The Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range have been world heritage sites for the past ten years. The three Kumano Sanzan shrines that represent Shinto are Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha, and the ancient pilgrimage routes that link them are called the Kumano Kodo.
Kumano Kodo Kan
Kumano Kodo Walk 1
Takijiri-oji to Takahara to Kurisugawa bus stop
3 hours and 20 minutes (walking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route)
Kumano Kodo Walk 2
Gyubadoji-guchi to Chikatsuyu-oji
1 hour and 10 minutes
Lodging in Chikatsuyu(Overnight stay)
Kumano Kodo Walk 3
Chikatsuyu-oji to Hosshinmon-oji
6 hours and 30 minutes (walking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route)
Yunomine Onsen Walk (Lodging)
Overnight stay. A walk of about an hour.
Kumano Kodo Walk 4
Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha to Oyunohara
Travel from Yunomine bus stop to Hosshinmon-oji bus stop by bus. Walk the Kumano Kodo from Hosshinmon-oji to Oyunohara (two and a half hours).
Tour of Kumano Hongu Heritage Center
(About 30 minutes required)
Chichi-iwa Rock is associated with a local tradition. Legend has it that Hidehira Fujiwara of the Oshu Hiraizumi area came on a pilgrimage to Kumano with his wife to give thanks for her being blessed with child. On their way to the main shrine, his wife suddenly went into labor and gave birth at Takijiri. Though unable to complete the pilgrimage with the newborn, that night an avatar of Kumano appeared to him in a dream, telling him to leave the child at a grotto called Chichi-iwa in the hills behind Takijiri. He did so, and they continued their journey. The baby was protected by mountain wolves and nourished by milk that dripped from the rock, and it was unharmed when its parents returned.
Hashiori-toge Pass and the Gyubadoji Statue
The Gyubadoji statue is a small statue about 50 cm tall near Hashiori-toge Pass. It depicts a figure straddling the backs of both a cow and horse, and this is where its name comes from. According to one theory, it was made in the Meiji era in the image of the traveling Emperor Kazan, who came to Kumano on an imperial visit in 922. The following is said regarding the origins of the Hashiori-toge Pass where this statue is found.
After being driven from the throne, Emperor Kazan headed to Kumano with a small retinue of attendants.
On the way, he reached this pass and decided to stop for lunch, but realized he had forgotten to bring chopsticks. When an attendant broke off some wild grass to use as chopsticks, and presented them to the former emperor, a blood-like substance flowed from the within its stem. The puzzled former emperor then inquired whether the substance was blood or dew. Since then, the pass has been called Hashiori-toge, and the village at the bottom of the pass has been called Chikatsuyu.
Hidehira Zakura is also the subject of a legend regarding Hidehara Fujiwara.
Hidehira and his wife left their baby at Chichi-iwa Rock near Takijiri, then continued their journey. After reaching Nonaka, Hidehira broke off a branch of a sakura tree beside the trail, and vowed that if the branch withered, his child would perish. If the child lived on through the protection of the avatar of Kumano, the branch would not wither. According to the legend, he thrust it into the soil, and sure enough it took root, and his child survived.
Oyunohara, Former Precinct of Kumano Hongu Taisha
Oyunohara is said to be a clearing where the Kumano deities descended. In recent years it has been visited by many eager to see this power spot for themselves.
Kumano Hongu Taisha was formerly situated on a sandbank called Oyunohara at the confluence of the Kumano, Otonashi, and Iwata Rivers. At the time, the grounds covered approximately 36,000 square meters, encompassing five buildings and twelve shrines, including a tower gate, a kagura hall, and a stage. Its scale was several times larger than the current grounds.
There was no bridge across to the sandbank until the Edo period, so worshippers walked through the river to get there, and the tradition was to make the pilgrimage only after wetting the hems of your kimono. This final act of purifying the body was carried out in the cold waters of Otonashi River before visiting the shrine.
However, in August 1889 severe flooding swallowed up the Hongu Taisha shrine building, and washed away many of the shrines. As a result, four shrines that escaped damage were relocated to the current Kumano Hongu Taisha grounds. At Oyunohara, which once rang with the prayers of many, small stone shrines dedicated to four mid-tier and four lower-tier shrines lost in the flood have been built.
Provided by Keisuke Watanabe
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