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The Kumano Sanzan Shrines

The many pilgrimage routes that make up the Kumano Kodo connect sacred spots across the Kii Peninsula, three of the most important of which are known as the Kumano Sanzan. The three shrine complexes positioned around the Kumano mountains in the east of Wakayama Prefecture map out a 56-kilometer route that has been travelled for centuries and is still considered among the country’s most importantーnot to mention visually spectacularーpilgrimages.

  • The Kumano Sanzan Shrines

    The Kumano Sanzan Shrines

    The Kumano Sanzan, or the three Grand Shrines, consisting of Kumano Hayata, Kumano Hongu Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha were all originally built as a means of worshipping different parts of nature. The three shrines later became associated with the worship of deities as part of Shinbutsu-shogo, Japan’s sole organised religion until the 19th century which fuses aspects of both Shinto and Buddhism.

    The religious significance of these sites was first recognised by the elites including the imperial family who would take part in the days-long pilgrimage between the three shrines to pray for good health. News spread about these three fantastic sites and years later people were travelling from miles around to complete the pilgrimage which earned it the title as the “Kumano Ant Pilgrimage” with armies of pilgrims swarming from shrine to shrine.

  • Kumano Hayatama Taisha

    Kumano Hayatama Taisha

    Kumano Hayatama Taisha

    Nationwide there are more than 3,000 Kumano Shinto shrines which, no matter where they are located, enshrine the three key Kumano mountains: Hongu, Shingu, and Nachi. Sat alongside the Kumanogawa River in the very east of Wakayama Prefecture the Hayatama Taisha has some of the most diverse scenery with both woodland and coastal views as well as various places to worship around the grounds from the routine Shinto prayer at the shrine to sacred trees and rocks, namely the Nagi no ki conipher tree and the Gotobiki iwa rock.

  • Kumano Hongu Taisha

    Kumano Hongu Taisha

    Kumano Hongu Taisha

    Thirty five kilometres back inland from the Hayatama Taisha brings you to the somewhat incongruous entrance to the Kumano Hongu Taisha and one of its most recent additions, the Kumano Hongu otorii. At 33.9 metres high, it is the world’s tallest torii gate and made up of 172 tons of steel. Constructed in 2000, the gate was built as a symbol of the transition from the temporal world to the spiritual.

    Kumano Hongu Taisha

    Kumano Hongu Taisha

    The main shrine at Kumano Hongu may be smaller than it once was after it was downsized during a move from the riverbank, however, it remains impressive with its three pavilions set against a backdrop of luscious woodland. The shrine itself reflects its environment made from the chocolate-brown bark of Japanese cypress trees adorned with gold trimmings. Every year from April 13th - 15th the shrine hosts the Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival which combines colourful traditional dress, purification rituals, and the final burning of the paraded portable shrines.

  • Kumano Nachi Taisha

    Kumano Nachi Taisha

    Kumano Nachi Taisha

    The steep cobbled Daimon-zaka staircase leads up to the Nachi Taisha, the most iconic of the three Grand Shrines. Against a backdrop of cedar trees the brilliant red buildings that cover the grounds include the four-storey Seigantoji which looks over the splendid Nachi Falls, which are one of the largest waterfalls in the country at 133 metres high and 13 metres wide.

    Kumano Nachi Taisha

    Kumano Nachi Taisha

    Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine
    Address
    Wakayama Pref. Shingushi Shingu 1
    Phone
    0735222533
    Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine
    Address
    Wakayama Pref. Tanabeshi Honguchouhongu
    Phone
    0735420009
    Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine
    Address
    Wakayama Pref. Higashimurogunnachikatsurachou Nachisan 1
    Phone
    0735550321
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