Wake up early to head back to the mainland for a day exploring the hidden temples and pilgrimage trails of this corner of Japan. Walk the Daimonzaka approach, one followed by pilgrims of old, as you follow the paved steps ascending to a stunning and sacred waterfall and shrine.
After exploring your final stop of the day – the Hayatama Taisha Shrine – board a traditional wooden flat-bottomed boat for a gentle ride down the Kumano River. Hear the tales of the many pilgrims that have gone before you and witness the stunning rock formations around the river.
To complete a historic day, stay in an equally historic onsen (hot spring) ryokan. The village of Yunomine Onsen is said to have the oldest hot spring in Japan, known for its healing waters as far back as 1800 years ago when an ancient samurai vaunted their curative powers. You’ll feel detoxed and relaxed, as well as part of this historic spiritual tapestry.
KII MOUNTAIN RANGE
A morning dip in the healing waters of the hot springs will leave you feeling refreshed and revived before another day of pilgrimage. Following breakfast, depart for the Kumano Kodo – one of Japan’s most remote and rewarding journeys that will see you hiking through the mountainous Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka.
Once a sacred trail reserved for emperors and samurai, today it’s open to all wanderers and you’ll sight some incredibly beautiful shrines on your way. You’ll be joined for part of the trail by a yamabushi, a mountain ascetic priest of the Shugendo faith, as he teaches you about his religion and rigorous training.
Close the day on a spiritual note at Shukubo lodgings – monastery guest houses that are run by monks – as you dine on traditional Shojin Ryori Buddhist cuisine (think: rice, miso soup, and a variety of vegetable and tofu side dishes).