This was the river pilgrimage route used to travel towards Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine after the retired emperor and other nobility visited Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine. The simple wooden boat style has been kept so you can relive the pilgrimage of the Heian period, travelling just as the ancient pilgrims did before you. Departing from the riverbed near the road station rest stop called "Dorokyo Gorge Kaido Kumano-gawa River", the boat tour takes around 90 minutes to arrive at Gongen-gawara, nearby to Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine. You can enjoy an elegant boat tour while listening to the storyteller's many tales of a time long ago.
The Kumanogawa River Boat Centre can be reached via taxi or bus, getting off at the Michi-no-eki Kumano-gawa bus stop going towards Hongu.
You should aim to arrive 30min before departure to go through reception. After going through the reception for the Kumano-gawa River Boat Center, move to the riverbed below to collect your life jacket and board the boat.
Clear waterfalls appear one after another along your journey downriver. Marvel at the power of the waterfalls and the water tumbling down from the steep rocks, a sight which can only be seen from the boat.
While you travel downriver, you'll be able to see some giant rocks created by the unique geology in the area, including Nabiki-ishi, a rock that looks like it's fluttering in the wind, or the Yoseki, a phallus shaped rock.
These are the hardened remnants of magma that flowed thousands of years ago, with the river currents carving out a new shape.
Stop over briefly at Honeshima Island, a huge bone-white rock that looks like its almost hunched over, and take a rest. Depending on the weather, you can also eat your lunch here too.
There are legends in the local area that the Kumano Gods would come to this island to eat lunch and play games of Go. The upper part of the island has vertical and horizontal stripes that resemble a checkerboard pattern similar to that of a Go board.
After arriving at a more serene place along the river, the tour guide might play the Shinobue, a type of bamboo flute, on the boat. The notes will flow out of the flute and melt into your surroundings, creating an incredible atmosphere that takes you straight back to the times of the ancient pilgrims, who experienced the same journey hundreds of years ago.