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A picturesque pilgrimage along the east coast of the Kii Peninsula.

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Point to Point

2,018' 615 m


3' 1 m


10,265' 3,129 m


10,270' 3,130 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (18°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Birding · Cave · Fall Colors · Fishing · Geological Significance · Historical Significance · Hot Spring · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife


The Iseji Route is a scenic and historically significant section of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage network in Japan. Stretching along the eastern coast of the Kii Peninsula, it connects Ise Jingu Shrine to Kumano Sanzan, passing through lush forests, seaside towns, and sacred sites. It offers pilgrims a serene and spiritually enriching journey.


The journey begins in Ise City, Mie Prefecture, where pilgrims pay homage to Ise Jingu, one of the most sacred Shinto shrines in Japan. With a history dating back over a thousand years, Ise Jingu embodies the deep spiritual connection between the Japanese people and their ancestral roots. The shrine complex consists of two main shrines, Naiku and Geku, both nestled in tranquil forest settings. Pilgrims purify themselves before entering the sacred grounds and offer prayers for blessings and protection.

Leaving Ise, the Iseji Route meanders through a tapestry of landscapes, starting with rural towns and fields, and gradually ascending into wooded mountains. The route offers a mix of paved roads, forest trails, and mountain paths, each presenting its own charm and challenges. The path is well-marked with the iconic Kumano Kodo trail signs, guiding pilgrims on their spiritual journey.

As pilgrims venture deeper into the forests, they encounter towering cedar and cypress trees that create a serene and mystical ambiance. The lush greenery provides a soothing backdrop, inviting contemplation and introspection. Along the way, various wildflowers grace the landscape, including camellias, azaleas, and vibrant autumn foliage.

The Iseji Route introduces pilgrims to a rich tapestry of cultural and religious heritage. The route is dotted with numerous shrines, temples, and sacred sites that have served as places of worship, rest, and refuge for centuries. These include Ominesan-ji Temple, Hongu Shrine, and Hayatama Shrine. Each site holds its own significance and offers pilgrims opportunities for prayer, reflection, and connection with the divine.

The route also traverses charming coastal towns, providing pilgrims with glimpses of traditional fishing villages and breathtaking ocean views. Hiking along the rugged coastline, pilgrims can witness the power of the sea, as waves crash against cliffs and rocky shores. Seaside shrines and statues, such as the famous Kamikura Shrine nestled in a rocky alcove, add a spiritual element to the coastal leg of the journey.

Throughout the pilgrimage, encounters with local residents offer a glimpse into the warm hospitality of the Kumano region. The local communities have long supported and embraced pilgrims, providing them with sustenance, lodging, and encouragement. Traditional minshuku (guesthouses) and ryokan (traditional inns) welcome weary travelers, offering comfortable accommodations and delicious regional cuisine.

As pilgrims approach their final destination, the Kumano Sanzan awaits. The trio of shrines—Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha—stand as revered sites of worship and spiritual power. The grandeur of these shrines, set against the backdrop of lush mountains and cascading waterfalls, leaves a lasting impression on pilgrims.

Reaching Kumano Nachi Taisha, the endpoint of the Iseji Route, pilgrims can witness the awe-inspiring Nachi Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in Japan. This powerful cascade symbolizes the energy and vitality of nature, creating a fitting finale to the pilgrimage.

Flora & Fauna

The route passes through lush forests, where towering cedar and cypress trees dominate the landscape. Various wildflowers, including camellias and azaleas, add vibrant colors to the surroundings. Bird enthusiasts can spot species such as the Japanese bush warbler and the great spotted woodpecker. Other wildlife includes deer, wild boars, and small mammals like foxes and raccoon dogs. The coastal areas offer opportunities to encounter marine life such as crabs, fish, and shorebirds.

History & Background

Dating back over a thousand years, the route was established to connect Ise Jingu, one of the most sacred Shinto shrines in Japan, with the Kumano Sanzan, a trio of revered shrines in the Kumano region.

During the Heian period (794-1185), the route gained prominence and became a significant pilgrimage path for emperors, aristocrats, and commoners alike. It played a vital role in the integration of Shinto and Buddhist beliefs and practices. Along the way, numerous shrines, temples, and sacred sites were established, serving as places of worship, rest, and refuge for pilgrims.

Shared By:

Russell Hobart

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Kojin-do shrine on the trail.
Jul 22, 2023 near Owase, JP
The stone-armoured trail bristling with roots.
Jun 2, 2023 near Owase, JP


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