Kumano City, a town where beautiful scenery and specialty products appear one after another

Kumano City, a town where beautiful scenery and specialty products appear one after another

Our destination of the day is Kumano City. Until last year, I only knew about their famous summer fireworks festival, then after doing some research, I found out about the scenic spot of the rock formation Onigajo (the Demon Castle) and Shishiiwa (the Lion rock) etc.
And on this day,we experienced one of Kumano City's most special tourist attractions, the Kumano Kodo.

My name is Isis Akemi Muto, from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I’ve been living in Mie Prefecture, Japan, for the past 22 years. Recently, my husband and I started doing some day-trips around Mie.

Caption: The entrance to  picturesque Matsumoto-toge Pass

Today is our 3rd time in Kumano, and I was certain that it was going to be a completely new adventure, for starters, we had a tour guide, Mr. Hayashi. Mr. Hayashi is a local resident who has been working as a tour guide for years! And to our delight, he speaks English.  

Caption: A quick explanation about the trail before starting our journey

We started our journey at Matsumoto-toge Pass, and Mr. Hayashi knows everything about this trail. I was really looking forward to this part of the trip. It’s one thing when you go hiking to a random mountain, but it is a completely different thing when you hike on a historical trail like Matsumoto-toge Pass and with a tour guide. We learned from Mr. Hayashi that Matsumoto-toge Pass is part of the Iseji trail, an ancient pilgrimage trail which connects Kumano to Ise Shrine, and along with a couple of other trails, are known as Kumano Kodo, and those pilgrimage routes were registered as UNESCO World Heritage in 2004. 

Caption: The stone path from Edo Period

As soon as I stepped in the forest, I was fascinated by the incredible stone path. They are historical stones from Edo Period and it is impressive that those stones look almost intact even though 400 years have passed since the construction of this path. It was even more impressive when I found out that only stones were used during its construction, no cement was used. How is that possible? Truly it is a work of art. 

One of the advantages of walking with a tour guide is when questions arise, you have an expert to provide you with the answers. I had many questions and fortunately, we had Mr. Hayashi to answer them.

Caption: A rock designed for resting travelers and residents carrying luggage

One interesting fact along the path were giant rocks like this one which I considered quite random, but then we learned that back then, they were used by residents as a resting area, just like Dani and I are using them in the picture.

Caption: The famous statue with an over 300-year bullet hole

Everyone that comes to Matsumoto-toge Pass hears this story, and I had to share it. Apparently, a hunter left early in the morning, and they built the statue while he was away, when he returned at night, he thought it was a ghost, he panicked, and he shot the statue. 

Caption: The beautiful trail of Matsumoto-toge Pass surrounded by conifers

In Japan, we can see people of all ages hiking, from babies being carried by their parents to the elderly, something that is not so common in Brazil, in fact, when I was there, I never saw children or the elderly hiking. So, Matsumoto-toge Pass is not only a trail with huge trees creating an amazing scenery but it’s also a family friendly trail.

Caption: Take a break with Mr. Hayashi at the gazebo with a great view

We reached the highest point, and we found a gazebo at the top which gives a magnificent view of Shichiri Mihama beach. We sat for a while, and we talked while eating the delicious Kumano tangerines Mr. Hayashi brought us. Mr. Hayashi told us many stories, and if we weren’t on a schedule, we could’ve spent hours listening to him telling us stories about when he was a little boy and he could see plenty of turtles at the beach and whales! 

We made our way back to the city knowing that one day we are coming back, and next time, we will bring our son.

Caption: Guest house "Abuden" in a wooden building that mixes pure Japanese style and modernity

In the area near the western entrance to Matsumoto-toge Pass, there was a row of Japanese houses with old wooden lattice windows.
One of these houses was an eye-catching combination of a pink Western-style house and a Japanese house.

I read on KankoMie’s website that it is a guesthouse called "Abuden" with a lovely old Japanese interior.
We were not able to go inside that day, but would definitely like to visit there someday.

Caption: The experience of making Mehari-zushi

We headed to Kumano Kodo Omotenashikan, the restaurant where we were going to have our lunch as well as the experience of making  Mehari-zushi .
Mehari sushi is called” sushi”, but when we actually experienced it, it was made like a rice ball, except that instead of using “nori”, edible seaweed, we used the pickled mustard leaf
For our experience, we had 2 kind staff ladies and a young gentleman, who also speaks English, as our teachers. 

Thankfully, the process to make it was easy because I am not a good cook. Mehari-zushi was delicious. The taste of the mustard leaf though, is a little bit strong for me, my husband, on the other hand, loves it. I thought just the leaf itself gives the taste to the rice ball, not needing to add any other ingredients, but in fact, some ingredients are added, and at Omotenashikan, we had options to choose from. In addition to the mehari-zushi that we made, we also had udon noodles with one of the best chicken meats I had in Japan. 

Caption: Mehari-zushi and Udon noodle set

Caption: The interior of Kumano Kodo Omotenashi-kan where we had our delicious lunch. 

I love the interior and decoration of Japanese houses. Some places try to make the decoration modern while keeping some parts historical, but I felt that this place was all historical, which I think gives it a delicate and beautiful charm. Kumano Kodo Omotenashi-kan also sells souvenirs and local products. 

Caption: Niihime water and mandarin orange juice are my favorites

Talking about local products, I had to mention this water because it is a water you cannot find anywhere except in Kumano. It’s made of a fruit created in Kumano, the Niihime. According to the facility’s staff explanation, Niihime is a hybrid of two other fruits, Tachibana mandarin and a native mandarin in Japan. This water is my recommendation if you look for a healthy local drink. Plus, this 100% mandarin juice! Both drinks were so good!

Caption: The cute Hane Cafe

After two experiences, we went to two popular shops in town.
For dessert, we went to Hane Café, a cute café with a charming modern decoration which is in the main street, pretty easy to find. The first thing we noticed there were the motorbikes parked just in front of the cafe which were the owner’s bikes. My husband is a motorbike lover, so he stood there admiring the bikes while I was checking the variety of menu they had. Since we had lunch before, we decided to just have their original sweet "crocassant puff" combining croissant, crocan and cream puffand and drinks, a delicious drinking puddling and a matcha tapioca. It was nice sitting outside drinking our beverages and just watching the cars passing and listening to the sound of the ocean. All of the menus were pretty to look at, and sweet and delicious!Some people also buy their drinks at Hane Café and go to the beach, to have their relaxing time. 

Caption:Local T-shirt store Marimo/T Factory is located in the shopping arcade

And we headed to our last destination of the day, a souvenir store that sells many products printed with their own design. I felt that the store is a collection of the charms of Kumano, such as T-shirts and folding fans with designs that resemble Japanese kanji characters, and shirts dyed with local cherry trees.
It was hard to decide which souvenir to buy since it has a range of great variety of products, with beautiful designs but I decided to buy a t-shirt, something I can wear everywhere that has the name of one of the famous spots of Kumano, the Kumano Kodo.

Caption: Walking around Shichiri Mihama with a Kumano Kodo T-shirt

Against our will, our day in Kumano comes to an end. We finished visiting the places scheduled, and since we still had some time left before the sun sets, we went to some other places which are also UNESCO World Heritage.
Hananoiwaya Shrine (Flower Cavern Shinto Shrine), Shishiiwa (Lion Rock) and Onigajo (Demon’s Castle).
In Kumano, we were amazed by the beautiful natural scenery that we saw one after another.
Kumano is one of the places that I had a great time and I want to visit again. There are still so many places to visit here.

Tourist attractions covered by this article