Deciphering a Japanese hiking map

You don't need to read Japanese to be able to decipher a hiking map. However, if you decide to go on a hike on your own, ask for help from Japanese friends or staff at information booths. There are many parts of the Kumano Kodo which are somewhat unclear as to where the paths may be going.
Historically, throughout the 1200 years of pilgrimages, the paths have changed from era to era. The prefectural and local governments have made every effort to mark the paths clearly, but one can still stray off the path inadvertently.
Look at the following map and study how to use it. The Legend (8) has been translated into English to give you an idea of map marking.

Click on the map below to enlarge it.

(1)Shows the elevation of land, 0 meters being at sea level and 900 meters

Tanabe - Gateway to Kumano (Part 1)

Tanabe is a wonderful base to begin your exploration of the Kumano region.  
 There are several towns and cities in Japan called Tanabe.  It is easy to go to a different location instead of going to Kii-Tanabe.  
The Kii Peninsula is the location of Tanabe of  Kumano Kodo fame.  It is located south east of Osaka at the southern most point of Honshu Island, the main island of Japan.
Kii is also the old name for the area before

Hiking Through the Seasons

On the Kii Peninsula, there are four seasons plus the rainy season. Summers are hot and humid. Fall and spring are comfortable with temperatures in the low 20s (70s for Fahrenheit). Winters are short and mild. The rainy season usually lasts from the end of June to the end of July when the temperatures ramp up and the humidity become quite uncomfortable. It is a six-week period of rainy days interspersed with sunny days. Hiking through all seasons is possible, and careful planning is necessary to have a great experience.

World Heritage Center Opens

Kumano Kodo finally has a new World Heritage Center. It's a beautiful building, and it has a natural simplicity which is in harmony with its surroundings.
On July 3, 2009, the new facility was opened in

Robbers deface and steal statue's head

Kiiminpo newspaper photo June 20, 2008

-->On June 20, 2008, citizens of Tanabe City learned of the defacing of the statue known as “Hashiori Pass Gyubadoji.” The Chinese characters for Gyubadoji can be separated into the parts – Gyu meaning cow, ba meaning horse, and doji meaning a child (in this instance, the young Ex-emperor, Kazan-in). This statue is on the Nakahechi section of the Kumano Kodo World Heritage pilgrimage route and is often used as a symbol of the

Kumano Sanzan

The Kumano Sanzan encompasses the entire region on the southern tip of Wakayama Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan. It is a mountainous area with deep valleys and rugged mountains. While most of the region is covered with virgins stands of broad leaf evergreens, areas here have been settled since time began in these islands of Japan.
The Kumano Sanzan is in the middle of the five pilgrimage
The Kumano Sanzan is in the middle of the five pilgrimage areas designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2004 on the Kii Peninsula. It is a unique peninsular area encompassed by rugged mountains. The Chinese characters, 三(san) 山 (zan) is literally speaking, "three mountains." The three mountains which are set like jewels among the southern peaks of the Kii Mountains have been sacred areas in Japan from time immemorial. It is said that the Japanese gods of creationist mythology came here to create the Japanese islands from cosmic morass.

UNESCO World Heritage Pilgrimage Routes

In 2004, the residents of the Kinan region rejoiced to learn of the finalization of listing the sacred areas and pilgrimage routes of the Kii Peninsula area of Japan. Many residents have always been aware of the pilgrimage routes and may have even walked them as students on school excursions. However, now residents have finally awakened to the many-faceted heritage which has existed running through our backyards and along the myriad paths of the pilgrimage routes. Sometimes it takes an outside influence as well-known as the UNESCO World Heritage Site's committee's interest.
The most frequently walked paths leading to the Hongu Kumano Grand Shrine (Hongu Kumano Taisha本宮熊野大社)are in the city of Tanabe.

There were four areas designated as World Heritage sites - officially known as Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. The areas include Mie, Nara, and Wakayama Prefectures. The designated sites are the sacred areas of 1. Yoshino and Omine 2. Kumano Sanzan and 3. Koyasan, and 4. the pilgrimage routes linking the sacred areas.
The area embodies the fusion of Shintoism (the ancient indigenous belief system of Japan) and Buddhism (introduced into Japan

What to Expect on a Guided Hike

A hike or walk with a guide enriches your understanding on many levels. Guides come from many walks of life and all ages. A guide's goal is to guide visitors (in our case, in the English language) and interpret the cultural, historical and natural heritage of an area with area-specific qualification usually issued or recognized by an appropriate authority.
Good guides are lifetime students of their particular field of expertise - continually studying for a deeper understanding.
Guides on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes must have a grasp of history, the natural environment, literature, local legends, mythology, and the relationship of the fusion of religions. In addition, an ability to be a story-teller, a sense of humor, and a deep understanding of Japan are necessary. All these qualities are not enough though. A thorough knowledge of the trails and precautions for hiking as well as physical stamina are also necessary.

For a guided hike please contact us.

TIEGA guides are certified through
recognition of Wakayama Prefecture government. Tourism Bureau