So you want to be a Dual Pilgrim? If you finish both the Japanese Kumano Kodo and the Way of St. James, you’ll be able to get an official Dual Pilgrim Credential, a recognition that you finished both UNESCO World Heritage pilgrimage routes. If you finish the Way of St. James first and then the Kumano Kodo, you’ll get a certificate from the Head Priest of the Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine to offer gratitude and congratulations to Dual Pilgrims. The certificate is made from local Washi Japanese handmade paper and features the character for “Way” in the background (written by the Head Priest personally). There is even a special Dual Pilgrim Taiko Ceremony in which you are allowed to drum on the sacred Taiko to express your feelings, emotions and thoughts—an experience of the body, to complete your spiritual journey. If I had known that before finishing my Kumano Kodo, I would have made sure to finish the Way of St. James first … So here are a few words on becoming a Dual Pilgrim, the Kumano Kodo and Way of St James Dual Pilgrim Credential.

My Dual Pilgrimage

I am not a Dual Pilgrim … yet. I had planned to hike the Way of St James with my dad in 2020, but because of Corona, we had to change our plans. I did finish the Kumano Kodo half of the Dual Pilgrimage (more on dual pilgrim qualifications below) – technically I did it five times (2* Nakahechi, 1* Kohechi, 1* Kumano Nachi Taisha to Kumano Hongu Taisha and 1* Hosshinmon-Oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha).

And the moment the super friendly lady at the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center had checked my stamps from the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi route, nodded and gave me the final stamp in my Dual Pilgrim Credential booklet, I was catapulted back to being kid-proud. The closest thing I got to that nod of improvement from your kindergarten teacher. I had collected the different stamps (18 … well 17 because we had to do a detour) along the most popular part of the Kumano Kodo, the 38-kilometer-long main route that links the three Grand Shrines of Kumano in Wakayama, Japan. And that lady just recognised I did well. It. Felt. Awesome. So here is to how to get that feeling yourself 🙂

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Polle cut out
Along the Nakahechi part of the Kumano Kodo

'Completing' your pilgrimage

So, your booklet and the stamps are a sign you have ‘completed’ your pilgrimage, but what is ‘complete’ in this sense, especially as the Kumano Kodo has different trails?

For the Kumano Kodo ‘completing’ means hiking

  • Takijiri-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha on foot, the Nakahechi part of the trail (about 38 km), or
  • Kumano Nachi Taisha to/from Kumano Hongu Taisha on foot (about 30 km), or
  • Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha on foot (about 7 km) plus a visit to Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha (note: when I was hiking in 2019, this part of the trail was closed), or
  • Koyasan to Kumano Hongu Taisha on foot, the Kohechi part of the trail (about 70 km).

For the Way of St. James, you will need to

  • at least the last 100 km on foot, or
  • at least the last 100 km by horse, or
  • at least the last 200 km by bicycle

To complete the paperwork to complete the Camino de Santiago you will need to go to the pilgrim’s office to receive the stamp from the cathedral.  The completion stamp for the Kumano Kodo is located at the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center near Kumano Hongu Taisha.

Completing both will have you receive a completion certificate at either Kumano Hongu Heritage Center (near the bus station at Hongu Taisha) or the Information Center next to the Kii-Tanabe station.

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Kumano Kodo Stamp Booklets

How to get a Dual Pilgrim Credential booklet?

You can get the Dual Pilgrim Credential free of charge. In Japan the credential is available at:

  • Tanabe Tourist Information Center (next to the JR Kii-Tanabe station)
  • KUMANO TRAVEL Support Center (near JR Kii-Tanabe station)
  • Kumano Hongu Heritage Center (near the bus station at Kumano Hongu Taisha)
  • Kumano Kodo Kan Pilgrimage Center (next to Takijiri-oji, opposite the trailhead)
  • At some of the accommodations along the trail, you will be able to pick up a credential, e.g. in Tanabe City, depending on availability.
  • Or just order it online from the Kumano Travel Community Reservation System (which is also a very convenient website to book all your accommodations for the trail).

In Spain the credential is available at:

  • Turismo de Santiago Information Center (near the Santiago Cathedral)
Kumano Kodo Stamps

To conclude

If you’re planning a Kumano Kodo or Way of St James hike, make sure to get your Dual Pilgrim Credential booklet and collect the stamps along the trail. Enjoy the hike!

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