Totsukawa Village, Nara’s southern most district, is the largest village municipality in Japan. At 67,235 hectares it’s about the same size as Lake Biwa, and takes up about one fifth of Nara Prefecture’s total area. It’s one of the most secluded areas of the country and offers up a number unique adventures to the daring traveler. Here are 4 things to experience in Totsukawa Village:
1) Brave Suspension Bridges.
Japan may not be known for adventure movie inspiring suspension bridges, but Totsukawa Village is dotted with them. The longest and most famous suspension bridge in the area is the Tanise no Tsuribashi Bridge between the villages of Tanise and Uenochi. It was built with donations from the local people in 1954 and is 297 meters long and 54 meters tall. It makes an exciting experience for those who are feeling brave or those that want to face their fear of heights.
2) Walk Pilgrimage Trails.
The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Roads are the ancient trails that link the three sacred shrines of the Kumano Area in the south of Japan’s Kii Peninsula (Kumano Hongu, Kumano Nachi, and Kumano Hayatama Shrines) together and connect them with coastal cities and other holy areas like Koyasan and Mt. Yoshino. The roads have been used since ancient times by everyone from the lowliest peasant to retired Emperors as they undertook rigorous religious rites and discipline on their shrine pilgrimage. This historical and cultural significance earned the Kumano Kodo World Heritage status in 2004. The Kumano Kohechi Trail, which links Kumano Hongu Shrine (the central and most sacred shrine) with the beautiful and holy mountain of Koyasan, passes straight through Totsukawa Village, and hiking the route is a great way to experience the richness of the area’s natural beauty, and to immerse oneself in the culture and ways of worship of Japan’s Shugendo Buddhist faith. Tamaki Shrine, one of the Kumano Shrine’s inner most altars, and its ancient cedar forest (the oldest tree of which is over 3,000 years old), is also in Totsukawa Village on the Kumano Kodo’s Omine-Okugakemichi Trail.
3) Explore Unsullied Nature.
About 96% of Totsukawa Village’s area is covered by forests and mountains. Sparkling clear blue rivers, waterfalls and other amazing natural sites can be found throughout the area. One of the most spectacular places in the village is the Dorokyo Gorge all the way at the bottom of Nara Prefecture. Classic canyon walls, hiking, rickety suspension bridges and boat rides await any who venture this far out.
4) Enjoy Hot Springs.
Totsukawa Village is home to the hot spring villages of Kamiyu, Totsukawa Onsen and Tosenji Onsen. Tosenji Onsen is on the list of the 100 best hot spring areas in Japan, as the water from some of its springs is fresh enough to drink, and the baths use water directly from the source without any reheating or recycling. There’s also the Subaru no Sato hot spring hotel that offers multiple hot spring pools and the chance to try your hand at the “Yaen,” a man powered rope gondola that crosses a bend in a river.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Totsukawa Village is one of the most remote parts of Japan. Without a car it’s only accessible via a bus from Kintetsu Yamato Yagi Station in the north or JR Shingu Station on the Pacific Coast in Wakayama Prefecture to the south.