After spending a month sharing space with other people in Tokyo I couldn't believe that I was finally going to have a house to myself. And it even had a washing machine. It is true that I didn't know how to switch it on, but there was a washing machine. And I haven't told you the best part yet... it was only a one minute walk from a World Heritage Site. Could it get any better? Yes, it's also affordable.
I'm talking about Kumano Backpackers, a nice and friendly guesthouse located in Hongu Town, Wakayama Prefecture.
Its privileged location close to the Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine, the Kumano Heritage Center and the Oyunohara sacred gate make it a very interesting deal for those who wish to do the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route with its final destination of Hongu Town.
For just 3,000 yen per night you will have a bunk bed in a clean, shared room. The house comes with all kinds of facilities on three floors: a bathtub and a shower, a fully equipped kitchen, a living room with air conditioning and a balcony with a washing machine and a drying area. These are just some of the amenities that you will find in Kumano Backpackers. In fact, you won't even need to carry body wash, shampoo or towels; all of it is in the house for you to use freely.
Kumano Backpackers has three different rooms. One of them, for solo travelers, has tatami mats and you will sleep on a futon. The other two come with bunk beds.The bunk bed rooms fit four people each and they are separate for men and women.
When I moved into the Kumano Backpackers guesthouse, I was lucky enough to be the only guest. We have to keep in mind that Hongu isn't is off the beaten track; it's a pilgrimage spot, but not a touristic place. Even though Hongu is quite close to Osaka (about 3 hours by bus), the third largest and busiest city in Japan, its location in between the mountains makes the Kumano area sort of remote. So chances are that the house won't be full when you move in.
It's a perfect spot for relaxing and escaping from the stress and the speed of Japan's big cities.
Kumano Backpackers also offers a 1-day pilgrimage walk, arranged by the owner of the guesthouse, Mr. Ueno. This tour is called Kumano Experience. There are different trails on offer: walk from Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha, or walk a part of the Kohechi route from Totsukawa Onsen to Kumano Hongu Taisha. The groups are limited to five people and tours can be arranged both online or at the B&B Cafe Hongu is located across the road from the guesthouse.
In addition, these tours can be expanded to become more adventurous for visitors who wish to do more than just walking and visiting shrines. You can try some kayaking on the Kumano River and do a climbing tour in the Kii Mountains. These are just some of the activities that you might be able to experience while staying at Kumano Backpackers.
Pilgrims will usually arrive at Kumano Backpackers on foot. However, public transportation is also an option. Buses from Shingu Station to Hongu Taisha depart every hour. The bus trip costs around 1,500 yen and it takes 80 minutes. Hongu Town is also connected by bus with Tanabe City, Shirahama Onsen and Gojo Town. The bus stop in Hongu Town is a convenient two minute walk from the guesthouse.
Kumano Backpackers is a perfect, and most importantly, affordable choice for those who wish to relax after a tough day of pilgrimage in the Kii Mountain range.