Kyoto Culture & Kumano Kodo and Koysan & Nakasendo Treks

Photo Erik Eastman

Kyoto Culture & Kumano Kodo Trek

Imagine getting the opportunity to walk ancient pilgrimage trails, trek beneath flowering cherry blossoms, explore Japan’s most sacred temples, and indulge in traditional Japanese hospitality.

The Kumano Kodo trek is one of two pilgrimage sites in the world that are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the other being the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Kyoto, formerly Japan’s capital and seat of power for thousands of years is one of the world’s most culturally rich cities, steeped in a combination of contemporary and antique culture.

We’ll get to visit palaces, gardens, and galleries, and marvel at the Imperial Palace, which was the home of the Emperor until 1869.

The Kumano Kodo are a series of pilgrimage routes that traverse the forests and mountains of the Kii Peninsula, Japan’s largest. We’ll follow the footsteps of 11th-Century pilgrims to three of Japan’s most sacred shrines, and follow ancient trade roads through villages, hot springs, and mountain trails.

Along the way we’ll get to experience traditional Japanese hospitality, getting the opportunity to stay in traditional guesthouses, where we’ll be welcomed as one of the family and indulge in traditional cuisine, tea, and traditions.

This is a way to see Japan in a way that so few get to experience, exploring the culture in a way that was seen by devout pilgrims.

Those who complete the Kumano Kodo Trek and the Camino de Santiago are awarded dual pilgrim status, having traversed the two UNESCO World Heritage trails.

Photo: Su San Lee

Koyasan & Nakasendo Way Walks

The Nakasendo Way was one of two routes that connected the imperial capital of Kyoto to Edo, now modern-day Tokyo. It was an arduous trek that had 69 stations for providing food, rest, and transportation for weary travelers. The trail is lined with magnificent temples and palaces paying testament to Japan’s rich traditions, pristine mountain and river scenery, and the unforgettable warmth and hospitality of the Japanese people.

We’ll get to experience restored teahouses, shrines, and temples, and architecture and tradition that is unique only to this region. We’ll travel through high mountain trails under the vista of Mt. Ontake, travel via the highlands and dense forests, and learn how the Japanese connect deeply with their natural surroundings.

After the Nakasendo Way we’ll get to explore Koyasan, a complex of over 100 individual temples dedicated to the practice of Shingon Buddishm, exploring gardens, traditional forms of art, food, tea, and be in the presence and guidance of the dedicated monks who call these temples their home.

Koyasan features rugged mountain roads, villages that appear to be caught in time, and quaint wooden architecture that is unique to this area of Japan. From meditation practices to soothing hot baths and gardens, this is a way to see Japan in a way that truly shows off the Japanese belief and dedication to well-being, solace, hospitality and comfort. From food to tea, we’ll get to explore the country in a way that’s truly authentic, being welcomed not as an outsider, but as one of the community that lives in this temple.

For those who are seeking the best of an arduous wilderness journey and the healing power of magnificent temples, the Koyasan and Nakasendo Way is a trip that you’ll never forget. More information about the Koyasan & Nakasendo Way Walk and Koyoto Culture & Kumano Kodo Trek here.

Photo David Emrich

About your guide:

Kris Ashton has been walking, hiking, climbing and snowshoeing in Colorado since she moved here in 1972. She joined the Colorado Mountain Club in 1984 and, over the years, has gone on Adventure Travel trips to Norway (where she met her husband Dennis), Bhutan, Vietnam, Mongolia, the Czech Republic and several llama treks in the U.S. before becoming a hike leader and Adventure Travel leader herself. Kris is trained and certified in Wilderness First Aid.

Kris frequently takes friends and family on hikes and often leads those hikes. She has organized a variety of trips all over the world for herself and others in which she takes the lead–organizing travel, accommodations, activities, etc. She has recently developed a fondness for long-distance and pilgrimage walks. Kris walked the Camino de Santiago each year for the past 5 years on a variety of routes, and has taken CMC AT groups there since 2014. In 2016 and again in 2017, Kris walked the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route in Japan, thereby earning the Dual Pilgrim designation.

Kris is a retired IT Consultant who now spends her time planning, organizing, and executing exciting Adventure Travel trips when she’s not walking the world herself. She loves the outdoors, travel, and adventure and loves to share those adventures with others. She also likes to teach or coach others who may be new to outdoor activities and adventure travel.

Kris attended the CMC Boulder Mountaineering School twice, simply because it was that much fun!

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