As I enter into this UNESCO World Heritage walk I enter into the steep, lush mountains of the Kii Peninsula , Japan. It embodies the spiritual origins of Japan and has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries. It is also a dual pilgrimage with the Camino de Santiago , the Way of St James. On completion of the Kumano Kodo, Kumano Hongu Taisha has a special “Dual Pilgrim Taiko Ceremony” which I am looking forward to participating in .

The Dual Pilgrim Credential. The Scallop Shell for the Camino de Santiago and the Three Legged Crow for the Kumano Kodo.

A Haiku Poem

Stillness Whispers gone

Sinking deeper Footprints fade

Breeze touches Senses

My journey begins.

After two planes and 1 train we have arrived at Kii Tanabe from Osaka Airport. The train staff were very helpful at the airport and made our way to Kii Tanabe a very easy experience. It is very hot today , in the 30’s and will be the same for the next few days. Humidity is high.

Our first port of call was the Tanabe Tourism Bureau to find out the state of the trail. Unfortunately due to the Typhoon the other day the trail has been badly damaged and some areas are without drinking water. Part of the trail is closed and we will have to seek a bus route for a short distance to bypass that section.

Entrance to the Shrine.

Kii Tanabe is a lovely city and after a visit to the Tokei-jinja Shrine we realize how steep it is in tradition of the Kumano Kodo. The shrine was established in 419A.D. Many imperial and aristocratic pilgrims paid their respects here before heading onto the Kumano Kodo. They were praying for safe passage along the route.

A few Photos  of my visit to The Tokei-jinja Shrine.

Accomodation – Hotel Hanaya Kii Tanabe.

Wandering the narrow laneways of Kii Tanabe

Day 1

If only I knew what sort of day I was going to have

All excited we leave Kii Tanabe bus stop to begin the Kumano Kodo . The trip is about 40 mins. After visiting the tourist office to check the state of the trail after the typhoon , we are all good to go.

It is a beautiful start to the trail. On the left a river and in front is a rock that marks the World Heritage site and the official start. Also a shrine housed among amazing tall cedar trees. Quietness is all around. We stop and I ring the bell to the start of my journey and  give thanks for how lucky I am to be able to walk this trail.

We head upwards straight away, tree roots and stairs are the order of the day. It is going to be a challenge that’s for sure .

We come across the rocks that are called Tainai Kuguri ‘Test of faith’. Every spring and autumn locals armed with bamboo walking poles make their way through the cave to pray to a turtle shaped monolith. We tried our luck.

The big horse flies seem to love us for a while. So eventually we stop and the bug spray comes out. We come across two rangers on the trail. They had been checking the trail to see if it is safe due to the typhoon. All clear.

Besides the dreaded tree routes our surrounds are so beautiful.

Sunlight shines on the vivid green leaves of the small trees, casting shadow patterns on the trunks of the beautiful cedar trees. They wear it like wallpaper.

Diverting to a lookout, more stairs of course , we have a magnificent view of the Kii mountains. Shades of blue and green rolling on in the distance.

As the path levels out for a while going downhill big black and blue butterflies dance around us. They disappear then flutter over our heads as if playing a game with us. While enjoying this we are lulled into a false sense of security. As I lift my head, in front of me are stairs of rocks and tree roots. They go up and up , I can’t even see the top. This is going to be torture. My word for when I got to the top was “horrendous “.

I might add the weather here is high 30’s just to add to the fun in the woods.

We feel we must be close to the end of the days hiking and coming around a corner we are rewarded with the most amazing view. We congratulate each other on a job well done. Just 4 kilometers and it took us 5 hours.

A wonderful welcome at our stay tonight which followed on throughout our stay.

The evening is full of beautiful food, great communal company, singing songs, playing of guitar and piano from the various guests. Wine, champagne and sake flow around the room.

As I bed down on the futon and sleep succumbs, all the torture of today’s climb fades away into sweet dreams.


Kiri- no – Sato Takahara Lodge

Day 2 -Takahara – Tsugizakura- oji

I heard a saying in Japanese today and I asked what it meant , I was told it meant ‘A sea of clouds’.  What a fitting start to the day.

Today my walking buddy Susan is leaving the trail for a family emergency and so I will continue on to Tsugizakura-Oji alone.

Because of the landslides I will catch a bus to Gyubadoji and start the trail from there. Extremely hot , I have chosen to get my backpack forwarded on , so will just walk with a Day pack. Wise move.

This group of gorgeous ladies were setting off to catch the bus. I might also say it was my mode of transport too.

At the start of the trail of course it heads up but lovely and shady under the cedar trees.

I was a bit apprehensive of walking on my own but I have met two Camino trail angels today. One couple showing me how to use the bus system and walked with  me till Chikatsuyu where they are staying. They swapped numbers with me and wanted me to text when I arrived. If the trail was blocked they invited me to come back to where they are staying and spend the night. The next Camino Angel was after a tough uphill walk in the heat I came upon a little shop, think it was a tea house or shop. I was sitting in the shade of a tree and she came over and gave me water. She then invited me to sit in the cool and wait for my accommodations to opened. She served me tea and lollies and gave me a present of some origami. Very sweet.

After that it was a short walk downhill to my accommodation. Here I was very warmly greeted and given cold watermelon. A lovely welcome again and a wonderful dinner.

There is another young man staying here tonight and because of the difficulty of organizing the walk due to typhoon closures he has offered to walk with me and help me with bus detours. How wonderful is that. My third Camino Angel in one day.

Here are some pictures of today

Accomodation-Minshuku Tsugizakura.


Tsugizakura-oji to Hongu

Today’s plans took a little to organize and thanks to my hosts and my new Japanese angel Syogo. ( later  in the day I would realize what an angel he was to become )we had maps out, bus time tables out spread across the table until the route was established. The recently Typhoon has done significant damage all along the trail. Because I want to walk the most I can my plan is to walk to Kobiro-toge bus stop. Catch a bus to Hongu then change and go backwards to Hosshinmon-oji. I will then walk back to Hongu where I will stay the night.

I will be up front and honest here, I did have a mini melt down this morning. But had a chat to myself and I am all good now. Till the next one.

Syogo and I have walked well together today each of us sharing hiking experiences. He has come on 6 day leave from work to walk and swim in the river. The river is closed so he told me he was crushed and broken. I am very disappointed for him.

Like dinner last night the breakfast was amazing . I can’t eat it all. My lunch box the hosts packed for me was full of wonderful goodies. The refinement that goes into the serving and display of all the dishes I thought I was in a 5 star restaurant. Only it’s better.

The lovely host found out I didn’t have a hat so she gave me one of hers. Such kindness everywhere. The Camino provides again.

Sporting my new hat.

Walking along this beautiful windy narrow street we came across a lovely couple walking their two goats on a lead. It was so funny. The gentleman said they were Pilgrim Goats.

We arrive near our bus stop and see the closure sign.

We have been told half way along it is very very dangerous. We see another hiker and Syogo talks to him and says he is very worried as the man was going to chance it. Safety first is always my motto.

We caught 2 buses for the diversion and re started our walk in Hosshinmon – oji. Very hot again today and the first section is along the road which doesn’t help. A welcome rest area ahead but unfortunately the shop was closed where I wanted to buy Syogo a thank you drink.

Further on to a small detour brought me out to the most amazing view of the Kii Mountains . Just a little further along the view was down the valley to the Tori in Hongu. The tallest in Japan.

Now here is where the story gets interesting. I was so near now to the end of this Kumano Nakahechi route  and at the top of a plateau I stopped to have a break before traversing down the stone steps, the end is so near. Before I know it I have done a 10 out of 10 rolling dive forward. Syogo who was a little way ahead turned and called out “you okay” “Yes I’m fine “ The look on his face told me I wasn’t. He raced up to help. I had blood streaming down my face , broken glasses and a broken ego. He said “I call ambulance “ Heck no !

I put my scarf come sarong, come picnic square now bandage on the wound and Syogo said he would go and get a bandage. Down all the hundreds of steps he went. In the mean time 2 other Japanese men came across me . Think I scared the pants off of them. One said “you be alright I am a primary school teacher” I did think at that moment Wha tha!. They were so nice though rang the Hongu Heritage Center who came charging up the nearby road with ice pack and were going to take me to the doctors. I said I can’t go Syogo is coming back. By the time they got me in the car Syogo came back running up the stairs with full backpack. He looked worse than me as he had rushed in the heat and he looked so hot. He had bought bandages and would not take money for them. I felt so bad our day ended this way. It was such enjoyable days hiking. I knew I wouldn’t see him again but managed to get his address so will send a thank you gift to him when I get back to Australia. (I have since coming back to Australia done so and had a wonderful reply from him)

Off to the doctors no stitches just strips to seal the wound . The staff from the Heritage Center  than drove me to my nights stay.

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. With my eye now closed and swelling rapidly I knew then that my extra planned walk was over.

I will never see my Camino Angels again but I will always remember them.

That night I was doing the poor me , why had this happened to me. After much soul searching I realized that maybe there was a reason why. What  I had been doing was being in the physical. Loving the views , simply amazing but every step I was taking was the stones, the rocks, the tree roots, the inclines straight up , the heat. I could go on and on. I have always been grateful I’m here but have I been focusing on the wrong things. Sure it’s hard. The fall certainly has put the brakes on, but I hadn’t been focusing on the tree roots that were polished to a shine from the thousands of pilgrims that had left their footprints embedded in their story over centuries just as I now have. The rock stairs that people have painstakingly put into place to make it easy to access this area. The volunteers that trim trees and clear tails to make it safe. I would never have experienced the kindness and generosity of spirit of the Japanese people. The views of the Kii Peninsula that will stay in my heart forever. They have taken my breath away.

The kindness of a young man Syogo so proud of this area where he comes on holidays to walk and wanting me to have the best experience.

I will be forever in his debt.

Leaving my footprints in the world


Today I was having a look around Hongu  before catching a bus to my nights accommodation. It would have been about a two hour walk through the forest on the Kumano Kodo Dainichi – goe  route, but having only one eye thought it not advisable. But what a wonderful day I had.

The three legged Crow the symbol of the Kumano Kodo

First stop at a hardware store to buy an umbrella to help with the sun. Map in hand I crossed over a narrow bridge to the park where the Tori Oyunohara stood proudly guarding the city. I could see in the river all the debris that had been washed down from the mountains. The river usually a beautiful blue was now brown with silt.

The Tori is magnificent and standing underneath it I couldn’t help but look up into the mountains from where I had first seen it.

Next stop was to the Hongu Heritage Center to thank them for their help yesterday. The look on their faces when they saw me said it all. Two token mini koalas to show my appreciation to them. It just didn’t seem enough. Here I registered to become a Dual Pilgrim. I had already walked the Camino Santiago and now the Kumano Kodo both UNESCO heritage listed walks. Not the most flattering picture taken but quite a memorable one.

One of my friends has labeled me the One Eyed Dual Pilgrim. A title I will wear with pride.

10,755 KM TO Santiago de Compostella. Now there’s an idea (not).

Next a walk up more stairs to the Kumano Hongu Taisha . Here I had the privilege to partake in a Drum Ceremony with a young monk for becoming a Dual Pilgrim. Drumming is probably something I should practice a little more. What an experience.

The walk has been an amazing experience. It certainly has had its ups and downs to say the least. The generosity and caring nature of the Japanese people have blown me away. I would certainly recommend the Kumano Kodo to anyone.

But perhaps next time a different Season.

Here are some photos taken today.

The One Eyed Dual Pilgrim continues her journey.

I continue by bus to Yunomine. This is a remarkable little Onsen town.

I walk up to where the Kumano Kodo comes into the town and then walk about 1 k where it leaves the town. I wanted to sample a little of the trail, seeing I couldn’t walk the whole way.

I came to a beautiful little Shrine and was sitting there in the shade of Japanese Maples towered over by ancient cedar trees when a gentleman came up and starting to talk to me. He had planned to walk from Koya San but got caught in the typhoon. His plans have all been changed and is walking where the trails are open in this area. He too can’t believe how long it takes to walk the distances. One day it said 7 hrs and it took him 10. It’s a tough trail and don’t underestimate it. It’s here to teach us all something. 

I wish you all would be sitting where I am at the moment. The sunlight is filtering through the cedar and maple trees. The birds are all singing their song. A soft breeze is blowing all the little paper blessings attached to the branches. The orange temple is standing waiting to greet pilgrims from all over the world. I’m glad to have the privilege to be here. Moments come and go but some of them are pretty special and stay with you forever .

As if my day couldn’t get any better. I walked backed down to the town looking for a cold drink and some lunch and I spotted an area where the locals come to cook eggs and vegetables. I went down to have a look and watched a lady put her eggs in. She told me (I think 13 mins for soft in the middle). I thanked her and went off to get a drink then went and sat at the bus stop to wait for the bus. Her and her husband came along on the other side of the road stopped and gave me a wave.  She then brought over 2 eggs for me. The eggs  were amazing. There is a video of her cooking on my instagram page, thewalkingtraveller.

A little later on, while I was still waiting for a bus to come along a large family arrived . As I watched them go and buy eggs to cook the Grandmother came over and sat with me. We began talking and she found out I was Australian and walked the Kumano Kodo. She was very excited and before I knew it she had called the whole family over and we had a lot of laughs no common language was need .

Can’t believe my luck today

One of my bus rides today was in a very small bus with the most gorgeous happy driver. I was the only one in the bus.  We meandered along the river and instead of it being brown as in Hongu I got to see it in all its beauty, The clearest blue & green  with the backdrop of the green rolling mountains .

As he dropped me offer at my destination in Koguchi he waved and tooted away up the mountain .

Lovely hospitable stay here. I had a little stroll around the small village. Watched a tiny elderly lady climb up a ladder to tend to her terraced garden. She turned and waved and said “Kumano Kodo”. I nodded.  I walked a little on the trail. I stopped when the stairs got really steep. Wasn’t going to push my luck. So turned around and took  a short walk along the river. I came  to a secluded shrine by the river bank . So quiet and peaceful.

After a wonderful dinner it was time for some shut eye.

The one eyed Dual pilgrim visit  Nachi San

Bus timetables in hand, I was waved farewell from our host. 3 Buses later I arrive at Daimon-Zaka slope.

The steep rock stairs went up and up, shaded by the hundreds of years giant Cedar Trees.


The Husband and Wife 800 year old Cedar Trees

The Tafuko oji shrine was the last oji shrine that pilgrims encountered along the Nakahechi road to Kumano

Still going up I came across a very funny sign. If only I knew earlier.

Arriving at the top I visit the Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine, Nachisan Seiganto – Ji Temple the Three Story Pagoda and the magnificent Nachi Waterfall. All a wonderful end to what was a marvelous, interesting and enlightening walk on the Kumano Kodo Trail . The Kii Mountains are everywhere you look. Her welcoming arms surround you.  They say the view of a thousand mountains, and that can’t be wrong. They hold secrets of centuries past and embrace the future pilgrim with open arms.  Releasing them of their expectations they bring with them and giving each and everyone of us a look into her soul. We all will have a different Kumano Kodo trail, this has been mine.

Here are a few pictures of my day in Nashi San.