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Seigantoji temple

The Three Grand Shrines of Kumano

The largest island of Honshu in Japan, the Kii Peninsula, in Wakayama Prefecture is rich with temperate rainforest due to wet lowlands and several coastal inlets fed by steep streams. The Kumano region (熊野地方 Kumano chihō) is known to have one of the highest, most beautiful waterfalls in Japan and is home to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano or the “Kumano Sanzan”.



Kumano Sanzan are three of the most revered Shinto shrines in Japan and are on the ancient pilgrimage routes along the Kii Peninsula. The shrines are part of UNESCO’s designated World Heritage Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range of Japan. The shrines are found deep in the mountains, an area referred to as the land of the gods. The sacred trails of Kumano Kodō (熊野古道) are a series of ancient trails used for the pilgrimage to the sacred site Kumano Sanzan. Religiou pilgrims have been walking the trails for more than a thousand years and is said to be a life-changing experience. The three Shinto shrines are the Kumano Hongū Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and the Kumano Nachi Taisha which is a perfect example of Shinbutsu shūgō, or the syncretism of Buddhism and kami worship.

Kumano Hongū TaishaKumano Hongū Taisha

Hongū Taisha was first documented in the 9th century and was originally located on a sandbank where the Kumano River and Onotashi River converge, Hongū Taisha was partially destroyed by a flood and the remaining buildings were moved to their present site at Oyu no Hara in 1891.  Kumano Gongen (熊野権現) is the main deity enshrined at Hongū Taisha and it serves as the head shrine of over 3000 other Kumano shrines around the country. The world’s largest torii which stands at 33 meters tall is found at the front of Oyu no Hara marking the entrance to Hongū Taisha.

Kumano Hongū TaishaKumano Hayatama Taisha

An ancient Japanese myth talks about the Kumano deities having descended to earth on a rock found not far from Hayatama Taisha.  Nagi-no-Ki, an 800-year-old ancient conifer tree found inside the shrine compound and is also considered sacred. With this belief, many worshippers pay their respects to the sacred rock. The shrine has been standing on the Kumano Riverbank ever since the 12th century. Religious artifacts dating all the way back to the 3rd century were found at the site that indicates the area has been a site of worship for much longer.

 Kumano Nachi Taisha Kumano Nachi Taisha 

Nachi Taisha is surrounded by majestic cedar forests and the captivating Nachi Falls (那智滝 Nachi no Taki), with a magnificent 133-meter drop. Nachi Falls is said to be the home of a spirit named Hiryū Gongen who is worshiped at Nachi Taisha. The 850-year-old sacred Camphor Tree found between Nachi Shrine and Seigantoji temple is said to have been planted by Taira-no-Shigemori (1138-1179), the eldest regent of the Taira clan patriarch, Taira no Kiyomori.

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