■"Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range" -UNESCO World Heritage site-
Kumano Kodo is a network of routes which stretches across the mountainous Kii Peninsula connecting sacred sites such as three Kumano grand shrines(熊野三山；本宮大社、那智大社、速玉大社), Koyasan(高野山), and Yoshino(吉野) from Ise grand shrine(伊勢神宮) and old imperial town.
Kii Mountain Range located roughly in the center of Japan has been considered a sacred site associated with nature worship since prehistoric times. Over 1,000 years, Buddhism and Shinto were uniquely mixted with nature worship in Kii Mountain Range and developed harmony between nature and human beings. Walking through Kumano Kodo to head to sacred sites, such as Kumano grand shrines, was a part of pilgrimage process. In July 2004, the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” were registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Cultural Heritage).
There are mainly five pilgrimage routes connecting each other; Nakahechi (imperial route from old imperial capital Kyoto to Kumano grand shrines,
which are Hongu(本宮大社), Nachi(那智大社), and Hayatama(速玉大社), via Osaka), Ohechi (coastal route from Tanabe(田辺) to Hayatama), Kohechi (mountainous route from
Hongu(本宮大社) to Koyasan(高野山)), Omine Okugake-michi (Shugendo, Japanese mountain asceticism route to Yoshino(吉野)) and Iseji (east coast route from Ise grand
shrine(伊勢神宮) to Kumano grand shrines(熊野三山)).
For more detailed information about each route, please refer to the following links.
-Nakahechi route, Ohechi route, Kohechi route, Omine Okugake-mich
Kumano city is located on Kumano Kodo Iseji route including following mountain paths.
Each path is a part of old pilgrimage route and also were the main streets, which were now replaced to R42, R311 and so on, only some decades ago.
It must be a special experience for the people to stroll even a part of Toge(峠) feeling breath of nature worship and people's living, listning to birds singing, deep green moss covering aciant stone path, and brilliant layer of sunshine coming through tall ceders.
Hobo Mountain Pass, which forms the border between Owase City and Kumano City, is also known as “Sone-Jirozaka” and “Tarozaka.” A long time ago, it was this
mountain pass that established the boundary between the Kii and Shima provincial territories. The Kii-side of the mountain pass was known as “our territory” (jiryou) and the Shima-side of the
mountain pass was known as “their territory” (taryou). It’s from this, that the names “Sone-Jirozaka” and “Tarozaka” were formed.
The path from Sone (Owase City) to Nigishima (Kumano City) follows roughly the same course as the JR Soune Tunnel. The path continues straight ahead. If traveling from Nigishima to Sone, the entrance for the trail is next to the tunnel.
In the olden days, there used to be a “houji-cha tea house” at Hobo Mountain Pass. Today, a trace of the tea house still remains.
■ Distance: Approximately 5km
■ Walking time: 2 hours 30 minutes (on average). Walking time may change depending on the person.
Connecting Nigishima and Atashika are the Nigishima and Okamizaka Mountain Passes. The JR Okamizaka Tunnel falls almost directly underneath the pilgrimage trail.
The trail follows a picturesque stone-paved path winding through a forest of cedar and cypress trees. With moderate ups and downs, visitors can enjoy a refreshing hike.
The name “Okami” comes from the meeting place of Ise and Kumano’s gods, and the theory that wolves used to frequently appear in this area too.
Hadasu is known as the village that Xu Fu, a court sorcerer from China, landed in during his search for immortality and the elixir of life. Just a short distance from the village, a large stone monument believed to be from the Kamakura Period rests along Hadasu Road. Also, since historic remains related to the legend of Kōbō-Daishi can be found here, Mie Prefecture designated this road as the “Mothers and Children’s Nature and History Trail.”
While the majority of the Kumano Kodo travels travels through cyprus and cedar forests, the Obuki Mountain Pass trail used to be surrounded by a bamboo grove.
Currently, due to thinning of the forest, the impression its bamboo makes is not as strong as it used to be.
Up until around 1950, there used to be a tea house on the mountain pass. At its peak, this stone-paved mountain pass was a cornerstone for traffic in the area.
This is a religious path connecting Odomari and Hadasu. Approximately 1 kilometer into the mountain trail and you will find Hionzan-Seisuiji Temple Ruins (commonly
called Tomari Kannon).
The path leading up to the temple is steep, but there are Buddhist statues lining the slope to comfort passerby pilgrims. When the Kannon Faith was spreading to all of Japan during the Edo Period, the neighboring villages around Tomari Kannon started the Kannon Religious Association. Additionally, many believers donated Buddhist statues connected to the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage. The statues scattered along the path are reminiscent of the prosperous times long ago.
According to legend, Seisuiji Temple was built by General Sakanoue no Tamuramaro during the Daidou era (year 809) to chase out Ogres from the area.
Kannon Road is a beautiful cobbled-stone path lined by many Buddhist statues.
From the arbor in Matsumoto Pass, the Shichirimihama Beach Trail can be seen. (Shichirimihama Coast)
Connecting Kumano City’s Odomari and Kinomoto towns, Matsumoto Pass is scenically located near the mountains next to Onigajo. It’s elevation reaches approximately 120 meters above sea level and can be climbed in about 30 minutes.
With the stone-paved trail covered in moss, hikers can truly appreciate the age and atmosphere of the pilgrimage road. Jizo, a guardian deity supposedly shot with a gun, stands on the path surrounded by bamboo. Additionally, halfway through the trail, the endlessly sweeping curve of Shichirimihama Beach can be seen from the arbor. It is said that this is the greatest view of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trails. If you walk this trail with your own feet, it will leave you feeling refreshed. We truly encourage you to experience this for yourself. After gently descending from this point, the trail gradually continues into the beach-side trail.
Fuden Mountain Pass is located on the border of Mihama Town and Kumano City.
The name “Fuden” originally comes from the frequent winds blowing through the area. Additionally, Oroshi Village, located at the foot of the pass, gets its name from the wind blowing down the mountains.
If you take Hongu Road from Arima, this trail eventually diverges into into the Kitayama Trail bound for Yoshino.
The Fuden Mountain Pass was important for connecting the coast of Kumano and the mountain villages until the Fuden Tunnel of Route 311 was built. Even though the pilgrimage road was split by the former national highway, the trail still leads to the mountain pass and Kiwa-Cho (Kumano City).
From the base of Fuden Toge(hill) Pass, Hongu Road splits into Kitayama Road, heading north towards Yoshino (Nara Prefecture) and the path leading to Tori Toge(hill) Pass. On the mountain pass, approximately 1 kilometer into the trail, the guardian Koyasujizo is enshrined in stone surrounded by ferns. Additionally, there is an observation deck on the east-side of the trail, partially hidden by the forest. From the observation deck, a superb view of Maruyama Senmaida, one of the best sights in Japan, is visible. Maruyama Senmaida has been selected as one of “Japan’s Top 100 Terraced Rice-Fields.”
Shichirimihama has been chosen as one of the "100 Best Japanese Beaches". Extending over 25km, it has been designated as part of the Kumano Yoshino National Park. Shichirimihama Road breaks off from the main shrine road towards the west near Hana no Iwaya Shrine, which is said to be the tomb of Izanami no Mikoto. The object of worship at Hana no Iwaya is a large rock with a height of about 45m.