Nakahechi | The Imperial Route to Kumano
The Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage network is the most popular trail to Kumano and has been used extensively since the 10th century, when Japan's Imperial ancestors first began the tradition.
The classic pilgrimage circuit began in Kyoto at Jonan-gu shrine. From here, pilgrims took a boat down the Yodo-gawa River to Osaka, where they began their journey south to Tanabe. In Tanabe the trail turns east onto the Nakahechi route, which cuts deep into the heart of the mountains.
Takijiri-oji, one of the many Oji shrines, marks the entrance into the realm of Kumano and is a popular starting point for modern-day pilgrims. Takijiri-oji to Tsugizakura-ojipasses through the communities of Takahara and Chikatsuyu. From Tsugizakura-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha there are many ups and downs on the trail before arriving at the shrine. Dainichi-goe and Akagi-goe are routes running through Yunomine Onsen, a hot spring with 1800 years of history used for hot water ablution rites.
After paying tribute at Kumano Hongu Taisha, pilgrims travelled by boat down the Kumano-gawa River to Kumano Hayatama Taisha. A visit to Kumano Nachi Taisha completed the pilgrimage. On the return journey to Kyoto, pilgrims either retraced their steps or took the mountainous Ogumotori-goe and Kogumotori-goe passes to Hongu.
The Nakahechi route offers both short walks and multi-day treks with a variety of lodgings, including many traditional-style accommodations and hot springs. These days there is no set pattern for walking the routes, so please feel free to adjust your pilgrimage experience to your abilities and needs.
Visit the route guides below for further trail information and the Kumano Kodo Maps page for a complete list of downloadable walking maps. Also visit the Kumano Pilgrimage History and Kumano Kodo Audio Guide pages for more background information.
Please visit the local, community-based Kumano Travel reservation system for Kumano Kodo accommodation information and reservations.
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The signs along the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Route are all in Japanese and English. The main types are show below, each brown with white lettering.