Pilgrimage to Japan's Spiritual Origins
The sacred sites and pilgrimage routes running through the Kii Mountains are renowned as some of the most powerful spiritual spots in Japan: places where you can feel in harmony with some of the country's most awe-inspiring nature. The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes have inspired pilgrims for millennium. They lead to three sacred sites, offering them a chance to sense the very origins of spirituality in Japan, connecting the Kumano Sanzan, the three Grand Shrines at the heart of Japan's spiritual culture—harmoniously blending the indigenous Shinto beliefs and Buddhism. The Kumano Kodo passes through lush forests and isolated villages with panoramic mountain vistas. Sites such as the Hana-no-iwaya shrine and the Daimonzaka stone staircase which overflow with spiritual energy. In the Kii Peninsula you can trace the steps of pilgrims past. Travelers can soothe their mind, body, and soul in the unique onsen (hot springs) along the way. These thermal springs are a source of purification and miraculous healing powers.
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 the head shrine of all the Kumano shrines located across Japan. It sits in an area known as "Shingu", or "new shrine": the name comes the fact that a new shrine was built there to welcome deities who first descended from heaven at the site of the Gotobiki-iwa rock on Mt. Kamikura. Within the shrine grounds stands the Nagi, a thousand-year-old sacred tree. Since ancient times, it has been customary for visitors to take home the Nagi's leaves as talismans for travel and road safety and marriage and love.
Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine seems to be hiding in the surrounding forest. This remarkable wooden Shinto shrine was built without any nails, instead relying only on intricate joint work to connect the wooden building materials. It is a historic religious site, rooted in more than two thousand years of nature worship. Walk some five minutes from the shrine and you will find a giant torii (shrine gate), at Oyunohara, where Kumano Hongu Taisha was originally located and the deities enshrined here are believed to have first descended to earth.
Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine can be accessed by climbing a cobbled shrine approach, after climbing the moss-covered stone staircase known as Daimonzaka. The shrine, sitting midway up Mt. Nachi, offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is highly photogenic: the vermillion of its torii shrine gate and buildings contrasts beautifully with the green mountain foliage. Nearby Nachi Falls, a waterfall with a drop of some 133m, is a tangible reminder of how nature can be both awesome and sacred.
MarcyMarcy is a professional content creator, blogger and editor from the Americas, focused in the luxury adventure travel industry showcasing remote exotic destinations around the world.
Kumano Kodo Route
RobertRobert is a professional photographer, journalist, and social media influencer from England, dedicated to capturing the rich cultural and natural beauty of the world.