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The Charm of Kumano Kodo Iseji Route, which Connects Japan’s Two Holiest Sites ~Part 2~

The Charm of Kumano Kodo Iseji Route, which Connects Japan’s Two Holiest Sites ~Part 2~ © 三重県

Let’s walk Kumano Kodo Iseji Route!

In this special feature, we will introduce model courses of Magose-toge pass and Matsumoto-toge pass, the two most popular points on the Kumano Kodo Iseji Route between Ise Jingu and Kumano Sanzan. If you want to learn more about Kumano Kodo Iseji Route, please refer to our previous feature and this video.

Invitation to the World Heritage Pilgrimage Route Kumano Kodo Iseji Route

The Kumano Kodo Iseji Route is about 170km in total and it is said that at least a week is required to finish walking it. Along the way there are several “toge” (passes) and it takes considerable strength to cross several mountains in one day.

Therefore, in this special feature, we would like to introduce a model sightseeing course which spends one day each at the popular mountain passes Magose-toge and Matsumoto-toge.

Before climbing the pass

Magose-toge pass and Matsumoto-toge pass are both relatively low, at elevations of under 325m. However, it is necessary to prepare in order to prevent accidents.

Clothing/ What to bring

Wear bright, colorful clothes that leave little exposed skin. This makes it easier to find anyone who might get lost and prevents bug bites. Also, the stone paved path on Kumano Kodo becomes very slippery when it rains. You can even slip wearing hiking boots so actually it’s best to wear non-slip sneakers.

There are no vending machines on the mountain so you must bring plenty of water or other liquids.

Emergency landmarks

On the pass, there are wooden signposts like the one in the picture at every 100 meters.

This has the name of the pass and location number with police and emergency phone numbers. If you become injured or unable to move or if there is some other emergency, please call the police (110) or emergency responders (119) and give them the location number from the sign. This will help them locate you.

Let’s start on our journey to Magose-toge pass and Matsumoto-toge pass!

Magose-toge pass course, where you can enjoy the nature on Iseji Route

Magose-toge pass, with its beautiful stone paved path and cypress forest, is a symbol of the Kumano Kodo, and, from the summit, this course also goes to scenic points such as Tengura-san (522m) and Binshi-yama (599m) which look down on Owase City. The top of the pass is about 325m high and is recommended for beginning to intermediate level hikers.

Mountain entrance

Washige( 鷲毛)is the bus stop closest to the mountain entrance. If you are coming by car, please use the parking spaces provided near the entrance. There are restrooms and a shop at the Michi-no-eki Miyama Rest Station, a ten minute walk from the mountain entrance.

Features of Magose-toge pass

The stone paved path on Magose-toge pass is special because the mountain has been cut so that it can be crossed in the shortest distance. In the picture below, can you see that the earth beside the path is high like a wall?

Points about the stones

We know that large rocks and stones are rolling in the mountains. This is because of the lava deposits formed by the eruption of a volcano 15 million years ago. It is said that because it was relatively easy to get the materials, it was possible to make this beautiful stone paved path in the forest.

The stone paved path is not the only stone and rock attraction. Along the way, there is a boulder which appears suddenly and is called “Kappa Iwa” because it looks like the legendary kappa of Japanese folklore.

This giant kappa is a kind of unexpected natural art work and appears to be laughing or sleeping depending on the person looking at it.

The spectacular view from the summit of Magose-toge pass

This is a picture from the summit.

From here the course splits in three, leading to Owase City, Binshi-yama, and Tengura-san. From the summit, it takes 120 minutes each way to get Binshi-yama where you can see the scenic view at Zo-no-se or 30 minutes each way to get to Tengura-san. Please choose the route best suited to your personal ability and available time.

Taking a rest at a cottage cafe

When climbing down from Magose-toge pass, on the left side, there is a cafe called “Sankirai” which is run by a local couple.

We recommend the bright pink, refreshingly sweet Yamamomo (Japanese bayberry) Juice. Every year this special menu item is made with the harvest from the nearby mountains.

The couple who own the cafe were impressed by the many “Albergue,” or hostel for pilgrims they found when they passed through the World Heritage Site “Routes of Santiago de Compostela” in Spain and opened a hotel called “Albergue Sankirai” on the premises of Sankirai in April of 2009.

We recommend the “Albergue Sankirai” for people who want to stay at a place where they can relax in nature.

About Sankirai

Address : Magose-cho 1509-49, Owase City, Mie Prefecture 519-3619
Phone Number (Japanese only): 0597-22-3597
Days of operation: Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Hours : March-December 10am-4pm
※There is parking in front of the café

That’s the end of Magose-toge pass course. Returning from the mountain, you come out on the other side so people who park their cars at Michi-no-eki Miyama Rest Station should take a bus from Owase station to return to Washige bus stop. It’s about a thirty minute walk from Sankirai to Owase station.

Matsumoto-toge pass and Hama-Kaido Route, where you can feel the legend and natural faith of Kumano

To continue, we would like to introduce the course focused on Matsumoto-toge pass, which is popular like Magose-toge pass. The altitude of the pass is 135m lower than Magose-toge pass and is good for those new to hiking. From the observation deck near the top, you can see Shichiri Mihama beach stretching straight out toward Kumano Hayatama-taisha Shrine at the end of the Iseji Route. Also on the Iseji Route, there are traditional legends and sacred natural places like the Hana-no-Iwaya-jinja Shrine, Shishi Iwa (The Lion Rock), and Oniga-jo.

Climbing entrance

The entrance to Matsumoto-toge pass is near Hotel Nami. There is a parking lot several meters from the mountain entrance for visitors coming by car. The nearest station is Odomari station and is a 10 minute walk from the mountain entrance.

Features of Matsumoto-toge pass

The pass begins with a stone stairway. These overlapping stone steps are different from Magose-toge pass and their special feature is how they are stacked up higher than the ground.

The path is gentler than Magose-toge pass and you will arrive at the top before you know it. Ojizo-sama (guardian statue) with traces of a rifle, the symbol of Matsumoto-toge pass, is resting at the summit.

If you have time, you should go a bit further to see the observation deck as well. On sunny days the view from the observation deck is very pleasant and in the distance you can even see the goal in Wakayama prefecture.

Oniga-jo Sidewalk Tunnel (Kinomoto Zuido)

Once you cross the pass, you will arrive at the entrance of Kinomoto on the opposite side of the ascent. There is a tunnel which goes through the mountain you’ve just climbed so you can go back through it to return to the parking lot.

Towards the seaside walk, Hama-Kaido Route

While there are many Kumano Kodo routes, only the Iseji Route has the special feature of a long road that follows the coast. This Shichiri Mihama Beach has a pebble beach flowing from the Kumano-gawa River instead of a sandy beach. There used to be peddlers selling stones from Shichiri Mihama Beach in the past, but since the number of stones has decreased, they have disappeared.

In Kumano it is said that people can communicate with the gods through the white stones of Shichiri Mihama Beach and it seems that there is a custom of carving names and wishes into stones in one’s heart and taking them to the shrine as offerings.

Please do not take any stones with you.

Incidentally, even though the sea at Shichiri Mihama Beach is very beautiful, the waves are high and there is a sudden drop in depth off the coast so swimming is prohibited throughout the year.

Incidentally, even though the sea at Shichiri Mihama Beach is very beautiful, the waves are high and there is a sudden drop in depth off the coast so swimming is prohibited throughout the year.

Hana-no-Iwaya-jinja Shrine, dedicated to the goddess who created Japan

The next place is Hana-no-Iwaya-jinja Shrine on the coast of Shichiri Mihama Beach. Generally, when you go to a shrine, you may expect to go through the torii and find buildings such as a hall of worship and main hall, but here there is only a huge rock wrapped with a “shimenawa” (rope).

The next place is Hana-no-Iwaya-jinja Shrine on the coast of Shichiri Mihama Beach. Generally, when you go to a shrine, you may expect to go through the torii and find buildings such as a hall of worship and main hall, but here there is only a huge rock wrapped with a “shimenawa” (rope).

This rock is considered to be a grave of Izanami, who created the Japanese archipelago according to Japanese mythology. So this has been considered an important power spot since ancient times.

This is the end of the Matsumoto-toge pass course.

Hongu-michi and Maruyama Senmaida

From Matsumoto-toge pass, there is not only the Hama-Kaido Route along the seaside to the Kumano Hayatama-taisha Shrine but also the Hongu-michi through the mountains to the Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine. On the Hongu-michi, you can see manmade terraced rice paddies called the Maruyama Senmaida.

Here you can enjoy the scenery that changes with the season. In addition, a light up event is held every year from the October to March, so please check the homepage for more information if you are interested.

Let’s get a Kumano Kodo walking guide!

The Iseji Route offers professional tour guides and they will change your hiking into a chance to learn the pilgrimage culture.

This time our guide was Matsuyo Kawamura, whom we called “Matsu” for short. She takes her shibainu dog “Rin-chan” walking on the Kumano Kodo and they are popular on Instagram . She is a wonderful guide with a powerful smile.

Thanks to Matsu, we got history and background of Iseji Route’s important spots. This helped us appreciate more than just the impact of their beautiful appearance.

Has this sparked your interest in Kumano Kodo Iseji Route?

In this feature, we introduced some of the representative spots on Iseji Route but there are many more fascinating places. If you want to learn more about Kumano Kodo, please be sure to check our previous feature. Also, please watch these videos made by Mie Prefecture for a detailed introduction.

A trip through Iseji route Visiting the Gods

The locals who greet the pilgrims Kumano Kodo at Iseji Route

What attracts the People the Pilgrimage

For people who want to learn more about Kumano Kodo Iseji Route and Mie Prefecture

Please check the Kumano Kodo Iseji Route official website. You can download pamphlets about Iseji Route as well as see detailed course guides and information about how to get there.

Kumano Kodo Iseji Route official website

Kumano Kodo Iseji Route Pamphlet Download

Mie Prefecture Tourism Information on Facebook 「Travel Mie Japan」

三重県 東紀州振興課 / Higashi-Kishu Promotion Division, Mie Prefecture

三重県 東紀州振興課 / Higashi-Kishu Promotion Division, Mie Prefecture

We are working to revitalize Mie Prefecture’s Higashi-Kishu region and utilize the World Heritage Kumano Kodo Iseji Route.