After waking up in beautiful sunny Kawayu Onsen, we got ready for our first long walk on the Kumano Kodo! Today we took the bus to Hosshinmon-oji and walked to the Kumano Hongü Taisha shrine, and after lunch walked to Yunomine Onsen.
Watching our bus driver manipulate the big bus over the narrow roads and bridges was mesmerizing! Our first part of the route was ~11 kilometers, walking to Kumano Hongü Taisha through small villages, and beautiful forests. This route is quite easy, without any big climbs or descents and we had enough time and spare energy to take in the beautiful surroundings! At a resting point we had a Shiso juice, a juice made from the Shiso herb – bright pink and refreshing! We met a very sweet 70-year old man, who was walking this route with his wife and daughter.
Our route: Osaka → Kawayu Onsen→ Kumano Hongu Taisha → Yunomine Onsen → Kumano Hayatama Taisha → Kumano Nachi Taisha → Kii-Katsuura → Osaka
We took a short detour to hike to a viewpoint, which allowed us to see the Hongu gate from above. This Otorii (big gate) shrine gate is the entrance to the area of the Hongu shrine and is the largest in the world. Needless to say, the hike was worth the view!!
Before lunch we arrived at our first Kumano Kodo grand shrine, Kumano Hongu Taisha. This shrine sits on a hill and is surrounded by beautiful buildings, statues and trees. At the shrine, we met a group of friends that had stayed in the same ryokan in Kawayu Onsen. One of the men offered to show my friend and I how to bow and walk through the shrine gates, and how to pray. This was very helpful, as we had been wanting to respectfully go through the shrine, but despite all our reading were not 100% sure how to. After praying at the shrine, buying a good luck charm and finding the Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine stamp, we headed into Hongu for lunch together. The delicious udon fortified us enough for the last, and most challenging walk of the day!
The last leg of our route was Hongu to Yunomine onsen, where we were staying for the night. The beginning of the path took us through the Otorri of Hongu, and then led us to a staircase of rocks up a steep hill. This is a path that has not been maintained and is quite old, so in many parts we had to literally climb up or down, helping each other up. The adrenaline got to me, so I was like a young puppy, excited by the obstacles and my walking stick named ‘Thor’. Yes, you can imagine my tired friend was thrilled with me *insert eye-roll here*. Despite the tough climb and descent, we were awarded with a beautiful path, new made-up songs and a beautiful view of Yunomine onsen.
Yunomine Onsen is a village known for it’s onsen, which is on the Unesco World Heritage list. There is even a special place where people can cook their eggs! Our minshuku (Japanese bed & breakfast) is run by a sweet octogenarian, Mrs. Fujikawa. The mats were very comfortable, and the house’s onsen was my favorite of our Kumano trip. The food, all homemade, was delicious and filling. We had a great chat with the three other guests, and afterwards we headed to bed, exhausted by our walk, but excited for the next day!
- Where we stayed in Yunomine Onsen: Minshuku Teruteya
- Lunch in Hongu: Hana asobi (this is a guess, based on this map)
- Visiting a shrine: I found a video from Japanagos on youtube, where she explains how to visit a Shinto shrine – check it out!
- Fiery tip: If you decide to visit this region and walk the Kumano Kodo, please really prepare your stay in advance and don’t forget to check bus times! They only go once every 1-2 hours, so if you miss your bus, you may miss a large part of your route! We met some ‘lost’ people at bus stops that realized they just missed their bus and would have to wait 1.5 hours!
- Fiery tip: At some ryokans or minshukus you can get a lunch box for the next day. We made the mistake of asking this in the morning when checking out, only to learn we should have requested it the previous evening. As everything is freshly made, they couldn’t make one last minute. So if needed, always ask the evening before checking out!
Hope you’re enjoying the Kumano Kodo posts!