Kumano Kodo World Heritage Center

An information center for the Kumano region

By Kenny King Hin Choi    - 3 min read

As the converging point of all Kumano pilgrimage routes, the Kumano Hongu Taisha is the center of pilgrimage. With more than a thousand years of history, the shrine, together with many other sacred sites on Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan and Koyasan, was inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2004 as a recognition of its unique cultural landscape chronicling the development of Shinto in Japan, as well as for the authenticity and beauty of its religious architecture. It seems a fitting place, therefore, to have a World Heritage Center on its premises.

Housed in two modern buildings constructed primarily of wood, the world heritage center has an architectural style that blends coherently with the forest and river in its surroundings. The south building has a large center that gives very comprehensive tourist information on transportation, background knowledge of the Kumano Kodo, and a history of the shrines in the region, most of which are designated as World Heritage Sites. The staff here is very friendly and always welcome any inquiries. 

The rest of the space is an exhibition that introduces the five pilgrimage trails and their history in detail. It uses a broader approach and touches upon the background of the whole region and the trails' connections with one another. To go even further geographically, it mentions the Way of Saint James, another famous pilgrimage route that leads to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, also recognized as a World Heritage Site. Reference is made to other religious heritage sites that also boast wonderful landscape and architecture, such as Ellora Cave in India.

The north building continues the stories of Buddhism, Shinto and pilgrimage. But here the content is more local. Descriptions on the daily lives of monks, their stories while on the pilgrimage routes, and their clothing and equipment are clearly explained. There are drawings and old scriptures that testify to the sacred status of the mountain trails and the various shrines. When hiking through the mountains or even just visiting the shrines, having this background information in mind would make the experience even more interesting.

Along with the exhibition and tourist information center, there is also a seminar room in the north building, which is used for symposiums and presentations of relevant topics.The Kumano Hongu Heritage Center is free of charge. Next to the center on the west is the Kumano River; and behind it on the south is a huge torii, where celebration or parades are occasionally held. Don’t forget to take a look at them after visiting the shrine!

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Find out more about Kumano Kodo.

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Kenny King Hin Choi

Kenny King Hin Choi @kenny.king.hin.choi

I had spend almost the last 10 years traveling to different corners of the world seldom reached by others as tourists. Iraq, Kosovo, Albania, Bangladesh and Ukraine are among many others. To see and smell a place first handedly is absoulutely differnt from reading and hearing from mass media. Japan has been the country I always aspired to as I first set foot there when I was 14 years old. The rich cultural heritage and freindliness of the people left inside me a wonderful memory. Therefore I was there again when I was 17. I have been recently staying in Germany for my studies, traveling around Europe to experience its diversity and rich history. Yet I still wish I could visit Japan again in the near future, preferably to Hokaiido and Fukuoka. Outside traveling, my hobbit is photography, cycling, sailing and cooking. Honestly Japanese food is one of the best in the world. As a fish lover, I could not resist Japanese crusine. Otherwise, Ramen, Sushi and green tea are all my favourite. When I read cultural studies in the university in Hong Kong, Japan turned out to me as a very speical society. The mentality and popular culture which has affected the world is inspiring. I really hope I could go deeper into this when I got the chance.

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