Sacred Sites of Kii Peninsula – 6 Day Kumano Kodo Iseji Pilgrimage

  • Guided
  • Aichi / Wakayama
  • 6 Days, 5 night
  • ★★★☆☆
  • ★★☆☆☆

Sacred Sites of Kii Peninsula – 6 Day Kumano Kodo Iseji Pilgrimage

6 Days

Itinerary

After your Japanese guide meets you at Nagoya station, you will travel by train and local bus to the Grand Shrine of Ise, the most important shrine in Japan. After enjoying lunch in the historic districts of Oharaimachi and Okage Yokocho that lead up to the shrine, you will visit the shrine itself, a solemn and sacred destination for pilgrims with more than 2,000 years of history. There, you can witness a kagura, a dance dedicated to the gods. Next, let’s get you checked into your accommodations for the night, one that dates back over 200 years. Here, you will have some time to learn more from your guide about the Iseji route, which is one of the many ancient traditional pilgrimage routes of the Kumano Kodo that weave through the sacred Kii Peninsula. For a special treat following the multi-course Japanese dinner, locals will teach you the Ise Ondo, perhaps the most famous folk song and dance in Japan, which generations of pilgrims returning home from Ise Shrine have called the easiest souvenir to carry.

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Dinner

After breakfast, we will drive to a picturesque shrine overlooking the sea in Futamigaura. Here, you can undergo a purification ritual in the sea, called a misogi, before embarking on your own Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, just as people did in the Edo period. Now you are ready for the first trail, Magose-toge Pass. This trail is breathtakingly beautiful, famous for its ancient moss-covered cobblestones and spectacular views. History, nature, and spirit share the walk through pristine forest with you on your way to the quaint fishing town of Owase. Here, there is a yakitori (grilled chicken) restaurant run by a local guide, so you can hear tales about the Kumano Kodo over a delicious and well-earned dinner.

Magose-toge Pass

Distance: 5.2 km (3.2 mi)
Time: 3 hr
Elevation Gain: 325 m (1066 ft)

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Breakfast, Dinner

On this day, an early breakfast greets you before your hike to the Yakiyama-toge Pass, which is considered to be the most challenging section of the Iseji route. The stunning view from the top, however, makes the climb well worth it. While you’re up here, replenish your energy with a bento lunch while you soak in the scenery. The beautiful green waters of Mikisato Beach await you after you have made your way down from the trail. You will find your hotel for the night within walking distance of Onigajo Cliff, a coastal cliff face like no other. You can enjoy a walk among the otherworldly natural architecture here in the evening or early morning.

Lunch (boxed meal)

Yakiyama-toge Pass

Distance: 13.5 km (8.4 mi)
Time: 5.5 to 7 hr
Elevation Gain: 705 m (2313 ft)

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Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After hiking the beautiful Matsumoto-toge Pass, visit sacred sites in reverence to the spirits of nature. First, there is Hana no Iwaya Shrine, considered by some to be the oldest shrine in Japan. Here, encounter one overwhelming natural formation after the next, delighting every one of your senses. After lunch, we’ll head down the coast to Shingu and climb the 538 stone steps to Kamikura Shrine where spectacular views await. This sanctuary is where the deity enshrined at Hayatama-taisha Shrine is said to have descended. After a delicious dinner at a Japanese izakaya-style restaurant, experience what locals do for fun by heading to a Japanese snack bar in Shingu and meeting the sisters here who have long been active in the area as geisha.

Matsumoto-toge Pass

Distance: 6.7 km (4.2 mi)
Time: 2 to 3 hr
Elevation Gain: 150 m (492 ft)

Breakfast, Dinner

A private vehicle will take you to Fudarakusanji Temple to listen to the fascinating stories of the monks’ attempts to reach a land of paradise they believed was to the south and hear about a mandala painting by a Buddhist nun. After that, the final trail of the Iseji route will take you to Nachi Falls. By now, your journey from Ise will have allowed you to immerse yourself in the rich and varied spiritual beliefs of this magical land. Perhaps you are now even able to clearly sense the presence of invisible beings. Take a step further into nature here to where the gods dwell. You can offer them your prayers at Nachi Falls, Seigantoji Temple and Nachi Taisha Shrine. This brings the Kumano Kodo Iseji to an end. Next, you will be transferring to a beautiful resort in Shirahama, where you can enjoy soaking in an onsen (natural hot spring)!

Day 5 Walking

Distance: 6.4 km (4 mi)
Time: 3.5 hr
Elevation Gain: 390 m (1280 ft)

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Breakfast, Dinner

Finally, it is the last day! Today you can make your way back to Osaka with your spirit full and many fond new memories of your adventure through Kumano!

Breakfast

This itinerary is subject to change

Overall Trip Rating:
5.0
- Based on 8 travel reviews
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  1. The Ise Ondo dance was a very good experience.
    By Pauline Kitamura July 24, 2024
    Watching the Kagura at Ise Jingu was very good. And watching and being able to take part in the Ise Ondo dance was a very good experience.t was also nice to be able to make our own Goshuin stamp books. Midori-sans performance and lecture about the mandala was particularly excellent and a wonderful way to start off the tour. Asakichi Ryokan was a very interesting historical hotel. Our room was also very nice. The tea ceremony at Kinoshita-san’s house was was an excellent and very enjoyable. It was very good to have a local guide providing explanations along the way as it made the walk more meaningful. His costume was good too.
  2. Kumano Kodo Iseji is local and authentic, not mass tourism but still an insider location that few people have traveled so far
    By Alena Eckelmann July 22, 2024
    The lunch stop at Atashika in the middle is just right and the accommodation at the end is well located for this this day. Taking time over lunch and talking with the owner couple of the restaurant about their lifestyle and activities is nice local interaction. The option of interaction with the locals is interesting for some visitors. Kumano Kodo Iseji is local and authentic, not mass tourism but still an insider location that few people have traveled so far. Visitors prefer small family run restaurants and accommodations to have more interaction with the locals and local feeling.
  3. Robyn Janelle DeVoe
    By Robyn Janelle DeVoe July 31, 2023
    This trip is for those that are looking to get away from the crowds, enjoy forest bathing, coastal villages, long walks, fresh seafood, and learning from the local people. It is for those that prioritize an immersive experience over luxury accommodations. The hiking itself feels doable for a wide range of fitness abilities with frequent stops and unexpected sights. Shrines with majestic thousand-year-old trees were interspersed with stunning coastline. In the evenings we often had the pleasure of staying with local hosts and cooking traditional Japanese meals together. We learned about the spiritual side of this place, the notion of “nature worship” – a sense that this trail is a welcoming teacher to all, no matter what beliefs the traveler carries. We certainly worshiped nature on this trek, the views were incredible, including from atop a rocky outcropping where we found ourselves “closer to the spirits” and closer to each other, as a group. Along our route we supported the communities we passed through, sampling a wide variety of mandarins grown by the local farmers, and enjoying a tour on a traditional wooden boat, witnessing the next generation carry on practices from the elders. We were accompanied by locals each day who enthusiastically shared their passion and stewardship as caretakers of sections of the trail that passed through their communities. The blend of both natural landscapes and connections with the people on our route made this trip uniquely special. To be accompanied by a local nun, dining in small town pubs, dressed in kimono by women who live here, and taken under everyone’s wings like a friend, this is the essence of being a traveler and not a tourist, to have a deeper experience with a place than scratching the surface of bucket list sites. I feel quite lucky to have experienced these places today as the raw, undiscovered, “real” side of Japan. I hope you celebrate the great success of this trip and I look forward to spreading the word about this region.
  4. Through this shared experience, you get to know and experience new friendships with your companions
    By Dermot Killoran July 28, 2023
    In mid December of last year, I had the pleasure of participating on the Heartland Japan walking tour of Kumano Kodo Iseji Pilgrimage. This was in Mie prefecture and starting from the Ise Grand Shrine, the tour works its way south through the Kii Peninsula travelling a distance of 160 KM (99 miles). During the Edo period (1603-1868),Japan was quite a different place compared to the modern hectic image it is so well known for today. Back in history, Japan was a very spiritual place with the culture and everyday life steeped in the beliefs of Shintoism. This tour traces one of the pilgrimage routes to Kumano Sanzan through woodlands and over mountain passes which are often only a single file width. What struck me most is that this area is covered in mountains and woodlands and much of the physical environment has been mostly unchanged for over a thousand years. As you journey through these same well worn paths that the pilgrims of the past walked over you begin to experience a spiritual closeness with these long gone travellers who had come this way. You climb up over very stones they treaded on. The calm and mystical stillness of the dense giant trees seem to vibrate and whisper encouragement as if to keep you trekking onward to your journey’s destination. This emotional experience serves to open your mind and spirit to an older and authentic Japan that has been fast disappearing in the world of today. Although living in Japan for nearly 30 years, I have to say this tour opened my eyes to a side of Japan and an experience that I had never encountered before. On a small pilgrimage group like this (usually 8 to 10 fellow travellers) you get to know and experience new friendships with your companions. Some of the participants were Japanese who seemed to be encountering a part of their own culture that they had barely experienced or known about except from their school history books. It was clear that they were captivated by the sense of that old Japan they were encountering. Other participants were visitors from overseas who were equally mesmerized by this ancient and hidden side of Japan. For them, it was an experience of the country that foreign tourists are mostly unaware of and rarely get to participate in. These are the memories of a personal journey and an unique experience that will hold a special place in their hearts long after they return to their home countries. Through this shared experience we bonded as a group and ended our time together by enthusiastically taking photos of each other and swapping our social media contact informations. (And yes, even some tears were shed!). These are the experiences, memories, and friendships of the Kumano Kodo Iseji Pilgrimage that I will always cherish. Two short presentations of my memories. Kumano Kodo Iseji 1 https://youtu.be/t90zV3fogkE?si=Qcw1vFQlmlB-rELx Kumano Kodo Iseji 2 https://youtu.be/Hznm_wUrRbc?si=q-wisPKLnh4p_n6H
  5. This is good for people interested in nature..., cultural heritage..., sustainable and community based tourism.
    By Fernando Vincente Padilla Parot July 26, 2023
    Sacred places, entertainment and beautiful and important history of the pilgrimage in some places. The best of the days pass the pass, the encounter with the river and birds in the shrine and the home stay was lovely. The sea views are spectacular, small guests house and community development through tourism. The authentic story from the mandala mixed with the beauty of landscaping create an special last days atmosphere. This is good for people interested in nature based tourism, cultural heritage tourism, slow tourism, sustainable and community based tourism, even mountain tourism and religion based. Can be also young couple inbound tourists with work, group of friends and solo trip, joining with other in a scheduled tour. Thanks for everything, don’t forget that this type of travel experience can also be connected with friendship development if you invite people yo join same tour from different countries.
  6. I got the essence of what the this trip meant to pilgrims
    By Jim Z.Selkin July 25, 2023
    Hearing the lady’s talk about the folk religion was quite interesting(Day-7). Interesting story of the yama-no-kami as the female deity but has human feeelings(Day-8). Midori-san’s explanation [through Xiaoling’s the translater] was very interesting and helped in understanding the life cycle and symbolism of Nachi falls. The way this particular version of the Kumano Kodo Iseji route was structured, it would appeal first to an adventure crowd and then to spiritual practitioners. I realise that this was a condensed version of the tour, with a lot of varied experiences put in. I got the essence of what the this trip meant to pilgrims. There are many ways to draw more people from various markets while incorporating sections of the Iseji route(Day-12).
  7. The feeling and the views at Nachi Falls and Daimonzaka were just amazing.
    By Camila Wada July 23, 2023
    This trip had amazing experiences that I will never forget. The trails were easy to walk, and it was easy to prepare for each day we had a clear picture of the distances to cover. We had the chance to exchange words with many locals on our way (shop owners, joggers, hikers, and even school kids having their physical education class!). What I appreciated the most of the preparation of this tour was the shipping service of the luggage. Would my family or friends visit Japan, I would gladly do this tour again with them. One highlight for me was the cleansing of the soul we performed in a river on the way to Nachi. The feeling and the views at Nachi falls and Daimonzaka were just amazing. The horagai conch-shell performance was a lovely surprise too. Nachi was so beautiful, I loved it so much, that I wished I had one full day to spend there!
  8. Some of my favorite moments were experiencing the homes and residents of the small fishing villages that we slept in each night
    By Christopher Jon Nelson July 14, 2023
    I have spent a lot of time hiking around the world in places like Peru, Nepal, Tanzania, Patagonia, Hawaii, and Spain. This trip was one of the best hikes and overall trips that I have ever participated in. Japan is such an interesting country and I have had the good fortune to spend quite a bit of time there. Kumano Kodo means “old road” and while the country itself races forward, the old roads stay in place, but you do have to look for them and the look is well worth it. Customs, traditions, and nature are still a major part of the fabric that makes up rural Japan and the ability to see that in a relatively compact, safe, and stunningly beautiful area is a graduate level course in Japan. We walked on the Iseji Route which hugs the eastern side of the Kii Peninsula with the Pacific Ocean never far out of sight. It’s a land of forests, streams, mountain passes, and fishing villages. Much like the Camino de Santiago, its’ importance lies not just in reaching the destination but in the journey itself. Along that journey there is a mixture of faith, history, tradition, culture, and a real world connection to those who walked before us and those we walk with today. The trail tells a story that is simultaneously ancient and present, and some of my favorite moments were experiencing the homes and residents of the small fishing villages that we slept in each night. It’s easy and interesting to find a personal connection with both the locals and the group that you walk with. This rural part of Japan is getting smaller in population each year and many of the residents are elderly. It feels important to be there now. The mountain passes are quite manageable and filled with beauty, the Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples are interesting as well, and the food was terrific. This is experiential tourism at it’s best and my goal became to somehow leave the destination better than I found it. You will learn a lot about Japan on this journey and perhaps even more about yourself.

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Personal Information

Travel Conditions

Start: Nagoya Station at 09h00 November 5
End: Shin-Osaka Station at 13h00 November 10
Number of Days: 6 days, 5 nights
Minimum number of participants: 4
(If the minimum number of participants (4) is not met by 31 days before departure, the tour may be canceled. If it is canceled, customers will be notified by the conducting company or their travel agent)

Included

  • English-speaking guide (Day 1: 09h00 ~ Day 6: 13h00 )
  • Local guide (Day 3)
  • 5 nights’ accommodation including Japanese-style rooms in hotels and ryokans (including all taxes)
  • 5 breakfasts, 1 lunch (boxed meal), 5 dinners
  • Luggage transport for one piece of luggage per person (Iseshi Station to Asakichi Ryokan, Owase to Kumano, Kumano to Shingu)
  • Transportation IC card (worth 3500 yen)
  • Train ticket from Shirahama to Shin-Osaka
  • All activities listed on the itinerary (Ise Jingu Kagura, Ise Ondo, snack bar experience, mandala story telling, oizuru pilgrim costume)
  • Private transportation as listed on the itinerary (Day 2 Asakichi Ryokan to Hotel Nami, Day 5 Shingu New Palace to Shirahama Hotel, Day 6 Shirahama Hotel to Shirahama Station)
  • Oizuru pilgrimage costume

Not Included

  • Travel insurance
  • Drinks during meals
  • Personal expenses

Accommodations

Ise: Asakichi Ryokan
Owase: Hotel Viora, City Hotel Mochizuki, Hotel Phoenix
Kumano: Hotel Nami, Oni no Sampomichi
Shingu: Hotel New Palace, Ui Hotel, Station Hotel
Shirahama: Key Terrace Hotel Seamore, Seamore Residence, Yukai Resort Premium Nanki Shirahama
Travel planning and implementation Liberta Co., Ltd.
Address Minami-cho 15-206, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Phone 03-6265-329
Email info@heartlandjapan.com
Travel business license 2-7699

Price

¥498,000

Pricing is per person, twin share. If joining the tour as a single traveller, a supplementary payment is required. These are from ¥43,700, but availability of single places for each tour is limited. Please contact us for further details.

Tour Dates

TRIP DATES AVAILABILITY PRICE SPACE LEFT
November 5, 2024 - November 10, 2024 Guaranteed ¥498,000
10 Available

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From ¥498,000
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