Shingu city is a good size to walk around. We parked near Kamikura Shrine and went to Kumano Hayatama Shrine on foot. It took about 15 minutes.

Shingu city's view

Shingu city’s view

Kumano Hayatama Shrine's entrance

Kumano Hayatama Shrine’s entrance

Kumano Hayatama Shrine

Kumano Hayatama Shrine

To promote Kumano religion, Kumano nuns traveled all over Japan with a Mandala to explain how to make a pilgrimage to Kumano Hayatama Shrine. In the Mandala, on the left of the picture, we can see the same old Nagi tree, a Chinese black pine, that is over 1000 years old. Since the 8th century, emperors and nobility have been visiting the Kumano area and gradually people of other status have started to do the same.

Kumano Hayamata Shrine Mandala

Kumano Hayamata Shrine Mandala

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Over 1,000 years old Giant Nagi tree

From the 8th century to the 12th century, emperors and nobility took the river pilgrimage route to visit Kumano Hayatama Shrine from Kumano Hongu Shrine. We could have the same experience in the 21st century with the Kumano River Boat tour. Kumano River is 183 km long and flows from its origin in the northern Kii Mountains to the Kumano sea. I traveled down this part of the Kumano River for an hour and a half. The boat tour is available once in the morning and again in the afternoon.

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Kumano River Boat tour

While emperors were taking boats, their servants had to follow by taking a path along the cliffs.

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Old path to Shingu area

People used to cut trees from Kii Mountains and send them to the Pacific Ocean on the Kumano River.

Shops known as Kawaraya shops opened to sell daily products to people who transported cut trees at the estuary of the Kumano River. They didn’t use nails. When the Kumano River was over-flooded, they just disbanded their shops and ran away.  

Kawaraya shops

Kawaraya shops

Our tour boat guide was working with Mi. Kumano to offer an English guide tour. A half day or one day tour would be enough to understand Kumano’s history. You can check Mi. Kumano’s site.