Pilgrimage to Japan's Spiritual Origins
The Kii Peninsula is the largest in Japan. The Kumano region stretches out behind a coastline of coves and small harbors. As the coastline opens up to the Pacific, the inland takes the visitor along the paths of Japanese spirituality.
For more than a millennium, the Kumano kodō (“old Kumano path”) has been a famous pilgrimage route. Also called “Kumano Sanzan”, it connects three Great Sanctuaries. The Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines that line Kumano Kodō illustrate the strength of religious syncretism in Japan. These religious sites are hidden in mysterious forests, even on the slopes of the Kii mountains.
The cobbled paths wind through the heart of centuries-old cedar forests and cut through bamboo groves. They lead to sights shrouded in mystery, such as the Hana-no-kutsu cellar, or the Daimonzaka stone staircase, which ascends to Kumani Nachi Taisha. The Kumano Hongū Taisha Shrine is served by another stone staircase. The Kii peninsula can also be discovered on mountain roads, over the Matsumoto-toge and Magose passes.
Visitors walk in the footsteps of pilgrims who once walked the trails of Kumano kodō. Along the way, they observed purification rituals in hot springs and steam baths. These “oku” sources still continue to distill their virtues and to exercise their mystical force.
The ancient path between Odomari and Kimoto in Kumano City is paved with stone, and bamboo grove surrounded pass, stands a Jizo statue, which is said to have been shot by a gun. The plum grove along the way offers a panoramic view of Shichiri-Mihama.
The Hana no Iwaya Shrine is one of Japan’s oldest shrines. A 45 meter-high rock, mentioned in the ancient Chronicles of Japan, is said to be the grave of Izanami-no-Mikoto, the mother of the gods in Japanese mythology.
The Magose Toge Pass is a beautiful ancient stone-lined path along the World Heritage Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. Walk through beautiful atmospheric cypress forests to Mt. Tengura, an experience that will bring you closer to the ancient pilgrims.
Daimonzaka slope, part of one of Japan’s three ancient roads, the Kumano Kodo, is a picturesque sight with mossy paving stones surrounded by giant cedar trees. The stone torii gate and the vermilion-lacquered Furikase Bridge at nearby Nachi are said to be the point of separation between the sacred and secular worlds.
Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine is one of the Kumano Sanzan established around 2,000 years ago. It is the head of thousands of Kumano shrines across Japan. Those faithful from across Japan seeking salvation for the past, present, and afterlife make pilgrimages to the three sacred Kumano Shrines.
The main deity of Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine is Susanoo-no-Mikoto. Originally, the gods of Kumano were rooted in nature worship, and gradually became the sacred sites of Buddhism, esoteric Buddhism, and Shugendo practices.
Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine is one of the Kumano Sanzan and the head of Japan’s approximately 4,000 Kumano shrines. This shrine reveres the nature of Kumano, including the Nachi Waterfall.
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Kumano Kodo Route
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