Climb and Fall to Spiritual Encounters

Steep Slopes, Spiritual Encounters, Onsen stays, Veritable Views


This two day trek covers some of the toughest climbs and falls of the Nakahechi Route, but the payoff is spectacular mountain and ocean vistas, as well as a number of spiritual encounters. Warm and bubbling hot springs, the remains of ancient teahouses, the entrance into the spiritual realm of those who have passed, and a spot where the Kumano deities meet up for tea all await on this challenging yet ultimately fulfilling course.

Steep Slopes

Clamber rocky roads and stone stairways

Take on some of the Nakahechi Route's toughest climbs including the "Torso Slicing" Dogiri-zaka Slope and a trek up to the abode of the dead.

Moja-no-Deai area

Spiritual Encounters

Metaphysical meetups with gods and spirits

Greet those who have since passed at Moja-no-Deai—an area where spirits gather—and drop in on the Kumano deities' tea party at Waroda-ishi Rock.

Moja-no-Deai area

Onsen stays

Warming dips into rock pools and river

Stay in some of Japan's oldest onsen resorts and soak in private baths for two and public baths for one thousand.


Veritable Views

Sweeping vistas from mountain passes

Your reward for scaling the steep slopes is panoramic views of stunning natural beauty—from the Hyakken-gura lookout point and the top of the Funami-toge Pass.


Useful Information

JAL Japan Explorer Pass

Fly to Nanki-Shirahama airport to begin your exploration of Wakayama. Japan Airlines offers affordable domestic fares with the JAL Japan Explorer Pass. The easy-to-use English website makes booking flights very easy.

Nanki-Shirahama Airport

There are three direct flights a day from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Wakayama’s Nanki-Shirahama Airport. Booking flights is easy and flying into the area is a time-efficient and cost-effective option.

To access the Shirahama and Kii-Tanabe area, take the Kuroshio Limited Express. Hugging Wakayama’s scenic coastline as it passes through the major access points of the area, the train rolls out of Kyoto Station, through Shin-Osaka and Tennoji, reaching the area in just over two and a half hours. The service is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

From there, buses are your best option. A bus from Shirahama Airport—stopping off and sometimes starting from Kii-Tanabe Station—runs to the onsen resort areas of Kawayu, Yunomine and Watarase Onsen.

Tips: Other travel options from throughout Japan are available.

1 Overnight

Kawayu: The Oto-gawa River is the focal point of the Kawayu Onsen town. Geothermal water bubbles up to the surface of the river providing one big river-sized hot spring.

Yunomine: A tiny hamlet tucked up in the Kumano mountains, Yunomine Onsen is home to one of the oldest hot spring resorts in all of Japan.

Wataze: Large outdoor baths are the star attraction in the hot spring area of Wataze Onsen.

After breakfast, pick up the same local bus that brought you to your onsen destination and take the 15-20 minute journey to the Ukegawa Bus Stop. The trailhead is located a short walk south of the bus stop. Pick up some drinks and snacks from the store (closed Wednesdays) before starting your trek. The first section is a gradual climb through forests of cedar and cypress taking you up along some mountain ridges.

20 min 〜

2 Hyakken-gura

Around five kilometers into your trek, you will reach the lookout point of Hyakken-gura. A sudden break in the forest opens up stunning panoramic views of the surrounding Kumano mountains.

1 h 30 min 〜

3 Sakura-jaya Teahouse Remains

Once you have caught your breath, the paths rise and fall as you head to the remains of Sakura-jaya Teahouse. Offering more impressive views, it’s a shame that the teahouse is no longer here. However, there is a wooden shelter where you can rest your legs for a while.

1 h 20 min 〜

4 Into the Valley

It is a downhill journey from here, as the trail drops into the valley below. As you near the bottom, you will walk on a section of cobblestone path. Take care in wet weather as the path becomes very slippery.

5 Overnight in Koguchi

Once you reach the bottom of the slope, you are not far from the small village of Koguchi—your place of rest for the night. There are a few lodges, guest houses and onsen facilities in Koguchi—including a reformed junior high school—where you can take advantage of hearty food, peaceful surroundings and warm hospitality. The Akagigawa river that runs through the village is a great spot for a summer dip, so bring your swimsuit.

6 Waroda-ishi Rock

Some of the Koguchi accommodation spots offer a bento lunch box for you take with you as you set off. Take up the offer because there are no places for lunch on this tough section of the route. Make sure to fill up on breakfast, then make your way to Waroda-ishi Rock—a spot where Kumano deities meet up and chat over a cup of tea.


7 Dogiri-zaka

Save your energy for the climb up Dogiri-zaka. It is a long and steep climb that lives up to its name of “Torso Slicing Slope”. Take it slow and steady and stop to rest if you need to.


8 Jizo-jaya Teahouse Remains

With Dogiri-zaka successfully scaled, you will find yourself at the top of the Echizen-toge Pass. The path then dips and dives along to the remains of the Jizo-jaya Teahouse. You will find a shelter here housing Jizo statues—the small statues believed to be the protector of children, unborn babies and travellers. There are restrooms and a vending machine too.


9 Moja-no-Deai

Heading south, you will reach another steep slope leading to Moja-no-Deai—the abode of the dead. Local legend states that the souls of the dead rise up to these higher altitudes and inhabit this area.

10 Funami-toge Pass

With so much time spent under the canopy of towering trees, you will be glad to reach Funami-toge Pass where you are rewarded with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean as well as Kumano’s jagged mountains and rugged coastline. See if you can spot the town of Katsuura—it’s your place of rest for tonight.

11 Nachisan

Once more, the trail runs downhill, this time towards the spiritual hub of Nachisan town. Navigate down the mountain paths and stone staircases where you will be greeted by the home of a god—the thundering Nachi Waterfall and the striking vermillion of Seiganto-ji Temple standing before it. From the Nachi-no-Taki-mae bus stop—conveniently located near the waterfall—you can take the local bus to Kii-Katsuura.


9 Overnight in Katsuura

The retro fishing town of Katsuura is known for its hot springs offering you the chance to unwind after your day of spiritual adventure. A number of large hotels with onsen located in uniquely natural settings are available, along with smaller hostels and guesthouses.

Whether you are planning to explore other areas of Wakayama Prefecture or move on to destinations further afield, the Kuroshio Express train stops at Kii-Katsuura, and travels onto to Kii-Tanabe, and Shirahama Airport—the airport has daily flights to Tokyo. You can take this train north to Osaka and Kyoto.