Without a doubt, the food on the Kumano Kodo is one of the highlights of the walk. Staying in traditional guesthouses you will be treated to many regional specialities not found elsewhere in Japan. Even Japanese people visiting Kumano are surprised and delighted by the local fare served up and for them also it is a big part of their travel experience. Each evening you will be treated to a multi-course dinner presented exquisitely and served in individual dishes. Japanese food is refined and elegant, its preparation and presentation honed over the centuries so that its flavours are pure and delicate. Japanese food celebrates and highlights the flavours, textures and colours of seasonal produce and the food you eat on the Kumano Kodo will be grown, raised or fished locally. Where possible, food is eaten in as natural a state as possible, as fresh as possible, as this is considered the best way to eat.
Please be aware that there really is no alternatives to eating Japanese food at your accommodation while on the trail – you can’t order a pizza or just pop out to a local takeaway, those options don’t exist. So you should be a reasonably flexible eater – and in turn you will be surprised and delighted by what you’ll be served in the guesthouses. Some dishes such as tempura, sushi and sashimi may be familiar to you whilst at other times you may not have a clue what it is you’re eating (unusual local plants cooked in a sauce for instance) but rest assured you will have an enjoyable and delicious meal. Fish features heavily on the menu – trout from local rivers is usually served at both dinner and breakfast.
Snacks en route
There are very few places to buy snacks and supplies on the trail as this part of Japan is quite rural and remote. Lunches can be arranged through the accommodations you stay at but are usually a fairly simple fair consisting of rice and fish. You should take this into account when planning your trip and bring some supplies with you if you like to have trail mix, muesli bars etc that are the usual choices for western hikers. It’s a good idea to always carry some snacks with you when hiking – this is a morale booster as well as an important energy booster on a long hike.
Vegetarian cuisine on the Kumano Kodo and dietary requirements
If staying at a Koyasan temple you’ll get to experience the ‘Shojin Ryori’, Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. Unique and imaginative dishes have been created by the Buddhist monks and the resulting food is both nourishing and delicious – not to mention good karma! Along the trail, most accommodations can cater for pescaterian diet and a selection can also cater for vegetarian diet – please note however that this is subject to which accommodations are available and with couples or small groups all members may then be served vegetarian dishes. Other dietary requirements cannot be catered for so this trek is not suitable for those with severe allergies or strict dietary requirements.