Historic pilgrimage routes are becoming extremely popular with serious trekkers and casual visitors. The Kii Peninsula in Wakayama Prefecture offers the Kumano Kodo network of pilgrimage routes.
The 7 km walk from Hosshinmon-oji to Hongu Taisha is an easily accessible part of the Nakahechi Route that gives an insight into 1,000 years of arduous pilgrimage across the Kii mountains. Local buses can get you to the trailheads at either end.
Walking ancient stone steps through remote thick forests is a fantastic way to experience the spiritual countryside. The peacefulness and silence is such a contrast what we are travelers see in the conurbations of Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya only a couple of hours away by train.
I have walked this section twice now. Something about the underlying spirituality and following thousands of footsteps of the past will draw me back to the rest of the Nakahechi Route from Kiitanabe and probably the Kohechi Route from Koyosan.
The 7.7 kms of this section is pretty easy, and should take just over 2 hours. And do take the signposted side track to view the distant Oyunohama Torii gate. Stand there and reflect on the the importance of this sight to pilgrims.
In July 2004, the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes were registered as UNESCO World Heritage as part of the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” property. Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau has a great website with details about all the Kumano routes, sights and accommodation – as well as fantastic downloadable maps.