South of the old Japanese capitals of Nara and Kyoto, the Kii Mountains near the Pacific Ocean have been
visited by a great number of people from all sorts of places.
They have visited these unique sacred sites: Yoshino & Omine, Koyasan, and Kumano Sanzan.
These three sacred sites and the pilgrimage roads that connect them were named as a UNESCO World Heritage site on July 7th, 2004. These sacred sites and the pilgrimage roads, known as “the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range,” have been important in helping cultural and religious exchange in Japan.
The Kumano Sanzan three important grand shrines and one temple: Kumano Hongu Taisha in Hongu,
Kumano Hayatama Taisha in Shingu, and Kumano Nachi Taisha and Nachisan Seigantoji temple in Nachi-Katsuura.
All are distributed 20 to 40 km apart from each other.Originally different in their forms of nature worship, the three grand shrines exchanged their deities with each other and have been revered as the Kumano Sansho Gongen due to their Shinto-Buddhist fusion.
Kumano Kodo is a network of pilgrimage roads that link three sacred sites in the Kii Mountain range.
Its total length is 307.6km/191miles and the roads extend across three prefectures: Wakayama, Nara and Mie.
The Kumano Sankeimichi, an integral part of the Kumano Kodo, consists of five pilgrimage roads: Kiiji, Nakahechi, Kohechi, Ohechi and Iseji.
In fact, Kumano Kodo was the second pilgrimage road to become a World Heritage Site, with the first being Santiago de Compostera in Spain and France.
the Nachi Waterfall and Nachi Primeval Fores
The Nachi Water Fall is 133 meters high, 13 meters wide, and has a water flow of one ton per second.
This is actually the highest waterfall in Japan and the object of the worship in the Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine.
Nachi Fire Festival, aka the fan festival, which takes place here on the 14th of July every year, is considered as one of the three biggest fire festivals in Japan. Also, the Nachi Virgin Forest, with an area of 30 ha, remains the same from ancient times with the efforts of Nachi Grand Shrine as well as local people.
Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine
Located half way up the Nachi Mountains, this grand shrine is one of the Three Kumano Grand Shrines.
It is allegedly said that the shrine used to be near the waterfall, but was moved to the present location in the 4th century.
Its main deity is Izanami no Mikoto (aka Kumano Fusumi no Ookami), who is a deity of unity and of everything.
After the first visit to Kumano by a retired emperor Uda in 907, this grand shrine along with Kumano Hongu and Hayatama grand shrines has been visited not only by noble people but also by commoners especially after the 16th century. This Kumano Visit is often called “ant procession to Kumano.”
Nachi-san Seiganto-ji Temple
It is said that this temple was originated by an Indian monk, called Ragyo-shonin,
who happened to drift to Nachi and practiced asceticism at the waterfall in the 4th century.
He 25cm-tall Kannon image in the basin of the falls and enshrined it in a thatched hut.
The present main building was re-built in 1590 by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, one of the most famous samurai generals in Japan.
This temple is also known as the first stop of the pilgrimage to 33 merciful deities in Japan.
The pilgrimage by retired emperor Kazan in the 10th century and became popular among commoners in the Edo period (1603-1868).
Daimon-zaka hill is the last part of Kumano Kodo heading to Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine and Nachi-san Seigantoji-temple.
It is about 6 chou(650m/0.4miles) long, and two 800-year-old cedar trees, called the Meoto means wife and husband) sugi (cedar trees), welcome anybody who walks through the hill at the beginning of the lined, towering cedar trees.
At the 3 chou, you can enjoy a beautiful view, where most of the Daimonzaka pictures for travel brochures are taken
This temple belongs to the Tendai Sect of Buddhism. Fudaraku literary means the pure land of the Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy),
which is believed to exist on the South Seas. In fact, many monks for Fudaraku (or Kannon) Paradise as the final ascetic practice.
They locked themselves alive into a small bout and embarked from the present Nachi Beach which used to be right in front of the temple.
The temple has an image of Kannon with a thousand hands, which is a important cultural property.
The Katsuura region is famous for fresh tuna and onsen spas (hot springs).
In fact, the Katsuura port boasts the largest catch of fresh tuna in Japan. Needless to say, you can try all sorts of Tuna dishes,not only tuna sashimi and sushi but also such dishes like fried tuna and tuna hamburgers in this town.The tuna market in the early morning is definitely worth visiting.
Katsuura is also an onsen spa heaven.Many hotels and inns have their own onsen, some of which even have outdoor onsen.
In addition, you can enjoy whale watching from late April to the end of September,swimming with dolphins, and scuba diving in the neighboring towns.