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Published on 06.07.2016
Kumano Nachi Shrine is a Shinto shrine and it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sacred Sites. It is also well known as the Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range of Japan.
Kumano Nachi Shrine is one of the three Kumano shrines which is situated a few kilometers inland from the coastal hot spring resort of Katsuura. It is located halfway up to Nachi Mountain, located 9 km northwest of central Katsuura town, and about 350 meters above sea level.
The shrine is part of a large complex of neighboring religious sites that exemplify the fusion of Buddhist and Shinto influences. The route connects to the other sites under the same classification which are primarily located in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. The four sites in the pilgrimage are Nachi Taisha, Hongū Taisha, Hayatama Taisha, and Koya-san.
Kumano Nachi Taisha is an example of Buddhist and Shinto syncretism. Cedar forest surrounds the sacred shrine which gives a good view. Its neighborhood is a timberland called Nachi primeval forest and has been revered as a place of asceticism for Mountain God Worshipers.
You will get a good impression of the pilgrimage trails if you take the traditional approach to the Nachi Shrine. To reach the shrine, you need to climb up in Daimon-zaka trail. Daimon-zaka trail is an impressive cobblestone staircase which is to believed 600 meters long and has 267 stairs. It is lined with century old cedar trees and runs from the valley bottom to the Kumano Nachi shrine sanctuary. Daimon-zaka means "large gate slope" referring to a shrine-gate. There are mini shops along the way as the stop over so you can buy drinks and food. The trail leads up for about one kilometer before ending at the Torii gate, the gateway to the temple complex.
The Nachi Shrine is among the most important Shinto shrines and the most visited shrines. It is the Grand Shrine of all the 3000 Kumano shrines in Japan. The main shrine standing on top of the 467 stone stairs enshrine gods of agriculture, fishery and good matchmaking, and the like. A unique feature between the buildings of the Nachi Taisha is a several centuries old Camphor Tree. It is considered to contain its own kami or deity. The tree is hollow and you can go inside to make offerings at the small altar.
Very close to the Shinto shrine lies a Buddhist temple. The Seiganto-ji temple is older than the Shinto shrines. It is said that it was founded in the 4th century by Ragyo-Shonin. The Buddhist temple contains several buildings besides the picturesque three-story pagoda which was built in 1972. This pagoda is very popular to take a picture of the scenery with both the pagoda and the Nachi falls. The main building is also the starting point for another Buddhist pilgrimage.
A short distance from Seigantoji is the 133 meter famous waterfall called Nachi no Taki. The Nachi Falls is believed to be inhabited by a kami called Hiryu Gongen. The tallest waterfall in Japan was known as the original religious site in the area which is located about 1km north of Kumano Nachi Shrine. This waterfall has been the sacred body of Kumano area, and it has been worshiped by followers. Since this waterfall is considered as a God, it is believed that touching the splashing water serves a blessing. It is one of the "100 selected Japanese waterfall" and "100 Soundscapes in Japan". Before the development of organized religious doctrine, Nachi no Taki was venerated by the earliest Japanese people. Even today, visitors will be impressed by the natural power and beauty of the falls.
How to go there?
From Tokyo, you need to ride a train which is an hour and 40 minutes to Nagoya Station from Tokyo Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line. Three hours and 20 minutes from Nagoya Station to Kii-Katsuura Station by JR Kisei Honsen Line. Three hours and 30 minutes to Kii-Katsuura Station from Shin-Osaka by JR Kisei Honsen Line. Thirty minutes to Nachi-no-Taki-mae from Kii-Katsuura Station by Kumano Kotsu bus. Entrance is free.
Music: 導きの糸/ 秋山裕和Hirokazu Akiyama (Free BGM)
Source: Japan Travel (YOUTUBE)