The Kohechi Pilgrimage Route

The "little path" of Kumano Kodo pilgrimage

By Celine Villeneuve    - 2 min read

At the Hatenashi pass, Hatenashi mountain meets the Kohechi path, literally meaning the "little path". Located more than 1,000 meters above sea level in the city of Totsukawa, the Kohechi path is one of five pilgrimage routes which constitute the Kumano Kodo. It is naturally the shortest path of the great routes, even though it still spans over 70 kilometers. For reference, other paths are up to 160 km in length.

Kumano Kodo stands out as a rare pilgrimage route and in 2004 gained Unesco World Heritage status. The path integrates the sacred sites and pilgrimage routes of the Kii Mountain Range.

The vast network of mountain paths extends between the prefectures of Wakayama, Nara and Mie in the Kii Peninsula. The Kii Mountains were once the home of the gods, making these paths, a natural worship place, well trodden since the Heian period (794-1192). The 72 kilometers that make up the "little path" connects a series of extraordinary panoramas and two major sacred sites: Koyasan, a Buddhist complex of 117 temples and the Kumano Hongu-Taisha, one of the three major shrines in Kumano, the Tanabe city.

By following the Kohechi path, you will delve into the heart of a dense forest where the mists flows between the infinite tree trunks adding a mystical aura to your pilgrimage. After crossing the red suspension bridge near the Miura-toge pass, the Kohechi road becomes even more mystical and the fog can be quite thick. During rainy weather travelers should take care not to fall as the paved path can become a bit slippery. On the way, a giant sequoia with a distinct twisted trunk seems to be the master of the forest by its imposing presence.

To accompany you during your long journey, many stone Kannon statues line the route. These statues, numbering 33, are all different forms of the Japanese deity Kannon. You will also come across inns, intended to accommodate the pilgrims, and occasional ancestral homes which are often unoccupied. Despite the reputation of the path as a famous pilgramage, chance encounters and meetings are rare. The journey will more likely be a long walk with plenty of time for thought and reflection.

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Find out more about Kumano Kodo.

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Celine Villeneuve

Celine Villeneuve @celine.villeneuve

Depuis ma foudroyante rencontre il y a dix ans avec l'élégance japonaise (Femme se poudrant le cou d'Utamaro), ma soif de découvrir et comprendre chaque aspect de cette culture énigmatique ne se tarie pas. Mes études de japonais et mon séjour d’un an en tant que rédactrice web dans l’Archipel n’ont fait qu’accroître mon intérêt pour ce pays magnifique. Je suis ravie de pouvoir partager ici mes quelques expériences mais plus encore, de découvrir les vôtres !

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Novriana Dewi 5 years ago
Thanks for sharing this, Celine! I saw this place once on TV program and have been wondering where the exact location is. Will definitely plan a hiking to this Kumano Kodo!
Celine Villeneuve Author 5 years ago
Novriana Dewi, thank you ! I highly recommend this place if you enjoy mystical forests and traditional atmospheres. So much good memories here :)
Carol Akiyama 5 years ago
Beautiful hiking trail!
Jerome Lee 5 years ago
Wow this looks awesome! Can't believe I didn't know that such mountains paths existed within the Kansai region. Will have to give this place a chance sometime!
Celine Villeneuve Author 5 years ago
It was awesome ! The atmosphere, the people, the food... One of my best memories in Japan :)
Justin Velgus 6 years ago
Sounds like a fun 2-3 day walk. I had no idea there were pilgrimage paths in the modern day around Nara!
Celine Villeneuve Author 6 years ago
Justin, if you like forest, hiking, and beautiful landscapes it's absolutely worth seeing :)