Discover the ancient traditions and magical landscapes of the Kumano Kodo, Japan’s Camino.
The UNESCO-listed Kumano Kodo is officially twinned with the Camino de Santiago with the idea that they are the ‘pilgrimages of the rising and setting sun’. In fact, pilgrims can request a Dual Pilgrim Passport that can be stamped on both trails, the Kumano Kodo in Japan and the Camino de Santiago. Once you have completed both spiritual journeys, you can present it to either the Turismo de Santiago Information Center, Kumano Hongu Heritage Center or the Tanabe Tourist Information Center.
Kumano, part of the mountainous Kii Penisula stretching south from the Kansai cities of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto, has been a sacred site associated with nature worship since prehistoric times. It was believed to be the place where Izanami – the mythological goddess who gave birth to the Japanese archipelago together with her husband Izanagi – was buried. Since then people have worshipped the very nature of Kumano, believed to be protected by kami gods or spirits and their ancestors.
Kumano is one of the two centres of Shugendo practice in Japan and you may see the pilgrims clad in white coats and clutching wooden walking sticks around the shrines. The three Grand Shrines of Kumano – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha – have attracted pilgrims, mainly from imperial families and aristocrats, since the 10th century seeking spiritual retreat. By the late 15th century, the majority of Kumano pilgrims were commoners.
There are five important oji shrines on the Kumano Kodo and you will visit two of them – Takijiri and Hosshin-mon. When emperors visited the oji shrines, there were performances of kagura (a sacred Shinto dance), Sumo (Japanese wrestling deriving from Shinto) and poetry reading.
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