Kumano Kodo is a network of ancient roads and paths stretching across the mountains of Kumano. The entire Kumano region is a designated World Heritage site. For more than 1000 years, pilgrims made the pilgrimage to Kumano from all over Japan, including people from all levels of society, all ages, and regardless of sex. They believed that they would die by entering the Kumano area, purify their souls, and then re-enter this world.
One of the three great shrines of Kumano, Hongu Shrine has the ability to save your life in the future. People believed that if you visited all three great shrines in Kumano on foot, your soul would be secured forever.
Hongu Shrine used to be situated on a sandbar of the Kumano River running through the deep forests of the Kumano region. People who visited here cleaned their body in the river, and then prayed. In 1889, a heavy rain drenched the area and damaged most of the shrine buildings. The remaining buildings were moved and rebuilt a bit northwest of the sandbar. Now only a huge torii gate stands here on the grounds to remind us of where the original shrine was located.
The day I visited, this incredible torii gate suddenly appeared in the middle of a rice paddy. The long stone covered approach headed straight toward the gate. I looked at this huge torii for a while, without moving forward. It seemed quite natural that Japanese gods have always had a deep connection with rice cultivation. In the evening I came back here and looked at the torii stretched out across the dark sky. The next morning, I went back to the rice paddy again, and I looked at the torii again. Standing in the morning haze, it was solemn, majestic, and beautiful. And I felt like almost prostrating myself there.
Find out more about Kumano Hongu Taisha.
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Japan is a small island nation, but we have a huge number of surprising things to discover here. Many of these delights can be found when you step off the main street onto small side paths. I really enjoy studying about and researching various aspects of traditional Japanese culture, and then sharing this information with visitors to Japan. I hope you will enjoy it, too! ARTICLE INDEX & PHOTOS: An index of most of my Japan Travel articles can be found at the entry page of my blog, and my photos are shown here. 日本はとても小さな国ですが、大通りから一本小道に入ればたくさんの発見があります。日本人が積み重ねてきた歴史を学びながら、古い建物や庭を訪ね、物語の舞台となった景色を眺めて、皆様といっしょに日本文化の奥深さを探求していきたいと思います。