the bus stop in advance because if you get lost, the next one happens at 13:43h. The bus arrives on time and the cost is 510 yen approx.
Hosshimon-Oji is one of the important sites of the pilgrimage route of Kumano Kodo, as it is the external access to the divine enclosure of Kumano Hongu Taisha. The oji were shrines along the pilgrimage trail that offered a place to pray and rest. Historically, on the path, there were these spiritual landmarks of vital importance in ascetic Buddhism.
We recommend you the sanctuary and followed the road down. If you make the path from Takijiri, the route is not lost, but from the bus stop, you have to watch and go to Hosshimon-Oji Shrine and walk back to the bus stop again in the direction of Mizunomi-Oji (1.5 km).
This section of the Kumano Kodo runs through rural areas of Japan and passes through small towns.
Finally, you will arrive at the Kumano Hongu Taisha. This is the most important temple of Kumano Sanzan and is currently on the mountain. Also, it used to be located on a bank of the river, but a flood destroyed it completely. The Kumano Hongu Taisha is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan.
Then, you can go to the river to visit Oyunohara, the former Kumano Hongu Taisha enclave, at the confluence of the Kumano and Otonashi rivers. In 1889 there was a flood that destroyed the old temple. Today, a metallic torii marks the place where the ancient temple used to be. The torii is Japan’s largest so they call it Otorii.
In Watarase Onsen there are several hotels but meals are made in the main hotel. There is also access to the mega-onsen and smaller private rotenburos.
Day 3: From Kumano Hongu Taisha to Koyasan
Certainly, you can go from Hongu to Koyasan without having to lose the whole day. Between 1 April and 30 November, there is a bus service connecting Hongu, Kawayu, Watarase and Yunomine Onsen with the Koyasan via Ryujin Onsen. The bus leaves at 8:05h from Hongu and arrives at 11:55h at Koyasan. Also, there is a service that leaves in the afternoon at 12:40h and arrives at 16:25h. You can book on Japan Bus Online and it costs 5000 yen.
A day at the Koyasan: What to see and do?
Shukubo: Sleeping in a Buddhist Temple
Shukubo is the term used when you stay in a Buddhist temple. A good option is the Jokiin temple because the curfew is at ten o’clock at night and that allowed us to do the night tour of Okunoin cemetery. Jokiin Temple was originally built in 1156, but a fire destroyed it in the Edo period and it was rebuilt in 1870.
Koyasan is especially important in Japan because it is the epicenter of the Shingon branch of Buddhism and in this enclave, the figure of Kobo Daishi, a scholar who introduced this branch in Japan, is venerated. In 816, Kobo Daishi decided to settle in Koyasan. After the creation of the Garan temple, Buddhist temples gradually proliferated on this mountain. Certainly, at present, there are only 117 temples.
Among all the religious enclaves in the Koyasan, there are two points not to be missed: the Kongobu-ji temple and the Okunoin cemetery.
Visit Kongobu-ji Temple
Kongobu-ji Temple is the main seat of Shingon Buddhism and is one of the most beautiful temples in the area. This temple was built in 1593 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. One of the main attractions of the temple is its wallpaper screens. The entrance to the temple (500 yen) includes a green tea with a rice biscuit which is served in one of the rooms of the temple.
After the visit, you have to go along the main street to the next attraction of the Koyasan: the Okunoin cemetery. The street connects Kongobu-ji with Okunoin.
Visit Okunoin Cemetery
Okunoin Cemetery is one of the most magical places in Japan. You have to cross the first bridge to access the Okunoin. It is said that more than 2000 Buddhist monks are buried here, waiting with their teacher for the arrival of the new Buddha. Also, the tombs follow one another for two kilometers. The straight line path to the Kobo Daishi mausoleum is two kilometers long. Certainly, the walk is magical, as the cemetery is in full nature.
The Kobo Daishi mausoleum is at the end of the cemetery. It is said that this is where Kobo Daishi retired to meditate and remains locked in a cave awaiting the arrival of the next Buddha. Near the mausoleum, there is a room where a Buddhist monk was giving a talk to anyone who wanted to listen.
Practice Shakyo at Koyasan
Shakyo is the way of writing of the sutras. Kobo Daishi praised the sutras, stating that in a text of fewer than 14 lines, the essence of the teachings of Shingon Buddhism was concentrated as expounded by Hannya Boddhisatva. Despite its brevity, its meaning is very profound. In addition, he stated that reading these sutras carefully, reciting them, and praying would save humanity from suffering. That is, studying the scriptures with interest leads to enlightenment.
Okunoin Cemetery Night Tour
Eko-in temple is a highly recommended excursion on the Koyasan. It is made in English and Japanese and can be booked online for 1800 yen or booked online and pay 2000 yen there.
From the Eko-in temple, you can go to the Okunoin cemetery on foot.
Buddhist ceremony at 6 a.m.
The Buddhist ceremony takes place every morning at six o’clock.
During the ceremony, sutras were sung and the “main monk” invited all those present to offer some incense while they continued to recite the mantras. The ceremony lasts one hour.
In conclusion, this itinerary could be great if you are in Japan and you have some time to visit different places like Kumano Kodo and Koyasan.
Enjoy your trip!