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Carole Hambleton-Moser: In Search of Japan’s Kumano Kodo Trail

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The ancient country of Japan consists of a chain of over 6,000 islands. Of these, the main islands are Hokkaido (the furthest north), then descending southward, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu.
It is on Honshu that Japan’s capital city Tokyo is located – large, bustling, and jam-packed with museums, theatres, sports stadiums (baseball, soccer, sumo) and restaurants.
However, on my next trip to Japan this year, it will not be to visit that exciting city but rather to commune with nature, with history and with spirituality.
There is no better way to do this than to walk the thousand-years-old Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trails to visit the Three Grand Shinto Shrines of Kumano: the Hongu Taisha, the Nachi Taisha, and the Hayatama Taisha.
The seven Kumano Kodo trails wind through some of the most gorgeous scenery Japan has to offer, and when one reaches the shrines the sense of history and serenity is palpable.
There are many points on the Kii peninsula from which to start one’s journey on the Kumano Kodo trail to visit these shrines. They are walked by tourists, but also by devout Buddhists and followers of Shintoism.
Many spend several days on the pilgrimage – walking to the shrines via one trail, and returning to Osaka via another. There are places to stop all along the paths, and one can stay for the night and sleep in a Buddhist temple, in a Japanese inn, or a modern hotel.
For the authentic experience, stopping in one of the Buddhist temples is a must – they welcome these modern-day pilgrims.
While the mountain scenery along parts of these trails is breathtakingly gorgeous — the spirituality of walking the ancient trails is realized in these temples. One must take off one’s shoes at the entrance to the temple, of course, and eat a simple meal in a simple room, seated on tatami mats. To follow, one can expect an early night, sleeping soundly on a futon, just as thousands of pilgrims have done in the past.
One can also visit the Nachi Taisha shrine as well, in its most beautiful setting with a waterfall behind it – Japan’s tallest waterfall. Many have expressed it is an inspiring and spiritual experience to stand in front of the shrine, mindfully focusing on it and the waterfall behind.
I don’t think any tourist can come away from a walk on the Kumano Kodo without feeling uplifted and serene by journey’s end.

About Carole Hambleton-Moser: For almost ten years, Carole Hambleton-Moser strategically built and managed Credit Suisse in Cape Town, South Africa. Having left the corporate world now, she has merged her enthusiasm for business with her love of philanthropy and now spends time giving back to the community around her. In her free time, she enjoys hikes with her dogs and friends, and yoga and QiGong to help focus inward and take time for meditative reflection.

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