After visiting Koya-san, I decided to visit the Kumano area for the first time. Koya-san and the Kumano area are popular as sacred sites and pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountains in Wakayama Prefecture. Kumano and Santiago in Spain are dual pilgrimage routes of World Heritage. The Kumano area mainly consists of three shrines, Kumano Hongu, Kumano Hayatama and Kumano Nachi. 5 Kumano pilgrimage routes still exist and I took Nakahechi, the main route from Kyoto to Kumana, along which emperors and nobility made their way through steep treacherous mountains.

Nakahechi route’s starting point is Takijiri Oji. Oji are subsidiary Kumano Shrines along with the Kumano pilgrimage routes, Oji shrines were built to provide rest and lodging for travelers. People from ancient days prayed for safety at Oji shrines while traveling in the Kumano area. Takijiri Oji was considered as an entrance to the sacred Kumano mountains.

Takijiri Oji

Takijiri Oji

Takijiri Oji

Takijiri Oji

The beginning of Kumano Kodo was steep, but from half way was very gentle.

I went through the inside of a huge rock, called Tainai Kuguri. It was said to give the same experience as a birth as if going out from mother’s tummy. The exit was so narrow and I needed to push up strongly.

Tainai Kuguri

Tainai Kuguri

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Nezu Oji

Jizo, guardians of children

Jizo, guardians of children

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Gentle slope

On the way to Takahara Kumano Shrine, were located some nice houses with great atmosphere.  

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Wood Gallery

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Cooling Vegetables

Our goal was to visit Takahara Kumano Shrine from Takijiri Oji. It took about 2 hours. You can stay in the Takahara area and keep walking through to the next Oji, Chikatsuyu Oji and Gyuba doji.

Takahara Kumano Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in the area.

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Takahara Kumano Shrine

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Gyuba doji

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Chikatsuyu Oji

If you keep walking to Kumano Hongu Shrine, you can see Tsugizakura Oji and Nonaka’s springwater.

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Tsugizakura Oji

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Nonaka’s springwater