Japan is a bucketlist destination for many people, for its fascinating culture, heritage and gastronomy. Whether you are an anime fan, a sushi enthusiast or history buff, Japan will not disappoint. If you are considering walking Japan’s Kumano Kodo, which is twinned with the Camino de Santiago, we have some more reasons why we think you should definitely pack your hiking shoes and travel to the land of the rising sun.
These are our top reasons why we love Japan’s Kumano Kodo:
Japanese food, mainly sushi, is in most travellers’ minds when visiting the country. Sushi might be the country’s most international dish but there are many other lesser known dishes your tastebuds will be absolutely delighted by: okonamiyaki savoury pancakes, takoyaki octopus dumplings, Kobe beef… Did you know Osaka is considered the ‘larder’ of Japan? If you are landing in the city (the closest airport to Kumano Kodo), we highly recommend you spend a couple of days to explore its food scene.
Onsens are Japanese traditional hot springs but the term also refers to large comunal baths in hotels and guest houses. They can be outdoors or indoors and you’ll find them everywhere. In some places they will be private and in others there will be separate facilities for men and women. It is important to know, they are to be used completely naked. Yunomine Onsen, on the Kumano Kodo route, is considered one of the oldest ‘spa’ or onsen villages in Japan. A real treat with a lot of history!
The Kumano Kodo trails, like the Camino de Santiago, are UNESCO heritage for their tradition of pilgrimage dating back to Medieval times. The trails have attracted pilgrims of all social status and backgrounds.
Along the trail you will encounter many shrines dedicated to both Shinto and Buddhist traditions, that coexist in perfect harmony. Hongu and Nachi are two of the most spectacular. You’ll also encounter little ‘Jizo’ statues along the trail, protector of travellers.
Japanese guest houses also known as Ryokan, will give you a real feel for the authentic Japanese way of living and customs.
Breakfast will generally consist of rice, fish (cooked), omelette and miso soup. Dinner will be at 6pm on the dot in guest houses, followed by ‘onsen’ time. Always follow the etiquette: arrive on time, dress in your kimono and wear your slippers correctly…
Navigating the whole rulebook of which slippers are to be worn when and where would nearly require a full blog post in itself. A few simple notes to keep in mind: outdoor shoes are not to be worn inside (so far, so easy to follow) but indoor shoes or slippers come in all shapes and sizes, and here’s where it gets complicated.
You can wear house slippers in the house but take them off when you get into your room and tatami and if you have a bathroom (even in your room), do not wear the house slippers, there will be some bathroom specific slippers to be used instead. Bathroom slippers, of course, can’t be worn outside the bathroom. Oh, and don’t forget to take your slippers off getting in the dinning room. That’s an absolute no-no.
The lush forests of the Kii Mountains are a fairy-taleesque setting for walking. These sacred mountains have attracted pilgrims for centuries for their natural beauty and as a place where to connect with nature.
For more information on any of our walking or cycling tours or book your trip on Japan’s Kumano Kodo please contact the travel specialists.