View from Takahara rest station

It was hard to plan where to stay in Kumano Kodo. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to walk or drive to visit the three main shrines. The best plan would be to stay near each of Kumano Sanzan, Kumano Hongu Shrine, Kumano Hayatama Shrine and Kumano Nachi Shrine or stay near Nanki-Shirahama Airport. However, I couldn’t resist to stay at the attractive hot springs near the Kumano Hongu area and the Takahara area so as to enjoy the view. The Takahara area is located in between Nanki-Shirahama Airport and Kumano Hongu Shrine. Near Kumano Hongu Shrine, there are two major hot springs. One is Kawayu hot springs and it is the most attractive place for me. The other is Yunomine hot springs where you can take a Tsubo-yu, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. I decided to stay at both of them.

Prefecture route 168 is well maintained with tunnels that pass through the Kii mountains. The road doesn’t have many curves and it is easy to drive and to move from the west to the east of the Kii Peninsula. However, Wakayama Prefecture is huge and it is inefficient to stay 2 nights near Kumano Hongu area. I should admit. It is efficient to swim at Kawayu hot springs and stay at Yunomine hot springs.

Kirino sato Takahara

I stayed at a guest house in the Takahara area, Kirino sato Takahara. “Kirino sato” means a fog village. Takahara is known as a fog village because the scenic mountain vistas are often blanketed with fog. Dinner was a fusion of Japanese and European styles. Both bedrooms and tatami-mat rooms were available. When we opened the window of our guest room, we saw a small ravine that reflected the gathering white fog in the early evening and morning sunlight.

Sunset from Kirino sato Takahara

When we returned to Kirino sato Takahara for lunch, we saw a snake in the garden. The staff was surprised too as it was very unusual. My son was so excited and observed it very quietly. Nature is close to the residence which was good for us. We felt like we were surrounded by calm nature. Kirino sato Takahara’s lunch was satisfying and the view from the garden was relaxing.

Near Kirino sato Takahara, there is an observatory and resting place in the middle of the area, and we could enjoy the view from there.

Ashitano Mori at Kawayu hot springs

It is a miracle to enjoy hot springs in Wakayama Prefecture where volcanoes don’t exist. Kawayu means hot springs on riverbed. At Kawayu hot springs, 70-degree hot springs continuously bubble up from the riverbed and you can create your own open air bath with stones around the river. We had stayed at a Japanese style guest house near the river to enjoy riverside scenery from hot springs before, but it was the first time for us to soak in a hot spring in the river. It was fun to pile stones to build a bathtub. Boiling water erupted from some parts of the riverbed, but most of the areas were safe. We also floated in the shallow river with swimming tubes and could enjoy beautiful views and blue sky.

There are various accommodation choices when staying at the Kawayu hot springs area. I stayed at a guest house, Ashitano Mori at the Kawayu hot springs area in order to escape from the Japanese supper with plenty of fish and vegetables. Ashitano Mori served a handmade Hamburg steak with local vegetables. The Kumano Kodo area is suitable for tea cultivation and the owner provides handmade black tea for breakfast.

Riverbed in the Oto River

Clear water of the Oto River

Adumaya at Yunomine hot springs area

Yunomine hot springs area is one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Japan and it retains a traditional Japanese atmosphere. It is thought that Yunomine hot springs were discovered in the 4th century and we saw a stone monument near the center of the town. We went to a public bath in the center of the Yunomine hot springs area. The public bath was old and rustic and it was fun to communicate with locals and other tourists.

Tsubo-yu, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan, is located in the Yunomine hot springs area and we took a bath at Tsubo-yu. I imagined it should have been very crowded, but it was not. We didn’t have to wait long and we could take a bath easily. Each group has 30 mins to take a bath, but I could stay in the bath-tub for only 5 mins because it was too hot. I started counting after 3 mins passed until 5 mins and then got out. It took 10 mins walk from Tsubo-yu to find Yunomine Oji.

Yunomine Onsen

I stayed at Adumaya in the Yunomine hot springs area. Adumaya is an old hot spa established in the late Edo period, which offers exclusive cuisine and extraordinary service provided by Nakai hotel staff. Currently, big Japanese-style Inns known as ryokans offer dinner in a large banquet room, but Adumaya brought dinner and breakfast to each guest room. It was the last day of the trip and my son was so relaxed to stay and eat in our guest room.

During the trip between Kawayu hot springs and Yunomine hot springs near the Kumano Hongu area, I visited Miruriina cafe for lunch twice. The scenery was unforgettable from the dining table.