In order to get to the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail, along with at a couple of places along the walk, and getting back to Kii Katsuura to catch a train back to the Osaka or beyond at the end of the walk, the best mode of getting about is local buses.
If you’ve booked a Kumano Kodo Package with Hiking Trails, this is one element we can’t book in advance for you unfortunately as the buses don’t reserve seats or have pre booking facilities, so we’ve prepared this guide which is hopefully helpful. You’ll also receive a copy of this with your Itinerary.
Catching Local Buses on the Kumano Kodo
Generally on local Japanese buses in this region you get on at the rear door when the bus pulls up (grabbing a ticket as you climb on from the small dispenser beside the steps unless you’ve already purchased one for in the case of Kii Tanabe to Takijiri), and when it’s time to get off the bus you’ll get out at the front door so as you can pay the driver or if pre-purchased at the station give the driver the ticket as you climb off.
To pay for local buses you’ll need to have local JPY currency in small denominations. Coins and 1,000 JPY notes are acceptable. Larger denominations may struggle. In most instances the various bus routes you’ll be taking are in the hundreds of JPY per person.
For many of the local bus routes there are limited daily services so it is advisable to check timetables as early as possible both online if you can find them, and also on arrival at the bus stop on the signage that will be posted (unfortunately as the timetables are subject to change we don’t advise actual times to guests in advance).
Local Bus Tanabe to Takijiri
To get from Kii Tanabe railway station to Takijiri where the Kumano Kodo walk starts on Day 1, you’ll need to catch a local bus from the small information centre located at the exit of the station.
Bus timetables are displayed here and tickets can be purchased from a vending machine on the wall inside using local currency. You’re looking for a bus that will take you to Takijiri. If in doubt ask the staff behind the counter.
The bus will pick you up out the front and once you’re on the bus watch the stops on the screen at the front until you get to Takijiri. Once you get off the bus at Takijiri cross the road and the bridge with care (watching out for traffic), and the start of the Kumano Kodo and your pilgrimage hike is off to the left.
Local Bus Hongu to Yunomine Onsen
On what is most commonly day 3 in our Kumano Kodo packages it’s likely you’ll need to catch a local bus from Hongu where you concluded the days walk, to Yunomine Onsen where it likely you’ll be staying.
The bus stop is opposite the main stairs across the road from Hongu Taisha. So when you’re finished looking at the temple take the grand staircase down, cross the road and the bus depot is directly in front of you. Timetables are displayed here.
You’re looking for a bus that will take you to Yunomine Onsen. If in doubt ask the other hikers or locals at the bus stop.
The bus will pick you up from this bus stop and once you’re on the bus watch the stops on the screen at the front until you get to Yunomine Onsen. As on the first day, you will have collected a ticket when getting on and pay the driver when getting off.
Local Bus Yunomine Onsen to Ukegawa
On what is most likely your fourth day of hiking, and if you’ve stayed in Yunomine Onsen the night prior its likely you’ll be catching a local bus a short distance from Yunomine Onsen where you stayed to Ukegawa where you’ll resume the walk.
The Yunomine Onsen bus stop is a small roadside bus stop in the centre of town on the road running by the built up creek. Bus timetables are displayed here.
You’re looking for a bus that will take you to Ukegawa. As on previous local bus rides, if in doubt ask the other hikers or locals at the bus stop.
The bus will pick you up from this bus stop and once you’re on the bus watch the stops on the screen at the front until you get to Ukegawa where you’ll pay and get off.
There a couple of small stores near where you get off and vending machines for drinks and hot coffee in cans to get you going for the day near where you get off the bus. To get to the start of the walk a couple of hundred metres away refer to your guidebook.
Local Bus Nachisan to Kii Katsuura
Once you’ve finished the Kumano Kodo walk (congratulations by the way you’ve joined a pretty small group of pilgrims) it’s likely you will have likely finished in Nachisan, and chances are you’ll be catching a train back to Osaka and possibly beyond at some stage from nearby Kii Katsuura.
To get from Nachisan to Kii Katsuura you’ll need to catch a local bus again.
Note – Many guests will be staying a night in Nachisan before taking this bus ride so this may well be something you’re doing the day after you arrive in Nachisan.
If you’re staying in Nachisan the easiest is to ask your hosts at your accommodation where the nearest bus stop is. If you out of there the day you arrive in Nachisan there is a bus stop (and some shops) on the road down near the great waterfalls.
You’ll have your baggage with you on this one so this is a good reason not to go over-the-top when filling your main bag for the Kumano Kodo. Bus timetables should be displayed at the bus stop. You’re looking for a bus that will take you to Kii Katsuura. If in doubt ask the other hikers or locals at the bus stop.
The bus will pick you up from this bus stop and once you’re on the bus, watch the stops on the screen at the front until you get to Kii Katsuura. Again, you’ll pay the driver and get off from the front. The bus stop in Kii Katsuura is directly in front of the train station and there are plenty of shops and cafes in this area, plus the tuna fishing waterfront which is interesting to check out a very short stroll through town.
And that’s that. I know it sounds a lot, but it’s not to stressful if you follow these tips.