Kumano Hongu Shrine Spring Festival

Procession with colorful period customs in cherry blossom season

Apr 13th
Apr 15th
Venue: Kumano Hongu Taisha When: Apr 13th - Apr 15th 2022, 12:00am - 11:59pm
While this event is confirmed, coronavirus (COVID-19) measures may result in sudden cancellation, postponement or changes to the event format (eg online only). While we do our best to keep our listings updated, please check the official event website for the latest info.

The Kumano Hongu Shrine Festival takes place each year from April 13 to 15 in Hongu Town in the south of Wakayama Prefecture.

First a ceremony takes place at the Kumano Hongu Shrine where a procession is forming. Then this procession makes its way from the shrine to Oyunohara, a sandbank in the Kumano River and one of Kumano’s most holy sites.Oyunohara is now a wide open space but it used to be the place where the Kumano Hongu Shrine once stood before it got washed away by a flooding in the late 19th century. Here a series of sacred ceremonies are performed to honor the Kumano Deities and the tradition of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.

There are Mikoshi (portable shrines) carried by men, women and children. Young boys are carried on the shoulders of their dads because they are considered gods and should not touch the ground until a sacred ceremony was performed. There are groups of teenage girls and boys who perform a sacred dance. There are also Yamabushi, the practitioners of Shugendo, who perform a fire ritual, and there are Aikido demonstrations because this area is the birthplace of Aikido, a Japanese martial art.

This is a local spectacle that does not draw millions of visitors like spring festivals elsewhere in Japan. This allows you to see everything close-up. The crowd consists mainly of locals which gives you a chance for a chat. After the prayer rituals and spiritual ceremonies comes the fun, which consists of eating, drinking and playing. Some local delicacies and local sake is shared around and soon all participants are in a festive mood.

In front of the giant torii gate, the largest in Japan, cherry blossoms are in full bloom. On the mountain across the Kumano River, the only river in the world that is registered as a UNESCO river pilgrimage site, there is the Hongu top sakura spot, a mountain slope full of cherry trees, which are in full bloom during the festival. Why not stop by coming spring and enjoy the festival, followed by a boats tour down Kumano River?

Getting there

Hongu has no train station. You need to take a JR train from either Nagoya to Shingu City or from Osaka to Tanabe City. These would be the Nanki Wide View Express Train and the Kuroshio Express Train respectively. From Shingu and Tanabe you need to take a public bus to Hongu. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive yourself, or hire a taxi. Beware that hiring a taxi might cost your dearly because from Shingu it is 40km and from Tanabe 60km to Hongu.

More info

Find out more about Kumano Hongu Taisha.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Founder of Kii Monogatari, my story and the story of the Kii Peninsula of Japan. Originally from East Germany, I came to Tokyo, via Berlin and London, in 2005. In summer 2011 I moved by choice to remote Kumano in the south of the Kii Peninsula where I live, work and play now, and explore every day.The whole of the Kii Peninsula is a Healing Hub for me with its abundance of forest, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, the ocean, friendly rural communities and sacred places. This is where nature meets spirituality, and tradition meets sustainability, the new paradigm for travel post-pandemic. My deep interest is in Japanese nature & spirituality. I love being in nature, in the forest and in the mountains, and I love spending time at temples and shrines.  I am building my life and my work around these two passions. I am a Licensed Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy) Guide and a Licensed Kumano Kodo and Koyasan Guide. I am also a Licensed Retreat Facilitator and I am planning retreats on the Kii Peninsula. Last but not least, I have been the Japan Travel Partner for Wakayama and Yamagata since the conception of the platform in 2011! These two prefectures are close to my heart because they are the centers of Shugendo, a spiritual tradition of mountain ascetism. I am a Shugendo Practitioner for over ten years now and received Tokudo in 2016 at a Shugendo temple on Yoshinoyama. Please kindly connect via my Facebook Page Kii Monogatari. Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

Join the discussion

Alena Eckelmann Author 3 weeks ago
I love it, every year again! So much to see and see all really close up.
Kim 3 weeks ago
This looks like a wonderful event!
Alena Eckelmann Author 3 weeks ago
Can't wait to see my neighbors out there at the festival!