J-hoppers newly open on Kumano Kodo - soothe your mind in the sacredity of shrines and in the beauty of onsens

Nestled in the small onsen town of Yunomine near Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine, J-hoppers Kumano Yunomine is newly open on September 2 as our first guesthouse equipped with hot spring, allowing you to enjoy a relaxing onsen bath to send all your muscle pain away within the warm comfort of our cozy accommodation. Equipped with both dormitory rooms and Japanese style private rooms, our guesthouse is no doubt an ideal choice for backpackers and families alike.

Your manager at J-hoppers Hida Takayama Guesthouse has paid a short visit there to give you an idea of what to expect in this lovely onsen town.

Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail

Registered as UNESCO World Heritage in 2004, Kumano Kodo Pilgirmage Trail has clearly been gaining popularity in recent years both at home and abroad, and to my surprise, on the trail, I have seen quite a few foreigners having apparently ventured far to the south of Wakayama prefecture, testifying to its appeal. What immediately caught my attention is the little booklet which allows you to collect stamps for both Kumano Kodo as well as for the way of St. James in Spain, and those who have completed both can get a reward. This might have contributed to its popularity among the Spanish as well.

The practice of taking the pilgrimage to Kumano, known as the land of the gods, dates back to as early as as the Heian Period, with pilgrims undertaking religious practices of worship and purification. Along the route, you will find numerous shrines called "Oji"preserved from the olden days where travelers take a rest and pray. If you care to read the information board at each Oji shrine, you will learn the interesting story behind the naming of each.  Nowadays, you will also find the stamp stands at the Ojis as well. The goal of the pilgrimage is to visit the Kumano Sanzan, the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano, including Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine near Yunomine Onsen, where J-hoppers is located.  

During my short visit, I only managed to walk two short sections of the of the trail, namely the Dainichi-goe section, which runs from Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine to Yunomine Onsen, during which you will pass through a Jizo statue with a broken nose, and I will leave you to find out the interesting story behind yourselves. Best of all, our guesthouse is only located a couple of steps away from the finishing point of this section, making it a convenient location for the pilgrimage walk . The other one is a popular 7 km walk from Kumano Hongu Taisha to Hosshinmon-oji, which I believe, serves as a good introduction to Kumano Kodo given it is not physically demanding and is easy to assess.

Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine

 At the heart of Kumano Sanzan, Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine was originally built at a site where the Otonashi River and Iwata River converged, but was unfortunately partially washed away in a flood. The shrine has since been relocated to its present location at the top of a series of stone steps. At its original site by the river, you can find the largest Torii Gate in Japan, which measures around 42 meters in width and 34 meters in height. Do not forget to bow when entering and exiting the Torii gate as a gesture of respect as the Torii gate marks the entrance into the sacred grounds. On the Torii gate you will see a drawing of a black crow with three legs. This three-legged crow, named Yatagarasu, is actually the symbol of Kumano Legend has it that this bird has served under the Kumano Diety, and its three legs, according to one saying, signifies heaven, nature, and people as three "brothers" born under the sun. You can easily find its presence in the Kumano area, and there is a very cool all-black post stand featuring this bird within Hongu Taisha. 

Magical healing power of Yunomine onsen

 Deemed one of the oldest hot springs in Japan, Yunomine is known for its beneficial effects to the body, especially to the skin. There has been no lack of legends about the miraculous healing effects of this hot spring. Among the most famous ones is the love story between Oguri-hankan (小栗判官) and Princess Terute (照手姫). To cut a long story short, after being poisoned to death and subsequently returned to life in a half-dead state in which he is barely recognizable and can barely walk, Princess Terute took Oguri-hankan by the hand all the way to Kumano knowing that Yunomine onsen is said to have the miraculous power to revive his body. After soaking his body in the onsen for a few days, Oguri-hankan did revive completely thanks to the medical effects of the onsen water. Now you can still find the site of Tsuboyu, a small cabin with an onsen bath where Oguri-hankan was revived in the legend. What I find most interesting about this little onsen town is that people there not only use onsen in a bath, but also in boiling eggs, making coffee, and even cooking meals for their healing effects. Whether it is delicious or not is another question, but I do encourage you to try. You can try your hand at making half-boiled eggs at our guesthouse, and in the kitchen there is even a tap for onsen water! I had onsen hotpot among us during my stay there. No strange taste detected!


Popular Posts