Formerly a route for pilgrims journeying between shrines on Kumano Sanzan Mountain, regarded as the home of the gods Hongu, Shingu, and Nachi, the Kumano Old Road is now used as a hiking trail. The cobblestone road, blanketed with moss, winds through a cypress forest, and occasionally historical ruins and guideposts are visible along it.
Enjoy hiking along Kumano Kodo Iseji (Kumano Old Road – Ise Route), which is a World Heritage Site. The Kumano Kodou and Ise pilgrimage routes that connect Kumano to Ise, Osaka, Wakayama, Kouya and Yoshino were registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2004. These routes also connect Ise to the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine. There are many hiking tracks within these routes, but the most popular track has to be the “Magose Toge“.
Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine is one of shrines of Kumano-san-zan, along with Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine and Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine, this serves as the central shrine of more than 3,000 Kumano shrines all over Japan. Climbing up the stone-step approach shrouded in the grove of cedars, you can see the main shrine pavilion, which is designated World Heritage as a nationally important cultural property.
Kumano Kodo is an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage road connecting the three Japanese areas of Ise, Osaka and Wakayama’s Kumano area in the South of the Kii Peninsula. This old roadalso connects Takano and Yoshino.
A new road was built in the early 1900s and the old mountain route was largely forgotten. Parts of the road remain as they have been for hundreds of years, while other parts were paved where they pass through towns. These paved sections are in fact some of the most interesting. Far from the highway strip of convenience stores and pachinko parlors, the Kodo leads through a jumble of small shops, elaborate private gardens, temples, and graveyards. A good rule of thumb in Japan is to get as far off the main road as possible, and that’s exactly where the Kumano Kodo will take you.
Perhaps somewhat different than your usual World Heritage site, of ruined temples and lost civilizations, The Kumano Old Road is a living site. People still live and work along the route as they have for hundreds of years; it is a region not to be passively observed but actively partaken of.
In 2004 the Kodo was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a new generation of hiking enthusiasts and history buffs moved in to replace the pilgrims of old. But the Kumano region is far from becoming another overcrowded tourist hotspot like Kyoto or Tokyo. Hiking down its ancient mountain trails, one gets the feeling that the region’s culture and people neither exist for nor depend on the current wave of tourists. And in Japan, that’s a good feeling.
Magosetoge hiking course: Ten minutes by bus from JR Aiga station to Washige bus stop
Kumano Kodo Center
Kumano Kodo Center was established by Mie Prefecture on February 10th 2007 in commemoration of the sacred places and pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountain Range. The building of Kumano Kodo Center is constructed with 6,549 local Owase Hinoki (cypress).
In the Permanent Exhibition Room, the Kumano-kodo and its neighboring nature, history and culture are effectively introduced by presenting replicas and pictures highlighting the charms of the Kumano area by giving information on Kumano Kodo and promoting interchange with locals. In the Audio-visual room, historical and seasonal sights of Kumano-kodo are always introduced using HDTV. Reference library room contains books for the study of the Kumano kodo and Eastern Kishu are completed.Study tours to the fields, mountains, sea, and rivers near the Kumano Kodo, lectures on the history and culture of the Kumano Kodo, and seminars are regularly held.
Address and Contact Kumano Kodo Center 12-4 Mukai, Owase City (Owase-shi), Mie Prefecture 519-362, Japan Getting There: Through Walk from Miekotsu Owaseekiguchi bus stop for 5 min. then take Kii- Matsumotoyuki bus and get off at Kumanokodo Center. TEL: 0597-25-2666 FAX: 0597-25-2667
Also Contact – Kumano City Hall, Tourism & Sports Exchange Division or Kumano City (Kumano-shi) Tourism Association
YAYA MATSURI (Traditional Annual Shrine Festival) at Owase Shrine
The town of Nachi Katsuura regularly holds a festival called ‘Again Kumano Mode’ meaning ‘Kumano Pilgrimage Again’. This festival tries to recreate the bustling atmosphere reminiscent of the golden age of Kumano.
Participants in the festival walk along the Daimonsaka section of the Kumano Kodo Old Road dressed in medieval costumes. Tourists are welcome to participate and can experience for themselves a taste of Kumano as it was around the Heian Era.
Hundreds of men in white clothes who carry Japanese lanterns march while fiercely pushing each other and shouting “Chosaja, Chosaja” with enthusiasm on the nights of February. A feudal lord procession, in which people dress in colorful costumes, marches along the streets. It features virtually unclad young men dancing and chanting with great energy as they proceed through the streets.
Contact: Owase City Tourist Information Office 12-14 Nakaimachi, Owase City (Owase-shi), Mie Prefecture 519-3605 TEL: 0597-23-8261 FAX: 0597-23-8263
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