River Pilgrimage along Kumano River

Ride a traditional boat like pilgrims centuries ago

By Alena Eckelmann    - 1 min read

Kawabune literally means river boat. These boats were originally used to transport timber and other goods from deep inside the Kumano Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. When the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage became popular with Kyoto's aristocrats in Japan's Heian Period, pilgrims were also carried down the fast rapids of the Kumano River, which connects Hongu Shrine with Hayatama Shrine, two of the Three Kumano Grand Shrines that have become UNESCO World Heritage in 2004. Nowadays most visitors are not pilgrims and the boats tour starts halfway down the river in Kumanogawa but a ride in one of these traditional boats is fun and it is a great way to see a part of Kumano without having to walk.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Founder of Kii Monogatari, my story and the story of the Kii Peninsula of Japan. Originally from East Germany, I came to Tokyo, via Berlin and London, in 2005. In summer 2011 I moved by choice to remote Kumano in the south of the Kii Peninsula where I live, work and play now, and explore every day.The whole of the Kii Peninsula is a Healing Hub for me with its abundance of forest, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, the ocean, friendly rural communities and sacred places. This is where nature meets spirituality, and tradition meets sustainability, the new paradigm for travel post-pandemic. My deep interest is in Japanese nature & spirituality. I love being in nature, in the forest and in the mountains, and I love spending time at temples and shrines.  I am building my life and my work around these two passions. I am a Licensed Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy) Guide and a Licensed Kumano Kodo and Koyasan Guide. I am also a Licensed Retreat Facilitator and I am planning retreats on the Kii Peninsula. Last but not least, I have been the Japan Travel Partner for Wakayama and Yamagata since the conception of the platform in 2011! These two prefectures are close to my heart because they are the centers of Shugendo, a spiritual tradition of mountain ascetism. I am a Shugendo Practitioner for over ten years now and received Tokudo in 2016 at a Shugendo temple on Yoshinoyama. Please kindly connect via my Facebook Page Kii Monogatari. Take care, keep well, stay safe!