Kumano Kodo’s Nachi Shrine and Nachi Waterfall in Wakayama
In Kumano Kodo, there are three main shrines, Kumano Hongu Shrine, Kumano Hayatama Shrine and Kumano Nachi Shrine. Finally, we arrived at Kumano Nachi Shrine and Nachi Waterfall as our final destination as the climax of our trip. It must have been so hard to walk through from Kyoto and Nara to Kumano in the 10th century. For us, it was also so far to come to Nachi Shrine from Nanki-Shirahama Airport. It takes 3 days by car visiting the other two shrines.
We started from Daimon-zaka to visit Kumano Nachi Shrine and Nachi Waterfall that were located halfway up Nachi Mountain, about 350m above sea level. We parked the car near Daimon-zaka entrance. Each area has its own parking space for tourists so it was easy to drive and park in the Kumano Kodo area. Kumano Nachi Shrine and Nachi Waterfall have parking, but we walked from Daimon-zaka to Nachi Waterfall enjoying the cobbled slope with mossy stone steps and cider trees. The mountain path from Daimon-zaka was a cobblestone staircase (600m long with 267 stairs) with a gentle slope and it was paved and lined with centuries–old trees to produce cool shade. Kumano Nachi Shrine is located 330m above sea level, so the temperature and weather are fairly stable, but rain gear, hat, towel and water would be preferable to bring.
Kumano Nachi Shrine
We went to Kumano Nachi Shrine to worship and visited a small museum next to the main building. The size of the museum is small but it displays precious artifacts, ancient picture scrolls and Mandala which promote the Nachi Shrine and Kumano Kodo across the country. Some parts of the Kumano Kodo area were deformed in the Mandala, but where people were praying or walking alongside Kumano Kodo was painted in detail. It seemed to use Japanese characters that were easygoing and methodical. Kumano Nachi Shrine Treasure Museum’s mandalas show the old Kumano Nachi Shrine including an old camphor tree that is still existing next to the main shrine. We entered the hollow of the old camphor tree by wooden stairs. Inside of the tree was cozy and we could feel relief. It is hard to climb a huge tree in Tokyo, so my son was happy to enter the inside. The inside of the tree is hollow, so we could enter and go through it.
Nachi Seiganto Temple
Nachi Seiganto Temple, located next to Kumano Nachi Shrine, is a symbol of the reconciling of Shinto and Buddhism. It demonstrates the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism and in this area it is easy to understand the coexistence of the two religions in one place. These two buildings are closely related to each other and give an impression of being good old friends in a warm neighborhood. Nachi Seiganto Temple is said to have been founded in the early 5th century by a priest from India. At a temple, you don’t need to clap twice, because the god is in front of you. It isn’t necessary to call the god through the clapping of hands.
The way to Nachi Waterfall reminded me that Wakayama Prefecture is rich in greens. Forested areas comprise three-quarters of Wakayama and the prefecture has the greatest water-holding capacity in Japan. Nachi Waterfall was an ancient nature worship site and is the water source for the surrounding broadleaf evergreen primeval forest. It took 15 minutes to walk from Seiganto Temple to Nachi Waterfall. Nachi Waterfall is the tallest waterfall in Japan at 133m high and 13m wide. It was simply overwhelming to see such a long waterfall accompanied by fresh country air. Nachi Waterfall was our final destination and the climax of our trip in Kumano Kodo. We had finally we achieved our goal to visit three main shrines. The amount of water was astonishing and we couldn’t stop watching it. We just enjoyed the beautiful and fascinating views.
After walking 2 hours under the blazing sun, we were eager to eat something cold. At the end of a long walk, I ate Tokoroten, gelidium jelly and shaved ice, while watching the Nachi Waterfall at Seiryotei cafe.
Since I have children, I had a passion to buy a real Go board and stones to play with them. The Nachi area produces Nachi black stone and manufactures Go stones and we bought a Go board and stones at Mitsumine-do. The white stone is made from a Hamaguri clam that is aged at least 20 years.