Mt. Koya and Kumano, two of Japan's most sacred sites, are both located in the rugged mountains of the Kii Peninsula in Wakayama Prefecture, south of Osaka.
Mt. Koya is one of Japan's premier training centres for Esoteric Buddhism with dozens of temples, gardens, and old growth trees. Here you can immerse yourself in the mystical world of Japanese Buddhism while staying in one of the dozens of temples.
The southern Kumano region's sacred places are based on natural sites and date back to mythological times as the land of dead. A network of pilgrimage routes called the Kumano Kodo lead to these isolated spiritual hot spots and are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Along the trail are quaint accommodations and soothing hot springs, including the Kawayu Onsen in Hongu, where hot mineral waters bubbles to the surface of the river.
It has never been easier to visit Koyasan and Kumano with the development of new transportation passes and reservation system for international visitors.
The JR-West Kansai WIDE Area Pass (4 days: 7,000 yen - approx. £54) covers the rail line into southern Wakayama and the Kumano region. The Kansai Wakayama Pass (W-Pass) (2 days: 3,500 yen - approx. £27, 3 days: 5,500) covers Nankai railway network including to Koyasan and bus routes into the mountains of Kumano. Both of these new passes offer excellent value.
The Kumano Travel Community Reservation System is a grassroots initiative run by the progressive Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau, who were runner-up for the prestigious World Travel and Trade Council's 2012 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards in the Destination Stewardship Category, the first for Japan. This bilingual English and Japanese reservation system is a platform for local businesses and boasts a membership of over 120 service providers (and growing!) including accommodations, rental cars, optional tours, luggage shuttles, local guides, etc. It is an excellent place to organize your journey to Japan's spiritual roots.
For more information please visit www.tb-kumano.jp/en.