Tanabe is the second biggest city in Wakayama Prefecture, but this doesn’t offer any enthusiastic lifestyle, being a quiet place where the streets are empty most of the time. Still, it was a good base point to do part of the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Trail.
Kumano Kodo is an ancient pilgrimage trails with more than 1000 years, that link the three main shrines in this area: Hongu Taisha, Nachi Taisha and Hayatama Taisha, that since 2004 are classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, attracting more and more visitors from all over the world. Along the trails, there are several shrines where the pilgrims worship and perform purification rituals, mainly connected with the Shinto religion.
The Nakahechi trail is the most popular of the different routes of Kumano Kodo to reach Hongu Taisha, and starts in Takijiri Oji, located about 30 minutes by bus from Kii-Tanabe and ends at Nashi Taisha, also an important shrine, on the other side of the Kii Peninsula, the south most part of the Wakayama Prefecture.
Most of the people do the 30 km between Takijiri Oji andHongu Taisha in two days sleeping in Chikatsuya Oji, a small village with a few accommodations, and return to Tanabe by bus.
I choose a different strategy, considering my budget as also the weather conditions (in the winter this area receives rain often)… and the availability of the accommodations, that force me sometimes to change my travel plans, as in the weekends some areas are fully booked with only rooms left in the top range hotels.
So I stayed in Kii-Tanabe, and did the 23 km of the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Trail, overcoming Chikatsuya Oji and return by bus to Tanabe in the same day, as here it’s easy to find budget accommodations and meals. On this first day, I finish the hiking where the Nakahechi Trail makes a detour in the result of rock instability provoked by a typhoon in 2011, that force to close this part of the Kumano Kodo trail, more or less, forever… This hike took me 8 hours.
After, I move by bus to Yunomine Onsen and stayed there to do 8 km more of the Nakahechi Trailuntil Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the most important shrines of Kumano Kodo. To reach Nakahechi Trail from Yunomine you must hike the Akagi-goe and on the return, you can enjoy the short but steep trail of Dainichi-goe. Like this you can make a look, starting and finish in the Yunomine Onsen, that don’t take you more than 4 hours.
Yunomine was also the base point to complete the final part of the Nakahechi Trail, before reach Hongu Taisha. From Jagata-oji to the intersection with the Akagi-goe there are not more than 4.2 km but it took me 6 hours do do it, as you can’t use buses for the return trip or can’t also do it as loop, so you need the return thought the same way.
See more at:
Kumano Kodo… the Nakahechi Trail
How to go from Koyasan to Tanabe by bus:
Where to sleep in Tanabe:
Despite the lack of interesting things to do in Tanabe, in this city I had one of the best stays in Japan. The Buddha Guest House, located a few minutes from the Kii-Tanabe station is a lovely traditional wooden Japanese house, located in a residential neighborhood. There are three rooms, all shared, where you sleep in a mattress over the traditional tatamis. I found it very comfortable and cozy. There’s also a small backyard and a very independent cat in the house! Laundry (100¥) and kitchen facilities are available. 2300 ¥ per night.
Here, I confess that felt at home… and most of the time I have the house all for myself!!
Where to eat in Tanabe:
Most of the Tanabe restaurants are concentrated in an area called Ajikoji, where scattered along narrow and mazy streets you can find also bars, more properly “izakaya” that is a type of restaurant that also serves alcohol, mostly sake and beers. I try the Ichiyoshi, which has an English menu, with many vegetarian and even vegan options. The food was delicious and a meal costs around 1200 ¥.
Most of the izakaya style restaurants only open for dinner. So if you want to have a simple meal during the day, in a local environment, they’re a small eatery on the main street from the station called “barg” but without a sign in western characters. It’s just next to a pharmacy and serves warm udon with raw egg and butter, for 350 ¥. Looks vulgar but it was so much tasty that the usual udon!
Tourist information center in Tanabe:
At the Kii-Tanabe station you have the tourist information center that can give you good orientation about the Kumano Kodo trails as well about the Wakayama province.
There you can also get the schedule of the buses in the Kumano Kodo area, from Tanabe until Shingu, passing by Yunomine Onsen and Hongu Taisha, as well as prices and schedules about long distance buses to Osaka and Kyoto (departing from the bus terminal just in from of the train station).