Riding the Kuroshio Train

On the Train to Kumano - Option 1

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read

As the Chinese proverb says: “a journey starts with the first step”. Let’s re-phrase this to “your journey to Kumano starts with riding the Kuroshio”.

The Kuroshio is a limited express train operated by Japan Railway (JR) that takes you from Kyoto via Osaka Shingu City, one of the gateways to Kumano, "the land of the Gods" and to the Kumano Kodo old pilgrimage trails.

This is an alternative route to Kumano as opposed to riding the Wideview Nanki Express, an express train that connects Nagoya with Shingu.

Shingu seems a kind of remote and difficult to get to compared to other locations in the Kansai area, which is probably why not many visitors to Japan put Kumano and the Kumano Kodo on their itinerary. The area is not even mentioned in the big-name Japan guidebooks! Those who take the time to come here will not be disappointed though.

The train journey will take you from Kyoto through Shin-Osaka and Tennoji (in Osaka) before reaching Wakayama City, the capital of Wakayama Prefecture. Then it continues all around the Western side of the Kii Peninsula and via Kii Tanabe to Shirahama Onsen at the peninsula’s southernmost tip.  From there the train line runs back up on the Eastern side of the peninsula to the train terminal in Shingu City.

On your way from Kyoto to Shingu try to get seats on the right side of the train for the best views of the Kii Peninsula’s coast line as the train is running along the coast almost the entire way.  

The stretch from Osaka to Kii-Tanabe looks very urban and industrial. You will see many oil refineries and industrial plants along the coast. There are some windmills on the hills to generate electricity and many fruit plantations and hot houses for growing vegetables.

Once Kii-Tanabe is passed you can enjoy panoramic views of the ocean, of picturesque fishermen’s villages and of countless little bays and rock formations along the coast. The area between Kii-Tanabe and Shingu is extremely rural and mountainous, probably as rural and mountainous as it gets in Japan.

For your enjoyment, you will have the sea on one side and the mountains on the other side of the train. This is a great journey to get you right into the mood for exploring the Kumano area!

There are several services running throughout the day. Visitors to Japan who hold a Japan Rail Pass can use these trains unrestrictedly.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Born East of the Wall and South of Berlin, I am celebrating my 15th year anniversary in Japan in May 2020, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the beautiful Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home.I have been a JapanTravel Partner since the conception of the platform in 2011! In Tokyo I worked in market research at AIP Corporation and in business education at JMEC. For the last 10 years I have been a guide for foreign visitors at Venture Japan, on top of being a Freelance Writer and a Business Researcher.  Apart from work, I trained at the Yoshinkan Aikido Dojo and at the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Dojo for several years each, and I ran the 1st Tokyo Marathon and enjoyed cycling around Tokyo. During the last 10 years I am working with local authorities to improve their hospitality to foreign visitors and I have participated in many monitors as a media representative.  My current interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains, and I love visiting temples and shrines.   I am a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails  and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and licensed guide for Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy).  As a guide for walking tours, I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail and the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage trail.  Being grounded during this COVID-19 crisis, I enjoy gardening, baking bread in my new Japanese bread-maker and going for walks around 'my' village.  Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

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