If you love hiking, or are looking for a new way to experience Japan, or simply want to relax staying in the nature for a few days, the Kumado Kodo is great way to do it!
For longer than thousand years pilgrims have walked days to reach the sacred sites of the Kumano area in the southern Kii peninsula. The way to purify their souls is made by a network of routes that spreads from Koyasan to Nachisan and to other sacred locations across forests, mountains, valleys and waterfalls. Walking the whole way could take more than a week but it's possible to arrange any length and complexity. Here is a great example of a 3 days / 3 nights walk touching some of the best spots in Kumano area:
Day1 - Yunomine Onsen: getting started in Yunomine Onsen you can leave your bags at your accommodation and go for an easy loop walk to the Kumano Hongu Taisha featuring the largest Torii shrine gate in the world (33.9 meters tall and 42 meters wide). Once back you can relax in Tsuboyu Onsen, a small cabin where to bath privately in max 2 persons for a max of 30 minutes, it's told its waters can cure any disease. It's also the only onsen registered as UNESCO World Heritage!
Day2 - Koguchi: the path to Koguchi starts with a bus ride to Ukegawa followed by a 13 km walk with no restaurants or shops on the way, so you will need energy to last the distance. What's better than some boiled eggs, especially if boiled directly in the hot spring water in Yunomine Onsen? As the sign says, it is 6 minutes soft boiled and 13 minutes hard boiled. Once you get off the bus the trail passes some houses and goes on through a beautiful forest. You will be climbing up to the Hyakken-gura lookout and its amazing view over the Sacred Kumano Mountains, then going on with gentle up and downs before finally descending to Koguchi. Here you will find various accommodations, one of which is an old elementary school in which classrooms have been turned into bedrooms.
Day3 - Nachisan: this is one of the thoughest section of the Kumano Kodo but the views and the satisfaction in the end make it absolutely worth it. The trail starts with a steep slope going up 800 meters over 5 km: the so called "Dogiri-zaka" that can be translated as "Body breaking slope". Along the path you will go across a stunning forest leading to the Funami-Toge pass with a great view on the Pacific Ocean. If it rained the night before, you will probably find yourself immersed in a misty forest with an amazing atmosphere. The trail finally descends to the Nachisan sacred complex and its famous view of the Nachi falls where you can rest for the night or take a bus to the Kii-Katsura train station.
Tips: there is a luggage shuttle service available in the area, ask at your accommodation for details. For further info/maps/accommodations there is an efficient local community-based system: http://www.tb-kumano.jp/en/ .
To Yunomine Onsen: if you don't have a car there are daily buses from Tanabe, Shingu and Gojo. Check here for further details.