This leg of the trip was both my biggest fear and my biggest highlight. It's off the Tokyo/Kyoto tourist funnel, slightly in the middle of butfucknowhere, and absolutely gorgeous. Kumano Kodo is a network of trails spanning across the Kii Peninsula in the Wakayama Prefecture. For over a thousand years, pilgrims used to hike these routes to get to the three major shrines. The walk itself was an integral part of the pilgrimage process as they undertook rigorous religious rites of worship and purification (cite). The whole trail takes about 5 days to complete, with lots of Ryokans along the way. You can do as much or as little of the hike as you want, as all the major stops are connected by public bus.
Had it been just Danny and I, I would've maybe possibly been able to convince him to do the whole 5 days. But luckily for him, I wasn't going to put Babes through that, so we opted to just stay at a couple of the pit stops, and do short day hikes from there.
Our first night in Wakayama we headed to Kirinosato Takahara Inn (HIGHLY RECOMMEND even if you're not doing any of the hikes). It's a small 8-room hotel located on top of one of the mountain ranges. All 8 rooms face the mountain range, and traditional style breakfast and dinner are included, as is the onsen.
There were two onsens; one for ladies and one for gentlemen. There were also instructions on how to use said onsens, showing exactly how to bath yourself prior to entering, as nothing is allowed to touch the hot spring water except your super duper clean and naked self. Both Danny and I didn't end up getting the full onsen experience, as we each got our respective onsens to ourselves.
lunch was served outside with a beautiful view of Takahara.
The view and sunset were unbeatable. The trip here was quite tough; we had to take a 3hr train, then transfer to a 1hr bus, and then have someone from the hotel pick us up at the bus stop and drive us up a mountain through one-way-looking winding roads. I'm not proud of that last part, given that the only way to do that section of the trip was by car and we didn't have a carseat. So I'm gonna shove that memory under the rug and never do it again.
For next morning's breakfast, we embraced the whole Ryokan experience and dressed in the yukatas that were provided in our room.
And headed off to Hongu to see the largest Torii Gate in the world.
We did a short 1hr roundtrip hike to the outlook through the beautiful rainforest.