New Tour in Japan Featuring Kumano Kodo, Hot Springs Targets Foreign Tourists

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People taking part in a model tour look around Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture.

WAKAYAMA — A model tour combining trekking along a Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route with visits to hot springs was held in the Hongu district of Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, from Nov. 28 to Nov. 30.

Six foreign staffers from a travel agency in Tokyo participated in the tour, which is designed to target visitors from overseas.

The project is supported by the Tourism Agency with the aim of encouraging foreign tourists to visit regional areas and spend more money, and co-sponsored by the Wakayama-12-spa promotion council — comprising women proprietors of accommodation facilities in hot spring areas in the prefecture — and Yomiuri Travel Service Co.

On Nov. 28, the participants spent the night in the Tanabe City’s Ryujin Onsen hot spring, which is said to be one of the nation’s top three locations for “enhancing beauty.” The following day, they walked for about 2½ hours along a 7-kilometer route from Hosshinmon-oji in Nakahechi to the Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine, accompanied by a Canadian guide.

Walking the Kumano Kodo route for the first time, Mark Holguin, 61, president of the Tokyo-based travel agency, said it was well-paved and easy to traverse, adding that visitors could enjoy beautiful views and get a sense of the area’s long history. “I’m sure this tour will be appreciated by foreigners,” he added.

Another participant, Hilary Nisbet, 30, said that she had enjoyed the soft and gentle quality of the spring water.

On Nov. 30, the participants visited Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine and Katsuura hot spring resort in the town of Nachikatsuura, in the prefecture, among other spots.