Trails and The Pilgrimage Culture

The Kumano Kodo and The Way of Saint James

Sharing world pilgrimage culture.

by Robert Searns, founding owner, Robert Searns & Associates, Brad Towle, International Tourism Promotion and Development Director, Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau, Masato Takemoto, Office Chief, Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau, Galeo Saintz, World Trails Network


Presenters: Brad Towle, International Tourism Promotion and Development Director; Masato Takemoto, Office Chief, Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau; Galeo Saintz, Chair, World Trails Network; Robert Searns, American Trails and World Trails Network Boards

For a thousand years trails have been routes of spiritual renewal and pilgrimage. In our time there has been a rebirth of this trail attraction. Spain's Way of St. James and Japan's Kumano Kodo are ancient pilgrimage routes from very different religious and cultural traditions, influencing, challenging, and inspiring pilgrims. Located at opposite ends of the planet, they share the same essence of the human spirit. Tanabe City and Santiago de Compostela are cooperating to connect these two sacred sites by collaborating on mutual promotion and sharing. By respecting their differences, and building on their similarities, they have created a new model of trail partnership.

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View Joint Pilgrimage Promotion Video

About the Authors

Bob Searns is the founding owner of The Greenway Team, a planning and development firm based in Denver, CO that has specialized for three decades in greenways, trails, and conservation. He was Project Director of Denver's Platte River Greenway, one of the nation's benchmark urban trail projects, and produced 10,000 Trees, an eight-mile river corridor restoration project involving 3,000 volunteers. He has authored a greenways and trails plan for the 43-square-mile area west of Denver International Airport, as well as trail and greenway projects across the nation including Chicago, Dallas, Memphis, Louisville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Portland.

Bob was a development consultant for the Grand Canyon Greenway, a precedent-setting 72-mile system of multi-use trails along the canyon rim. Bob has conducted workshops throughout North America, China and Europe. He co-authored Greenways: A Guide to Planning, Design, and Development (published in the U.S. and. China), Trails for the 21st Century, and contributed to Greenways, The Beginning of an International Movement. He has served as Chair of the American Trails Board of Directors and written numerous articles and editorials for theAmerican Trails Magazine.

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Brad Towle is originally from Canada and now lives in his adopted hometown of Tanabe City, Japan. He first traveled to the Kumano region in 1999 and fell in love with the people and cultural landscape while walking and exploring the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes. Brad holds a degree in Sports Science, is fluent in Japanese, and has travelled extensively, developing both theoretical and practical knowledge with a global perspective. He has worked extensively in the tourism sector, including as professional hiking guide in the Canadian Rockies, and is currently the International Tourism Promotion and Development Director for the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau. This small, but visionary association, has received both domestic and international awards, including nomination for the prestigious World Travel and Tourism Council's Tourism for Tomorrow Awards Destination category in 2012.

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  • Masato Takemoto
  • Galeo Saintz is the co-founder of two of South Africa’s premier long-distance trails. Today he is founding chair of the World Trails Network, an international initiative focused on taking the trails industry into the future, while highlighting the globally significant role trails play in communities across the world. In 2014 he was elected to chair a new initiative called Mandela’s Walk, a long-distance pilgrimage that celebrates the life and values of the late Nelson Mandela. Galeo has first-hand experience in trail conception, organizational development, and is an international trails liaison. He has spoken at numerous international conferences advocating for trails, their benefits, and the role they play in reconnecting communities to nature, culture, and our unique and individual human story.

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