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Kumano Kodo

Kumano KodoMap of Kumano KodoKumano Kodo is series of ancient pilgrimage routes leading to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano ("Kumano Sanzan" in Japanese).
The three shrines are Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and they are located at the southeast part of Wakayama Prefecture. (This area is called "Kumano".)

Most of the routes run in hilly Kii Mountain Range.
And few villages are along the routes.

Since ancient times, people had been believed that many gods were living in Kii Mountain Range.
And these three shrines has been founded in Kumano area in Kii Mountain Range before recorded history.
Originally these had been the Shinto shrines enshrining the gods of the nature.

Around the 10th century, Jodokyo (Pure Land Buddhism) spread.
It is one of the schools of Buddhism, and it says that the people who believe it will go to the Pure Land after the death.
And they regarded Kumano area as the Pure Land.

Since that, Kumano Sanzan had had the faith mixed Shinto and Buddhism.
In 907, Emperor Uda visited the shrines first as one of members of the imperial family.
Emperor Shirakawa (1053-1129) visited 9 times, and Emperor Go-Shirakawa (1127-1192) visited 33 times.
They came all the way from Kyoto. (Maybe, they didn't walk, but took an oxcart with many entourages.)

From early Edo Period (the 17th century), the routes to Kumano Sanzan became popular pilgrimage routes for common people.
Kumano area has been much rain, so the routes were paved with stones.

And five routes connecting Kumano Sanzan were registered as UNESCO World Heritage as the "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range".
The World Heritage site includes three shrine of Kumano Sanzan, Mount Koya (Koyasan) and Mount Yoshino on their routes.

The routes are the followings.

  1. Iseji : From Ise Shrine to Kumano Sanzan (About 163 km)
  2. Omine-Okugakemichi : From Mount Yoshino to Kumano Sanzan (About 90 km)
  3. Oohechi : From Tanabe city through Kushimoto to Kumano Sanzan (About 117 km)
  4. Nakahechi : From Tanabe city through mountain to Kumano Sanzan (About 95 km)
  5. Kohechi : From Mount Koya to Kumano Sanzan (About 68 km)
  6. Kiiji : From Osaka through Wakayama city to Tanabe city (Out of the World Heritage site)

Although these are the pilgrimage routes, most parts of them are hilly or steep in the mountains.
In the old times, post stations had been dotted along the routes, but they has become the ruins.
So if you want to visit these route, you must make preparations for trekking for some days.

Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range
Kumano Kodo "Ise-ji Route"
Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau official website

How to get to here

  1. Iseji : From Ise Shrine.
  2. Omine-Okugakemichi : From Mount Yoshino.
  3. Oohechi : From JR Kii-Tanabe. About 2 hours from Ten'noji, by JR limited express "Kuroshio".
  4. Nakahechi : From JR Kii-Tanabe.
  5. Kohechi : From Mount Koya.

Kumano Kodo
Stone steps on the path
Unpaved path
Ascetic training men in Kumano
A teahouse by a path
© Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau/© JNTO
A view of the mountains

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