Everything You Need To Know About The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage and Earning a Dual Pilgrim Certificate:

The Camino de Santiago and Japan’s Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage are the only two World Heritage Pilgrimage Sites. Earning the Dual Pilgrim Certificate upon completion of the two pilgrimages is a great experience and achievement. Here’s what you need to know:

First the Kumano Kodo is actually 5 different trails:

  1. Nakahechi 63km. Takijiri to Hongu Taisha is the most popular route. The Camino Frances of The Kumano Kodo. It takes 4 days to get to magnificent Nachi Taisha.
  2. Kohechi 63km. is a more challenging mountain walk connecting Mt. Koyasan with Kumano region. Good option for 88 Temple Pilgrimages who travel to Mt. Koyasan and the tomb of Kobo Daishi, the 88 Temple patron saint.
  3. Iseji 170km. trail starts at Japan’s most sacred Shinto Shrine Ise-jingu and ends at Hongu Taisha or Nachi Taisha. Excellent choice for those who find Nakahechi too short and want to experience more of Japan.
  4. Omine Okugake 75km. is another rugged mountain walk starting in Yoshino and ending at Hongu Taisha.
  5. Ohechi 92km. follows the coast from Tanabe City to Nachi Taisha but is mostly road walking.

If you are seeking a Dual Pilgrim Certificate, be aware that it is only offered to pilgrims walking the Nakahechi and Kohechi Routes. These are the only routes set up with constant stamping kiosks. Or you can walk from Nachi Taisha to Hongu Taisha. That said, you could do the Iseji or Ohechi Routes via Nachi Taisha and earn a Certificate.

Mika and I walked the Kohechi Trail in 2019. We returned in March 2023 walking the Nakahechi and Iseji Trails before our second 88 Temple pilgrimage in April/May.

While it is possible to start Nakahechi in Tanabe City most bus through the early urban part and start at Takijiri. From there it is just 2 days to Hongu Taisha. Yes, you can earn your Dual Pilgrim status with just a 2 day walk. However you would be missing out if you did not continue for at least 2 more days to Nachi Taisha with its beautiful Red Pagoda and Nachi Waterfall, the longest one in Japan at 133 meters.

Kumano Travel offers a full range of services to pilgrims including; maps, accommodation reservations, and bag transport. We used them, google maps, and booking.com for reservations which we made a few weeks ahead of time.

Tanabe Tourist Information Center located next to the Tanabe City Bus and Train Stations is an excellent source of Kumano Kodo maps, accommodation listings, Credential Stamp Books, etc.. With everything you get here for free you don’t really need to buy a guidebook. You can also arrange bag transport along the trail with them. Though, it is easy to travel light as you only need a rain jacket, 2 sets of clothes, and your toiletries., Tel: +81-(0)739-26-9025 (weekdays only).

There are no certificate for completing the Kumano Kodo itself. But they do give you a few small gifts at Hongu Taisha Shrine Office, and if you request it, will allow you to participate in a drum playing ceremony which I highly recommend if you are into banging on drums.

Dual Pilgrim Information:

Upon reaching Hongu Taisha (don’t forget the drum ceremony) pilgrims should proceed to the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center across the street from Hongu Taisha. There they will take your information and issue a Dual Pilgrim Certificate. You should have your Kumano Kodo Credentials Book, and your Camino Certificate or Credentials book or a photo of one of those.

After registering as a “Dual Pilgrim” you will receive a special edition pin badge. Dual Pilgrims can also choose to be listed on their “Dual Pilgrim” website. They also offer Dual Pilgrim t-shirts for sale. Upon leaving be sure to look for the Camino de Santiago marker showing it is 10,755 kilometers to Santiago. Makes for a great picture.

In Santiago, pilgrims should first get their Camino Compostela (completion certificate) and then proceed to the Turismo de Santiago Information Center at Rúa do Vilar 63, Santiago de Compostela. There provide your Camino and Kumano Kodo documentation and a Dual Pilgrim Certificate will be issued.

Two tips. A short distance from Nachi Taisha there is a wonderful Onsen Hotel, Kyukamura Nyuto Onsenkyo overlooking the sea and a perfect place to relax after your pilgrimage. They have an outdoor bath with a seaview and serve local blue fin tuna sashimi as well as other delicious food. Also, if you opt to stay in Tanabe City before you begin your pilgrimage the Kamenoi Onsen Hotel was excellent.

There are two complimentary posts to this available:

Top Ten Reasons for Walking The Kumano Kodo.

How The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Is Different From The Camino de Santiago which also includes a spreadsheet of accommodations and costs.

I blogged our Kumano Kodo pilgrimage on my Facebook Group Camino de Santiago & Other Global Pilgrimages. Do a search on posts between March 17 and April 5. I also blogged the 88 Temple Pilgrimage from April 13 to May 25.

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Happy to answer any questions and help in any way.