Kumano Koda & the Kii Peninsula


We are spending a few days up in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula, the largest peninsula in Japan. The area is famous for a series of pilgrimage routes that criss-cross the peninsula, going between the many shrines and temples. The area has been designated UNESCO World Heritage status and I can see why.

I found an old traditional home to rent via Air BnB and it has been such a different experience. The wooden home is over 100 years old, rare in Japan, and the owner found it abandoned and moved it to his property 5km outside the town of Hongu, in the heart of the mountains. Sleeping on futons with a type of hot water bottle heater has been fun for the family. There is a really nice wood-fired bath, a traditional sun porch and a cooking rock inside. I wouldn’t want to live in one, but it has been an interesting experience.

We took our time the first morning, having a leisurely breakfast and learning to chop wood. In the afternoon, we drove to east coast town of Shingu and visited the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine. The kids enjoyed the castle ruins and the riverfront. The Kumano River is impressive and we followed it through a steep valley. It reminded me of the River Drina through Bosnia, with the turquoise water, winding its way through steep green cliffs.

View of Kumano River from Shingu Castle

A shinto priest kindly played a Japanese flute for us and introduced us to the shrine. In all, it was a great day and we are planning to head into the mountain trails today.

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