The Kii Peninsula, like elsewhere in Japan, is served by the country's excellent train network connecting it with major cities & airports such as Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, Kyoto.
The nearest international airport to the Kumano Kodo is the Kansai International located just outside of Osaka, at the top of the Kii-Peninsula and a convenient access point.
The rail network connects you with Kii-Tanabe and from Kii-Tanabe you reach the trail head at Takijiri by a local bus that departs from just outside the Kii-Tanabe train station.
If travelling to Koyasan you will need to catch a train to Osaka and from there jump on a private train line to Koyasan, followed by a cable car and a short bus ride.
In Shirahama, the local Nanki-Shirahama Airport has daily flights to and from Tokyo, a very quick and efficient way of getting to this area. Schedules change often with extra flights offered over holidays. Please check with JAL airline directly to confirm times.
If finishing at Kumano Hongu Taisha, you can either catch a bus or a traditional boat ride to Shingu on the coast. From Shingu or Kii-Katsuura you can jump on a train that will connect you back to Kansai / Osaka.
Alternatively, head in the opposite direction to reach Nagoya from where you can take a train to reach Kyoto or Tokyo.
Often the most cost effective way to travel on Japan's rail network is to buy a rail pass, however, this depends on how many train rides you are planning on doing on consecutive days. Most JR rail passes are only available for purchase before you arrive in Japan. You validate them on arrival in Japan.
There are both regional and Japan-wide rail passes available. Please note that most rail passes run on consecutive days once validated - so buying a more expensive 7-day pass then going on a 3-5 day hike may not make good sense!
If you are travelling on one of the longer RAW Travel itineraries a regional rail pass and detailed instructions/ timetables for how to connect with your trains will be included in your package.
The map below shows the network for the regional Kansai Wide Area pass - click it to enlarge
These are paid locally and a board next to the driver indicates how much you need to pay when getting off at each stop.
1. Enter through rear door (or front door if only one)
2. Take number ticket
3. Push button to inform the driver that stop is wanted (it is also good practice to tell the driver where you want to get off when you board)
4. Match number on the ticket to the electronic fare chart at the front of the bus to determine fare (prices change according to distance travelled)
5. Change money if needed
6. Put money and ticket in the fare box (exact fare)
7. Exit through front door
Information and pictures taken from the Tanabe City Tourism / Kumano travel site. All rights reserved.