Kumano River Boat Tour

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in Kumano Kodō

The traditional way to end the Kumano Kodō pilgrimage is with a ride down the Kumano-gawa in a wooden vessel, recreated today in these 90-minute tours in old-fashioned sampans. Local guides narrate stories connected with the natural landmarks passed on the way; request an English-speaking guide (usually available; otherwise you'll get a pamphlet to help you follow along). Reserve ahead.

Boats require a minimum of three passengers (total) to depart. Reservations are a must, though if you're travelling solo you might be able to squeeze on; you can book directly (in Japanese) or through Kumano Travel.

Boats depart from Dorokyō-kaidō Kumano-gawa Michi-no-eki, a road stop next to the river halfway between Hongū and Shingū, and arrive in Shingū, very near Kumano Hayatama Taisha. Arrive at least 30 minutes before departure. Buses from Hongū (30 to 50 minutes) are timed perfectly; take a Shingū-bound bus at 8.30am or 1.20pm and get off at Michi-no-Eki Kumano-gawa stop, in front of the road stop.

There are a number of reasons the tour may be cancelled (such as too much or too little water in the river); have your lodging call ahead in the morning. In the event of a cancellation, and you have a booking and show up anyway, staff will be there to meet the bus to tell you to stay on and continue to Shingū.