Kumano Kodo with Kids

Kumano Kodo with Kids, Kushimoto Marine Park, and Cave Onsen Hotel

Last year, my family of three visited Kumado Kodo and Kushimoto in Wakayama Prefecture so I thought I would write about our experience. 

Kumano Kodo, a World Heritage Site, is a famous and over 1000-year-old pilgrimage path across the Kii Peninsula in Japan. Monks spent days traveling this path in the past while visiting various temples and shrines. However, since we had a four-year-old child, we decided that we wouldn’t do the full hike and instead just visited Nachi Falls and the temples and shrines by car. (I recommend renting a car if possible but there is bus access as well.)

In this article, I’ll share what it was like visiting famous temples and shrines along the Kumano Kodo with a child, checking out some aquariums, our stay at Hotel Urashima, which is known for having onsens in caves, and going to the longest suspension bridge in Japan.

Nachi Falls, Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple, and the Three Grand Shrines with Kids

As mentioned earlier, you can reach Nachi Falls using a car or by bus. Thankfully for parents, Nachi Falls are a short walk from both the parking lot and bus stop.

I do not recommend bringing a stroller because you will end up having to carry it most of the time due to all the stairs. 

Nachi Falls at Kumano Kodo

You can get great photos of the falls near the bottom at Hitaki Shrine and then from there, head up to Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple and Kumano Nachi Taisha. Kumano Nachi Taisha is one of the Three Grand Shrines (Kumano Sanzan) in Kumano. The other two are Kumano Hongu Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha.

Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple and Kumanonachi Taisha Shrine are a 15-minute walk from Hitaki Shrine and are must-see spots. Sanjūdō pagoda on the temple grounds is commonly photographed with Nachi Falls in the background and offers a beautiful view of the valley when you go up. Unsurprisingly, Nachi Falls is considered one of the three most famous waterfalls in the country.

Kumano Kodo with Kids

The temple grounds are fairly large and we spent about two hours there. Thankfully there’s a washroom! My daughter also got some ice cream, which helped motivate her to walk.

At the shrine, she made sure to pray for a new toy (throw a coin into the offertory box, bow twice, clap twice, bow again) and then enjoyed running around the grounds. 

View from Kumanonachi Taisha Shrine

After seeing most of Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple and Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine, we drove to Kumano Hatayama Taisha. This shrine is devoted to several deities and looks similar in appearance to Kumano Nachi Taisha, both very vivid in color, although there are more trees, including one 1000-year-old tree that is believed to symbolize the god of Kumano.

Kumano Hatayama Taisha

Lastly, we visited Kumano Hongu Taisha.

Kumano Hongu Taisha is known for being the main shrine of the three and for its more subdued appearance in comparison to the other shrines with a roof made of cypress bark. Like Kumano Hatayama Taisha, this shrine is a place to worship various deities. It had originally been next to the Kumano River but due to flooding in 1889, the upper buildings had been relocated to their present location.

Kumano Hongu Taisha

Shrimp and Crab Aquarium

On our way to Kushimoto Marine Park, we stopped by a Michi no Eki (roadside station) and came across a small aquarium called Ebi to Kani no Suizokukan (shrimp and crab aquarium).

Shrimp and Crab Aquarium in Wakayama

Unsurprisingly, this aquarium featured various crustaceans, including a blue lobster. There are also touch pools where you can touch spider crabs (which my daughter refused to do). Other than crustaceans, the aquarium has fish, jellyfish, penguins, and turtles (in a small aquarium that I personally didn’t like).

Crab touch pool in Wakayama Japan

Other interactive activities include “fishing” for little crabs (which my daughter enjoyed) and buying a figure of an aquatic animal to color. My daughter also got a stamp rally book, so apart from viewing the sea creatures, she enjoyed going around the aquarium collecting her stamps.

Although small, I think this is a decent aquarium to visit if it’s on your way to Kushimoto Marine Park. 

Kushimoto Marine Park 

Kushimoto Marine Park is one of the best aquariums I’ve visited in Japan. It’s not only spacious but the animals are well taken care of.

Notably, it’s the first marine park in Japan!

This park has lots of turtles (with plenty of space!) and we were able to hold a baby turtle! I feel like this was one of the highlights of our trip. I believe this is available daily from 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM every day except Wednesdays and Thursdays.

baby turtles at Kushimoto Marine Park in Japan

They also have an undersea tower where you see marine creatures in their natural habitat. This comes at an additional cost but I really enjoyed that as well and would go back just to do that again! There’s an underwater sightseeing boat as well but we decided to forgo that experience since my daughter didn’t seem to like it when we went on one in Shirahama

underwater marine tower at Kushimoto Marine Park in Japan

Hotel Urashima (Cave Onsen) with Kids 

Have you ever wanted to stay at a hotel that’s built into a cave and has onsen inside of caves? Then Hotel Urashima might be what you’re looking for.

Hotel Urashima is located in Katsuura in Wakayama Prefecture and is mere minutes from Nachi Falls.

Parking is a little far from the hotel and you have to take a hotel bus to get there. Midway through the ride, you can choose to take a cute boat to the hotel if you like but we decided to just continue riding the bus.

The hotel itself is dated and probably hasn’t been renovated in many, many years but my family and I still enjoyed our stay there, and I would gladly go there again.

We stayed in the Nisshokan building where all the rooms are Japanese-style with tatami and overlook the ocean. The windows in our room were a little dirty but I imagine it would be hard to clean them considering the hotel is on a cliff.

Hotel Urashima room

My daughter got a cute little yukata and once we were all changed, we decided to explore the hotel.

The hotel is massive with four buildings and the longest indoor escalators in the country! There are lots of little shops as well as an arcade in the hotel, and even a LAWSON so there is plenty to keep you occupied during your stay. There’s also an area outside where you can go fishing and a shrine but we didn’t have time to check it out. Maybe during our next stay! 

longest escalator in Japan

Of course, we had to try out the cave onsen. There are two in two different buildings and both are built into caves that overlook the ocean. 

wakayama onsen in a cave japan

One onsen is larger, more impressive, and busier (Boukidou) than the other (Genbudou) but if you’re lucky, you might be able to enjoy both of them with no one else there like we did! Unfortunately, you’re not supposed to take photos in onsen so I can’t share what it looked like. You can only take my word that you’ll be glad you visited if you go! 

My daughter had a great time in the onsen and thankfully she wasn’t scared by the fact they were in caves. Unlike the cave onsen in Kinosaki Onsen, the water wasn’t too hot so my daughter could enjoy it. 

I’ve written an article all about visiting onsen with kids so make sure to read it before you go so you know what to expect! 

When we visited the onsen in the morning, some leaves had blown into the bath overlooking the ocean, so that’s something to keep in mind. 

There are other onsen baths at Urashima Hotel but none were as impressive as the cave baths.

Apart from its cave onsen, Urashima Hotel is known for its seafood, specifically the maguro sashimi at its buffet dinner. This maguro was absolutely delicious, especially since it’s straight from Kushimoto where lots of tuna is caught so it is very fresh.

There was plenty for smaller kids to eat as well, such as fried chicken, fries, vegetables, rice, noodles, and pasta. I enjoyed the steak and it was nice to order drinks, too.

The dining hall also overlooks the Pacific Ocean, which was beautiful to look at when we had dinner and breakfast. Make sure to go early so you can get seats next to the window! 

Hotel Urashima is located about 30 minutes by bus from Nachi Falls and 20 minutes by car, so it’s a great place to stay if you’re planning on visiting Kumano Kodo.

We stayed here before our trip to Kumano Kodo but I would recommend either staying here for one or two nights when you finish the hike (or visit to the falls and nearby shrine and temple) because it’s nice to relax in the onsen after a day of sightseeing.

An annoying thing was that many of the onsen are located near the Honkan (Main Building) so it’s a bit of a walk from where we stayed in the Nisshokan building. But the smaller cave onsen was in the Nisshokan so that made it okay. If I stayed again (which is likely), I would try the Main Building or Nisshokan building again.

One building, Sanjokan, has a private onsen bath in one of the rooms, so that’s somewhere to consider staying if you have tattoos.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay at Hotel Urashima and it was really fun for our daughter. If you have kids, I highly recommend staying here. And even if you don’t, it’s a great location with lots of things to keep you entertained. It’s great for the price as well, especially when considering breakfast and dinner are included.

If you’re interested in a stay, you can book it here.

Tanize Suspension Bridge

When we headed back home, we decided to stop by Tanize Suspension Bridge, which is the longest suspension bridge in Japan! 

It’s wooden and sways when you walk on it, so to say it was scary is an understatement. The view was beautiful but it was still a bit much for me.

Honestly, my husband and I chickened out when we first tried to cross the bridge. And then, to our surprise, our four-year-old insisted on crossing it! She wasn’t scared whatsoever!

Tanize Suspension Bridge

There isn’t much on the other (north) side so I would suggest crossing it and heading back.

Make sure you don’t cross if there are too many people on the bridge as it does have a weight limit! (How people recognize or enforce this, I do not know…) 

Wrap-Up: Kumano Kodo with Kids

As you can see, there is so much for kids to do when visiting the area in and around Kumano Kodo. We had a wonderful family trip there and would recommend it to anyone.

I’ve also created a map to help plan your trip if you want to visit the same places we did over a two-day period.

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Hi! I'm Kay

I’m a long-term Japan resident and parent who loves writing and traveling. My goal is to help parents from around the world navigate living and traveling with kids in Japan.

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