Kumano Kodo Guidebook Review

It’s the winter of 2007, and I’m hiking along an isolated track called the Kogumotori-goe in southern Wakayama Prefecture with my newlywed wife Kanako. The faint, poorly-marked trail leads up to a viewpoint flanked by a large weather-beaten jizō statue. Armed with a Japanese magazine about the Kumano Kodō, we scan the kanji text and barebones descriptions to find that we’ve reached the Hyakken-gura tenbōdai. We pause here, admiring the splendid views while poring over the limited knowledge in our less-than-ideal information source.

Had we been armed with Cicerone’s latest guide to the Kumano Kodo, Kanako and I would have been in much better hands and definitely would have taken a bus to Yunomine Onsen instead of opting for the extra 6km uphill walk on a paved roadway at dusk.

The Kumano Kodō has come a long way since our fateful walk a dozen years ago. Since becoming a World Heritage site in 2004, Wakayama Prefecture has invested an immense amount of money into both promoting and maintaining the Nakahechi route, adopting the ‘if you build it he will come‘ philosophy that would make Kevin Costner proud. Indeed, the Field of Kumano Dreams has not only brought in the tourists, but has put the Kumano Kodō on the world stage by teaming up with the Camino de Santaigo to form a dual pilgrim program and creating an English-language support network connecting visitors to the many inns and facilities along the way. This has resulted in a 40-fold increase in overseas visitors compared to just a decade ago.

But I really don’t need to tell you all that. One quick net search will reveal a wealth of information about the riches of Wakayama Prefecture, and it’s one reason why I haven’t devoted much of my server space to the Kumano Kodō …continue reading