On our last full day in the Kumano Kodo, we visited two of the three grand shrines of the Kumano Kodo: Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha. We got up early in Yunomine Onsen and got on the bus to Shingu. Shingu is one of the larger towns in the Kumano Kodo, and I wasn’t immediately taken in by it…I had grown too attached to the small villages already!
The Kumano Hayatama Taisha is a 15 min walk from the train station and is incredibly beautiful. The main shrine is fiery orange-red, even more so in the bright sunshine. The shrine was busy with families bringing their children for a blessing at the shrine.
Our route: Osaka → Kawayu Onsen→ Kumano Hongu Taisha → Yunomine Onsen → Kumano Hayatama Taisha → Kumano Nachi Taisha → Kii-Katsuura → Osaka
For some reason most restaurants seemed closed on Shingu, so we headed to Lawson’s to get some lunch. If you have never been in a convenience store in Japan….you are in for a treat! They have everything, and it is all so fresh! We lived off their o-nigiri for 2.5 weeks (we tried all flavors!) and iced coffee. They also have bento boxes (pre-made lunch boxes) which were perfect to take with us. We hopped on the bus to Nachi, where we had to change to the bus to the start of the Daimonzaka slope. This beautiful walk takes you along the Meitosugi, a husband and wife pair of cedar trees. Be warned though, it consists 100% of stairs going up…only ending at the top at the Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine. If you don’t want to walk up, the same bus will drop you off at Kumano Nachi Taisha!
At the top of the walk you’re rewarded with a beautiful shrine and Buddhist temple. When you walk a little further you catch your first glimpse of the gorgeous Kumano Nachi Taisha! Once you see it up close, it is really as if you are standing in a postcard, so unbelievably beautiful!
In the photo above you can already see the Nachi falls, Japans highest waterfalls. We visited the shrine at the foot of the falls and then hopped onto the bus headed to Kii-Katsuura where we were staying for the night. Kii-Katsuura is a small fishing village along the coast, known for its tuna auctions and onsen (they have beautiful cave onsens you can visit).
We didn’t have a clear idea of how good our minshuku would be for the night, but were extremely pleasantly surprised! Our room was really big and in the hallway next to the dining room there was a bookcase full of manga and DVD’s! We took a bath first, which was so relaxing after a day of walking! However, what really made me love this minshuku so much was the food & collection of sake. So so so good!! The owner has huge sake bottles in the hallway and dining room and helped me choose by recommending three sakes and letting me do a little tasting. The foodporn shots below don’t need any further explanation….oooohhh take me back!!
The next day my friend and I walked around Kii-Katsuura, and after 2.5 weeks of traveling together said goodbye! She went on to hike further in the Kumano Kodo for a few days, and I returned to Osaka to fly further to my parents in Shanghai.
My personal Kumano Kodo experience – I had been going through a tough emotional time before leaving for Japan and this was a part of our journey that I was really looking forward to. Even though I didn’t release all the emotions I was dragging around…(didn’t want to burden my friend too much with my pity party), the hiking did give some peace of mind and release for bad energy. There is something very liberating about just having a backpack and just…..walking. I was very sad to leave the region after four days, and this will be definitely an area I would like to return to when I visit Japan again!
- Bus times & prices in Kumano Kodo: The official Kumano travel website has all the information you need (despite being a little to navigate) – find it here
- Where we stayed in Kii-Katsuura: Wakatake minshuku – I definitely recommend staying here, the owners are super friendly and it’s good value!
Let me know if you’re enjoying my stories about Japan, and feel free to share your own experiences below! Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo to follow soon!