A UNESCO World Heritage site bubbling with deep spirituality and natural hot springs
A deep sense of spirituality is ever-present in the Kumano region, and Hongu's pristine nature and religious significance are no exception.
- The architectural brilliance of Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine
- Immersing yourself in the historic healing waters of a World Heritage hot spring
- Treading the paths of enlightenment on the sacred Kumano Kodo
How to Get There
You can access the Hongu area via a one- to two-hour bus ride from the stations of Kii-Tanabe or Shingu .
Get off at the Yunomine Onsen bus stop to visit the popular onsen town and its bath, a designated World Heritage site, or exit the Hongu-Taisha-Mae stop for Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine and Oyunohara .
The JR Limited Express Kuroshio trains from Shin-Osaka Station will whisk you down Wakayama's coastline to the stations of Kii-Tanabe (two hours and 20 minutes) and Shingu (four and half hours). The JR Limited Express Wide View Nanki trains from Nagoya will get you to Shingu in around three and half hours.
Hidden hall of the mountain gods
One of the three Kumano grand shrines, Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine is the jewel of the Hongu area and houses the shrine's gods. Emerging from the forest paths to see the sweeping wooden roofs set amongst ancient cedar and cypress is very memorable.
Its current location up in the mountains was a consequence of a devastating flood in 1889 that swept away many of the buildings in its original location of Oyunohara . Visit Oyunohara today and you will see a giant 33-meter-tall torii gate, the tallest in Japan.
Healing waters of history
Yunomine Onsen is a tiny mountain hamlet lined with rustic inns that have been pumping up mineral-rich hot water to soothe and heal the weary souls of travelers for centuries.
These springs are an integral part of the Kumano Kodo , as the gushing spring waters were used by pilgrims to purify their bodies before worshipping at the grand shrine. The most famous of the baths, Tsuboyu, is a designated World Heritage site that you can enjoy alone or in a small group for up to 30 minutes. The bath is richly storied and even featured in a kabuki play.
Dig your own onsen
Located along the same bus route as Yunomine and Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine, Kawayu Onsen has been blessed with a rare gift: the river that separates the cluster of inns and steep mountain slopes forms its own long, winding hot spring as geothermal water bubbles up to the surface.
In the winter, the river transforms into one enormous bath where many people can crowd into the warm waters. From spring through fall, a little work with a shovel by the banks will reward you with your own private outdoor bath.
Following the sacred steps
The ancient pilgrimage route that snakes its way through the rugged terrain of the Kii mountain range is one of only two pilgrimage routes listed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites-the other being the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in Spain and France.
For centuries, the paths have been walked by the whole social spectrum of society: from royalty and samurai warriors to monks and lay people, each searching for spiritual enlightenment from the Kumano deities.
The full walk from the coast to Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine is nearly 30 kilometers and involves an overnight stay in between, but if you're pressed for time, you can take a bus to Hosshinmon Oji and stroll the final 7-kilometer section in about two hours.
* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.