The Kumano-kodo Iseji is an ancient pilgrimage road that connects Ise Jingu, the most sacred Shinto shrine in Japan, to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano, now constituting an important part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”. It is the longest stretch of the pilgrimage route in this World Heritage Site, covering 160 km along the Pacific coast and through the mountains.
While devout pilgrims must labor across the fields and up the steep mountain road, modern day visitors can enjoy the best part of it by visiting the two trails: the Tori Pass and the Magose Pass.
The Tori Pass trail is a 7.9 km circular route in Kumano City, Mie Prefecture, starting from a bus stop. On the way, visitors will climb up the timeless road, a part of which is still paved with ancient stones, and stop by a vantage point to enjoy the panoramic view of the Maruyama Terraced Rice Fields. Farmers cut down the trees and converted the mountain side into thousands of small rice paddies a long time ago, with 1,340 paddies still in use today.
The Magose Pass trail starts from a bus stop in Kihoku Town, Mie Prefecture, and climbs up the pass, a beautiful stone paved path surrounded by the deep forest. The trail is a 5.2 km hike which ends at Owase railway station in Owase City, Mie Prefecture.