Ancient Pilgrimage: Kumano Kodo

Buddhism, nature, and beauty.

Although Koyasan remains Japan’s best-known pilgrimage site, the country is home to many other such destinations. One of the most beautiful is Kumano Kodo on the gorgeous Kii Peninsula, which since 2004 has been a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site. In constant use for over 1000 years, the trail encompasses three main shrines known collectively as the Kumano Sanzan: Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha, as well as dozens of secondary shrines tucked away in the rich forests and winding trails. It’s believed that the walk itself is as important as reaching the shrines, as pilgrims’ souls are purified by the surrounding nature and the challenges of the journey.

Visitors can extend their experience over several days, walking for a few hours before stopping for the night at local inns, many of which also have hotsprings in which to soak away the miles. How far or how strenuous the walk depends entirely on each person, but whether six hours or six days, it’s bound to be an unforgettable experience.

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