Healing - Exhibits - Shrines

Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine
The Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine is one of the Three Kumano Grand Shrines. Branches of this shrine, called 'Kumano Jinja', can be found all over Japan. The Kumano Hongu Shrine has a very long history, and used to be located on a island in the Kumano River. In 1898 it was washed away by a major flood, after which the shrine was moved to its present location halfway up a nearby hill. A stone path consisting of 130 steps leads to the shrine. The new shrine is said to be only one eighth the size of the original shrine.
This shrine is one of the Kumano Sanzan (Three Grand Shrines of Kumano). Those who believe in the guardian spirits of this shrine hold a strong belief in an after life, a heavenly world where we shall go after death. It used to be the custom that before entering the Hongu Grand Shrine one would bathe in the healing waters of Yunomine Hot Springs nearby. Then, in order to purify their bodies and minds, they would enter into the Otonashi River. Hongu Grand Shrine is said to have been built in the beginning of the 3rd century A.D.
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Oyunohara (Field of Divine Purification)
This is the original site of the Hongu Grand Shrine. It is located on a small forested island where the Kumano River and Otonashi River meet. The old shrine was washed away by a flood about 100 years ago. Moss-covered foundation stones and a stone wall still remain and people often come to enjoy the cherry blossoms in spring or the changing of the leaves in the autumn.

On the 15th of April every year there is a festival in which the participants, dressed in traditional attire, walk in procession from the new shrine to Oyunohara.
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Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine
This is the head shrine for more than 3000 shrines all over Japan. It started from the belief in the deity of Nachi Waterfall. It has been respected as a god of Musubi (tying together cause and effect). This god's task is to assist in bringing about the unification of people and god. Another meaning of the word Musubi is 'procreation'. It also signifies the entering of the spirit into the body. The shrine building for 12 Kumano gods used to be at the Nachi Waterfall in ancient times until 1700 years ago when it was moved to the present shrine building. The main deity of the shrine is Kumanofusuminookami, also known as, Izanaminomikoto.
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Kumano Hayatama Shrine
This is one of the three Kumano Grand Shrines. The usual route for Kumano Mode pilgrims would be to travel down the Kumano River from Hongu to Shingu where they visited Hayatama Shrine, then they would proceed along the coast to Nachi Shrine located at Nachi Falls. The god of Hayatama is believed to have first descended onto Kamikura mountain then migrated to the present site by Kumano River. The name Shingu (new palace) came from the fact that this was the new place to which the god moved from Kamikura. Based on this myth, there is a famous festival still celebrated every February called 'Oto Matsuri' (Fire Torch Festival). At Hayatama Shrine there is also a museum of national treasures and a Memorial Centre for Sato Haruo (a famous local writer).
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Tamaki Shrine
Tamaki shrine is located near the summit of Tamaki Mountain in Totsukawa Village in Nara Prefecture. It is unique and special in that it is relatively untouched by the vulgarities of the modern tourism trade. It preserves a spiritual atmosphere reminiscent of the days when Kumano Mode was at its peak.
It has an atmosphere unlike any other shrine in Kumano, surrounded by trees, some of which are 1000-3000 years old. When Kobodaishi (a famous monk who introduced Buddhism to Japan in the Nara era) visited this shrine he was duly impressed, saying, 'This is the center of 'ki' of the world!' It is said that the shrine was built about 1800 years ago during the reign of the 10th emperor Sujin to chase away evil spirits. Standing in front of the shrine, in deep prayer, you will feel sure that the god of this shrine will appear ready and able to save the world.
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Ike Shrine
Ike Shrine in ShimoKitayama Village in Nara Prefecture is famous as the shrine in which a powerful 'Rain God' is deified. It is also claimed that this shrine is for a deity who resides in the 'Gracious Deity Pond' nearby. The shrine is renovated every 21 years even now. Its main festival falls on November 3 which is a national holiday called Bunka no Hi ('Culture Day'). On this day this usually quiet shrine becomes crowded with visitors from all over.
There are many mysterious legends regarding the 'Gracious Deity Pond' at Ike Shrine. It is not a spring, nor does it have an inflowing or out flowing stream. Yet the water level is said to always remain the same regardless of external conditions. It is believed that the deity who secretly resides in the pond controls its flow. The pond is one of Kumano's most mysterious locations and defies rational explanations. The legend goes like this: Long ago, there was a giant snake living at the foot of Kasagiyama Mountain. This snake did all sorts of bad deeds to torment travellers and villagers who came by. Then, one day 'En no Gyoja', one of the founders of Mountain Buddhism, came along and exterminated it. When he stepped on the body of the snake, it was torn into three pieces, its head and limbs were thrown into 'Sarusawa Pond' in Nara, Shimoichigi in Kishu, and its torso remained here in Myojin Pond.
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Kokuo Shrine
This small shrine lies quietly along the river deep in the mountains of Totsukawa. This was built for Emperor Keicho of Nanbokucho whose life ended tragically. During the 14th century Japan had a Northern and a Southern Emperor. In the constant struggle for power between these two factions Emperor Keicho of Nancho (Southern Dynasty) died at Tennokawa (upstream of Totsukawa River), attacked by the Northern Dynasty of the Nanbokucho Era. His body was cast into the river, but the locals downstream searched for him in earnest in order to give his body a proper burial with honor. His tomb is called 'Nantei ryo' and lies close to 'Kokuo Shrine'. We can imagine the mortification which the locals must have felt when they buried their own emperor after his violent and untimely death.
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Hana no Iwaya
This is said to be the first place where a god was buried in Japan. Therefore, this place has been said to be the entrance to the other world. This supports the idea of Kumano as a place of rebirth. It is said that in Kumano 'you die and gain new power from the world beyond in order to revive yourself again in this world'. Hana no Iwaya is a power spot particularly representative of the unique 'great rock' worship tradition found all over Kumano. The cave at the bottom of the huge 56 metre rock wall faces the sea and once a year becomes the centre of a local festival. There are no shrine buildings, only a small altar surrounded by round pebbles which gives the place a mysterious atmosphere. Standing here you can hear the roar of the sea from above your head as the sound of the waves echoe against the cave.
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Ooma Shrine
There are a couple of huge cedars which stand like a married couple in the precincts of this shrine. Legend has it that this is the place where Tagamaru's body was buried after being conquered by Sakanouenotamuramaro. A heavenly maiden which Sakanouenotamuramaro met at Eboshi Rock (small island near Kumano City) is said to have been a messenger of the deity of this shrine. It seems that since ancient times Kumano has accepted and deified defeated historical figures like Tagamaru and Nishikitobe.
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Nagisano Miya
Nagisano Miya, located in Hamanomiya in NachikatsuuraTown, once thrived as one of the Kumano Tsukumo Oji Shrines. In ancient times the pilgrims would bathe in the sea to purify body and mind in front of this shrine. Even nowadays, on the night before the shrine's annual ceremony, the young people of the area do the same purification as did the ancient pilgrims. The Kumano Kodo Old Road splits into two routes at Tanabe. One going by way of Oheji along the sea, and the other by way of Nakaheji which passes through the mountains. Both of these paths meet again here in Hamanomiya. From here pilgrims would travel along Nachidani valley onward to the Nachi Grand Shrine.
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Oomori Shrine
This shrine is famous for its festival which is commonly called the 'Doburoku (unrefined sake) Festival' near Kumano City in Mie Prefecture. This shrine has a special rice paddy used only for growing rice for this sake. On the day of the festival, after offerings have been made to the gods, sake made from this paddy is then offered to visitors and the party continues on through the night. This festival's official name is 'Shimotsuki (November) Festival'. As the name indicates, it is held on November 23. They start making sake on October 15 every year. This unrefined non-transparent white sake is made in 4 stages called 'mosutori, hatsuzoe, nakazoe, and todome'. In the early morning of November 22, it is prepared by a 'tonin' who has undergone a form of water purification to prepare his mind and body for the festival.
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Owase Shrine
The peculiar 'Yaaya Matsuri' (Yaaya Festival) is held under the direction of this shrine. The festival is held every February along with the 'daimyo gyoretsu' (feudal lord parade) and the 'dochu teodori' (dancing parade) when the whole town is covered in decorations on that day. A lion's mask is kept in the 'lion building' at the shrine and is designated as a prefectural cultural asset.
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Kitayamagu Shrine
Kitayamagu Shrine is the place where the leaders of 'Nancho' government hid themselves to try to recover from a military setback. In the latter half of the battle between Nancho (South Dynasty) and Hokucho (North Dynasty), which lasted 60 years, survivors of Nancho retreated to Kitayama Village and tried to re-gather their forces. The villagers in Kitayama welcomed them with joy and honored them in 'Kitayamagu' or 'Kitayama Palace'. 'Kitayamagu' remains as it was on the foot of the mountain to tell of this story even today.
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Asuka Shrine
It is said that the god of Kumano first descended on Mt. Kamikura, passed Asuka Shrine, then settled in Hayatama Shrine. In ancient times Asuka and Kamikura shrines were famous practice places for Mountain Buddhist monks. In accordance with this practice the ritual of 'Sanshamairi' (three shrine visit) of the Otomatsuri. During that festival Noboriko, the participants in the Otomatsuri Festival, visit Asuka shrine, Hayatama Shrine, Myoshinji Temple before going up to Kamikura shrine. The god in Asuka Shrine is called Hayatamanomikoto. Within the shrine precincts lie the shrine buildings with the rooves thatched with cypress bark. Next to it is a model primeval house of the latter Yayoi Era which was restored from an excavated house within the shrine precincts and is now part of the Shingu Historical Folklore Museum.
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