Budget like a pro: How much does it cost to hike the Kumano Kodo?

Last Updated: Thursday 3 August 2023
Pilgrim at Kumano Hongu Taisha

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If you are looking to explore the natural beauty of Japan, the Kumano Kodo should be a must-do on your itinerary. In this article, we will break down the expenses associated with hiking the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo – including transportation, accommodation, meals, and any additional fees or expenses you might incur along the way. Whether you are travelling on a budget or seeking a more luxurious experience, we’ve got you covered.

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First things first: Key cost determinants for your Kumano Kodo hike

Everyone travels differently – what some consider luxury is absolutely essential for someone else. That said, how much your Kumano Kodo adventure will cost you will always depend on the following:

We’ll talk about each in a bit more detail below.

Please note: While all prices stated in this article are actuals (either quoted or paid), prices do change over time. Please do your own research at the time of your travels.

nachi taisha and seiganto ji

The UNESCO world heritage Kumano Kodo trails connect sacred Shinto and Buddhist sites

Hiking the Kumano Kodo: DIY or Organised Tour?

Pros/Cons of an Organised Tour

We organised our Kumano Kodo experience (almost) completely by ourselves. But there are also organised (self-)guided tours you can join. And doing so definitely has advantages:

  • You save time researching and organising your itinerary – a lifesaver when you’re busy.
  • Tour operators have local knowledge and speak the language – a great asset given your accommodation hosts tend to only speak Japanese.
  • Tour operators provide 24/7 support on the ground – which means if something goes wrong it can be fixed quickly.

On the flip side:

  • Organised Kumano Kodo hiking tours are more expensive (as is accommodation organised via Kumano Travel [Official website]) – after all, they got to pay for their own overheads;
  • An organised tour may include stuff you don’t want or need; and
  • Half the fun of preparing for a trip is the research and the organisation (at least for us).
hikers at shinjuku by cerqueira on unsplash

Organised Kumano Kodo hiking tours are more expensive and may include stuff you don’t want or need | Photo by Cerqueira on Unsplash

Typical Tour Group Costs

Kumano Travel offers several self-guided programs, ranging from JPY75,000 per person for a 3 day/2 night tour to JPY145,000 per person for a 6 day/5 night program.

Walking tour specialist RAW Travel’s self-guided Kumano Kodo itineraries range from AUD2,190 per person (approximately JPY210,000) for a 6 day/5 night Nakahechi program to AUD4,355 (around JPY420,000) for a 12 day/11 night program comprising the full Nakahechi and Kohechi hikes (including two nights at a Buddhist Temple in Koyasan – which is not cheap, but we highly recommend it).

Based on above, an organised Kumano Kodo hiking tour could cost you anywhere between JPY29,000 and JPY42,000 per person per night (including accommodation, most meals and daily luggage transfers).

hikers by mickey estes on pixabay

Budget between JPY29,000 and JPY42,000 per person per night for an organised Kumano Kodo trek | Photo by Mickey Estes on Pixabay

DIY Costs

For comparison, our six-day Kumano Kodo adventure cost us in total JPY85,815 (an average of around JPY7,150 per person per night):

drink station along kumano kodo

Cool drinks on a hot day - a win/win for pilgrims and locals along the Kumano Kodo

How much to budget for accommodation on the Kumano Kodo?

The most common types of accommodation on the Kumano KodoNakahechi Route are traditional Japanese inns (Minshukus and Ryokans):

  • If you’re after a bit more luxury (and don’t mind paying more), stay in a Ryokan.
  • If you travel on a budget but are still keen to experience the warm hospitality of a family-run guesthouse, choose a Minshuku.

Excluding the meal plan in Koguchi, our 6-night Kumano Kodo accommodation cost us JPY45,950 in total, averaging around JPY7,660 per room per night. Only our accommodation in Asso required payment in cash – all others accepted card payments (in advance or on-site).

AccommodationLocationBooking LinkWhat we gotCost per room per night (JPY)
Guest Cafe KuchikumanoAssoBooking.comTwo adjoining rooms with a single futon each; Shared bathroom and toilet; Shared kitchen4,500
Minshuku NakanoChikatsuyuKumano TravelTwin room with two single futons; Shared bathrooms and toilets (separated by gender); Shared kitchen and lounge area9,800
J-Hoppers Kumano - We stayed here for two nightsYunomineBooking.comTwin room with two single futons; Shared toilets; Private Onsens (two indoor, one outdoor); Shared kitchen and lounge area; Rice for dinner and rice porridge for breakfast7,625
Koguchi shizen-no-ieKoguchiKumano Travel(Huge) Twin room with two single futons; Shared toilets (separated by gender); Public Onsens (separated by gender);
Meal plan: Dinner, breakfast and bento box lunch (JPY9,000)
Oyado HanaKii-KatsuuraAgoda(Tiny) Twin room with two single futons; Shared toilets; Private Onsen (indoor)6,600
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minshuku bedroom3

Your bedroom in a Japanese guesthouse may not be large but has everything you really need

What to budget for food and beverages on the Kumano Kodo?

Researching our route in advance, we knew

  • which accommodation offered the opportunity to self-cater and which offered a meal plan, and
  • where the shops and local restaurants were along the route – there aren’t many, so you do need to plan accordingly.

We stopped at the following shops, cafes and restaurants on the Kumano KodoNakahechi route:

NameLocationMealsPayment MethodCost per couple (JPY)Comments
Gyomu Super Asso-ekimae Supermarket AssoDinner (Day 0); Breakfast, lunch, snacks (Day 1)Credit Card1,476
Coffee Keyaki CafeTakaharaMorning tea (Day 1)Cash970Great mid-hike stop with home-made pastries, nice coffee and amazing views
Tororoya RestaurantChikatsuyuDinner (Day 1)Credit Card3,180Delicious set dinner
A Coop SupermarketChikatsuyuBreakfast, lunch (Day 2)Credit Card1,047
V Shop YunomineYunomineSnacks, dinner (Days 2/3)Cash2,660
Miyazushi Hongu RestaurantHongūLunch (Day 3)Cash2,000Delicious set lunch
Yamazaki Y Shop ShimojiUkegawaLunch, snacks (Day 4)Cash1,202
Koguchi shizen-no-ieKoguchiSnacks (Day 5)Cash700Dinner (Day 4) and breakfast/ lunch box (Day 5) were provided by our accommodation (JPY9,000)
Nachi Kurotei Mimuro ShopNachisanIce cream (Day 5)Cash600
Nachi Kurotei Mimuro ShopKii-KatsuuraDinner (Day 5)Cash3,795Delicious a la carte dinner
Olive CafeKii-KatsuuraBreakfast (Day 6)Cash1,000Set breakfast
a coop supermarket chikatsuyu

Supermarkets and convenience stores are great places to stock up on food before and during your hike

Our main staples on the hike were rice balls (onigiri – the best invention ever), pastries (especially melon pan), biscuits, muesli bars, apples and bananas. Our day 3 lunch was supplemented by eggs and sweet potatoes – freshly boiled in the hot spring – that a lovely Japanese family gave us while we were waiting for the bus in Yunomine.

Whenever we did eat out, we tried to get the set menu, which was always substantial and cost (significantly) less than ordering a la carte. That said, we found food in Japan – whether at the supermarket, convenience store or restaurant – generally way more affordable than in Australia or New Zealand.

Including the meal plan in Koguchi, we spent around JPY27,630 in total on food and beverages during our Kumano Kodo hike, averaging around JPY2,300 per person per night.

sushi set meal in hongu

This delicious and filling sushi set meal at Miyazushi Hongu cost JPY1,000 - much less than ordering a la carte

How much to budget for transportation to/from/along the Kumano Kodo?

Like many people hiking the Kumano Kodo/Nakahechi route, we arrived in Kii-Tanabe (by train from Osaka). After our hike, we travelled from Kii-Katsuura to Koyasan (by train and bus).

Train ticket costs

The JR Kuroshio Limited Express train from Shin-Osaka to Kii-Tanabe costs JPY6,010pp, and JPY7,660pp from Kii-Katsuura to Shin-Osaka (reserved seat in both cases as seat reservation for the train is mandatory). Tickets for the JR trains can be bought at the ticket machines at the train stations. Do bring enough cash though as the machines do not accept foreign credit/debit cards.

If you have purchased the JR Pass, the cost for the train to/from (most of) the Kumano Kodo access points will be covered by the pass (as long as you take JR-operated trains).

inami station with frog bridge

Non-reserved seats are all you need to travel on the JR Kuroshio Limited Express train - the train is never full

Bus fares

The cost for local buses between Kii-Tanabe/Kii-Katsuura/Shingū and the Kumano Sanzan are as follows (per person):

  • JPY630 (Kii-Katsuura to/from Kumano Nachi Taisha)
  • JPY1,560 (Shingū to/from Kumano Hongū Taisha)
  • JPY2,100 (Kii-Tanabe to/from Kumano Hongū Taisha).

Kumano Hayatama Taisha is in walking distance from Shingū train station (~1.5 kilometres/15 minutes), but if you wanted to save your energy, the super-short bus ride would cost you JPY200.

outside kii tanabe train station

Buses are the predominant mode of transportation in the Kii Mountains

Other typical bus route costs along the Nakahechi are (per person):

  • Kii-Tanabe to Takijiri JPY970
  • Kii-Tanabe to Hosshinmon-oji JPY2,340-2,570
  • Chikatsuyu-oji to Doyukawa-bashi JPY420
  • Yunomine Onsen to Doyukawa-bashi JPY670
  • Yunomine Onsen to Hosshinmon-oji JPY530-800
  • Yunomine Onsen to Kumano Hongū Taisha JPY310
  • Yunomine Onsen to Ukegawa JPY340.

Bus rides can only be paid for in cash. Pick a ticket from the dispenser as you enter the bus and pay the fare based on your ticket number (as per the display above the bus driver) when you get off. If you don’t have the correct amount, there is a change machine next to the bus driver. Change first and then pay the correct amount.

We averaged JPY3,580 per person for seven bus rides over six days, averaging ~JPY600 per person per night.

bus ticket on kumano kodo

Bus rides along the Kumano Kodo need to be paid in cash

What does luggage storage and/or forwarding cost on the Kumano Kodo?

You can hike the Kumano KodoNakahechi Route point-to-point (changing your accommodation each night) or base yourself in a central location, and take buses to/from the starting/end points of each stage. If you base yourself in one location, you can leave your luggage at your accommodation and hike with a day pack.

If you hike point-to-point, you’d want to reduce the amount you carry to the absolute minimum (whilst still having enough gear, food and water to hike safely). That’s where luggage storage and/or luggage forwarding can come in handy:

  • Luggage storage: While coin lockers are almost everywhere in Japan, we do not recommend storing your luggage there (it’s way too costly, and they do have a time limit). Instead, if you want to store excess luggage, look for a storage operator, like Daikoku near Shin-Imamiya Station in Osaka. A medium-sized bag cost us JPY80 per day.
  • Luggage forwarding: If you prefer to carry a daypack with food and water but would like to have your main luggage available at your accommodation each night, same-day luggage forwarding is available along the Nakahechi route. The best is to ask your accommodations (or Kumano Travel) to organise this for you. We paid JPY2,500 for one 45-litre travel pack from Koguchi to Kii-Katsuura (organised through our accommodation in Koguchi on the evening of our arrival).
luggage forwarding kumano kodo

Same-day luggage forwarding is available along the Nakahechi and Kohechi routes of the Kumano Kodo

What other expenses to expect on the Kumano Kodo?

Given you are paying your respects at Shinto shrines (and Buddhist Temples), consider some cash for donations.

How much cash to bring when hiking the Kumano Kodo?

Cash is still King in Japan, especially in rural areas. So what percentage of your budget will be cash (vs credit/debit card)?

We prefer to pay with a credit card, as it means we get interbank exchange rates (our card providers don’t charge foreign transaction fees), and we have a better record of our spending.

On the Kumano Kodo/Nakahechi route, 33 per cent of our spending was in cash (for transportation, one night’s accommodation, food and beverages and luggage storage and forwarding).

How much did it cost you to hike the Kumano Kodo?

Please send us details of your budget/costs (together with the route you did and time you travelled) – we’d love to reference them in our article. And if you have any questions we haven’t answered please contact us too.