Grand Shrines under Grand Weather


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August 25th 2018
Published: July 3rd 2019
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Enjoying the ViewEnjoying the ViewEnjoying the View

Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Shingū
Hello my fellow travellers!

I slept like a log during the night and the first thing I did when I wok up was to check the status on my camera. Unfortunately it was still taking photos as if I was standing in a fog, I decided to try it out during the day and if necessary switch to my mobile phone which was luckily in good shape. I went down and picked up the hairdryer again and took a photo of them next to each other as to not forget the life-saving (or phone-saving) process.

My clothes was all still moist and even my sutra had taken a hit yesterday although it was still readable. As I looked outside the window I could see that the storms had finally subsided even though it was still an overcast. I went online to check on any updates only to learn that the typhoon had knocked out the water-pump at my accommodation for tonight and because of that there'd be no available onsen there but the showers would still be functioning.

I went downstairs and ate a sturdy breakfast, even though I wouldn't really be spending a lot of energy today
Praying to the Kumano Sansho GongenPraying to the Kumano Sansho GongenPraying to the Kumano Sansho Gongen

Tsugizakura-ōji, Nonaka
I still wanted to regain some from the last couple of days. One of the owners of the minshuku offered to drive me down to the bus stop but I asked him if we could first go up by the Tsugizakura-ōji, the small wayside shrine located at the top of the village. He agreed and drove me up there and waited while I prayed to the Kumano Sansho Gongen and thanked them for the calm day ahead.

This wayside shrine is named after an event connected to what I mentioned in the post two days ago regarding the baby left by pilgrim Fujiwara no Hidehira and his wife. While they were here they planted a twig of a sakura, cherry tree, at this spot to pray for the well-being of the child. The twig took root and the descendants of this tree still grow here today.

With that visit the owner of the minshuku drove me down to the bus stop where I met Natascha and Stefano from yesterday. They had of course also gotten the same message as me and decided to also take the early bus from Nonaka to Hongū to visit the Kumano Hongū Taisha and then they were planning to visit the Kumano Hayatama Taisha in Shingū. My plan was to visit that on my last day before going to the Ise Grand Shrine but I was considering joining them and going there as well.

They had been sharing the accommodation with the young Dutch couple and told me that the girl in that couple had given up after learning about the broken onsen so they had ended their pilgrimage prematurely.

We got on the bus together and shared the ride up to Hongū which took about 45 minutes, the pilgrimage trail would have taken the better part of the day, it's quite amazing when you think about how things have changed over the centuries. What used to take days, months or even years is now accomplished in a matter of minutes or hours.

As we left the bus Natascha and Stefano decided to ascend the mountain upon which the Kumano Hongū Taisha stands while I instead went to take a look at the ōtorii, the great torii, that stands in a field leading up to the shrine. This is the largest torii in all of Japan and it was built in 2000 and took about a year to complete. The shrine itself is over 900 years old though although it has been both rebuilt and moved over the years.

Originally it stood at Ōyunohara but was moved to it's current location after being damaged in a flood in 1889. It also suffered severe damage in a fire in 1771 and was almost completely reconstructed in 1803 following original drawings of it to make it as identical as possible.

While I was at the ōtorii I took pictures with my camera to see how it would hold up, looking over them in the shade at the entrance to the shrine I was not to happy about them so I went back and took some new ones with my mobile phone. I kept one of the photos taken with the camera so that you can see the effect the typhoon had on it.

After this I ascended the steps up to the shrine and I met Natascha and Stefano on the way down. I told them about the ōtorii so they made their way over to it while I entered the premise of the shrine and arranged to receive
Shuin (Seal Stamp) of Kumano Hongū TaishaShuin (Seal Stamp) of Kumano Hongū TaishaShuin (Seal Stamp) of Kumano Hongū Taisha

Kumano Hongū Taisha, Hongū
the shuin while I went in to offer up a prayer to the kami enshrined here.

There are 12 kami enshrined here, four of them are enshrined in the three pavilions while the remaining eight are enshrined in two stone monuments. Before the shrine was damaged in the flood the kami used to be housed in five pavilions but only three were rebuilt.

On my way up I passed by a temizuya without running water in it. I imagine that the typhoon damaged it similarly to how it damaged my upcoming accommodation. As I entered through the mikado, or god's gate, the three pavilions came into view. The leftmost pavilion is split into two parts and enshrines two kami, the right part is called nakanogozen, the middle hall, and enshrines Hayatama. The left part is called nishigozen, or western hall, and enshrines his wife Fusumi.

To the right of them is shōjōden, or testimony hall, which enshrines Ketsumiko (the Kumano name of Susanoo) whom is also the main kami of the shrine. The fourth and final hall on the right is known as azuma gozen, or eastern hall, and enshrines Amaterasu.

Below these halls is a small inconspicuous sub-shrine called Manzan Shrine which enshrines the kami Yuhi whom I think represents the plethora of gods throughout the universe and a stone monument that enshrines the kami Haraedo.

After I felt content with my visit to the Kumano Hongū Taisha I went down to the bus stop below where I met Natascha and Stefano again and I decided to join them in going to Kumano Hayatama Taisha which is located in the town of Shingū.

The shrine here in Shingū is sort of split into two different spots located about 15 minutes away from each other. One of these is the Kumano Hayatama Taisha and the other is the Kamikura Shrine. The latter of these is the original shrine which is built at the site where the three Kumano Sansho Gongen descended to earth while the former was built later. That's where this town get it's name from, Shingū means "new shrine".

We decided to start with the Kumano Hayatama Taisha which enshrines Hayatama, the main kami of the shrine, and his wife Fusumi. As we entered the premise my eyes fell to a small structure to my right, this turned out to be
Shōjōden (Testimony Hall)Shōjōden (Testimony Hall)Shōjōden (Testimony Hall)

Kumano Hongū Taisha, Hongū
the Yatagarasu Shrine, a sub-shrine located on the premise which is dedicated to Yatagarasu, the three-legged crow that adorn the seals of the Kumano Grand Shrines. Yatagarasu is an incarnation of the great kami Taketsunimi and was sent by Amaterasu to aid and guide Emperor Jimmu on his conquest of ancient Japan.

I was surprised to find that there wasn't that many visitors to this shrine, similarly there hadn't been many visitors to the Kumano Hongū Taisha either and it was nice to be able to enjoy these two grand shrines in such peace and quiet. While we were progressing through the shrine I told Natascha and Stefano about Shintoism and a few details pertaining to the shrine, such as avoiding to walk in the middle of the path but to the sides. I showed them how to perform a proper temizu and how to pray at the shrine.

I also told them about the shuin and showed them to the juyosho, or amulet office, as I went to receive my own one. They bought their own shuinchō to receive their first shuin here and I think that Natascha also bought a omamori after I told her about them.

After Stefano and me made our way to the haiden that stands in front of all the halls which house the kami enshrined here and I showed him how to pray properly. While we were praying Natascha took a photo of us without us noticing. I think it's probably one of my favourite photos of the day.

Next to the halls where the kami are enshrined are two smaller shrines, the Shingū Shrine and the Kumano Ebisu Shrine and I paid my respects at both of them as well. All-in-all this shrine is very nice and you can see that it's very well taken care of. All the paint and wood is in pristine condition and it feels as if the shrine was built yesterday and not hundreds of years ago.

We also took a look at the sacred Nagi Tree that stands on the premise and which was supposedly planted Taira no Shigemori over 850 years ago. Shigemori was the favourite son of the leader of the Taira clan, Taira no Kiyomori. It's said that he died from grief of his father's stubborn and misguided treatment of his opponents. The leaves of this tree are
Shuin (Seal Stamp) of Kumano Hayatama TaishaShuin (Seal Stamp) of Kumano Hayatama TaishaShuin (Seal Stamp) of Kumano Hayatama Taisha

Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Shingū
tough and hard to break and because of that they've been used by women as charms to place at the back of their mirrors so that their relationships wouldn't be broken.

Once we all felt satisfied with the Kumano Hayatama Taisha we made our way over to the Kamikura Shrine, located about a 15 minute walk away. We entered the premise of the Kamikura shrine by crossing the small shinkyō, sacred bridge. While the bridge might carry the same name as the one in Nikkō the similarities between them sort of ends there are the bridge here is quite diminutive in stature.

Past the bridge stands another small shrine, the Sarutahiko Shrine which is dedicated to Sarutahiko, the kami who greets Ninigi, the grandson of Amaterasu, as he descends from the heavens to claim his new realm. At first Sarutahiko was unwilling to give up his domain to Ninigi but he was persuaded by Uzume whom he later married. Sarutahiko is one of only seven kami who carries the title of ōkami, great god, together with for example Inari as well as Izanami and Izanagi who created the Japanese islands.

Sarutahiko is also the patron kami of
Stefano and Me PrayingStefano and Me PrayingStefano and Me Praying

Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Shingū
martial arts and is especially important in aikido. I must, to my shame, admit that this is the first time that I've come across him this deeply. While I had previously read about the descent of Ninigi from the heavens, and about Uzume and her lewd dance that lured Amaterasu out of her hiding, I had never really noticed Sarutahiko before now. I was happy to learn about another of the great kami of Japan.

Access to the actual Kamikura Shrine is through a really steep flight of steps up the side of Mount Gongen and it was a pretty tough climb as the steps are quite uneven, it really took it out of all three of us.

The shrine is nestled beautifully (and dangerously) beneath the Gotobiki Rock which is where it's said that the kami of Kumano descended from the heavens. I ascended the final steps up to the shrine to offer my prayers under the supervision of the man in charge of the shrine who was there to change the offerings. After my prayer I sat down and began to chat with a lovely lady who was sitting there before. We chatted for a while
Sacred Nagi TreeSacred Nagi TreeSacred Nagi Tree

Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Shingū
before Natascha and Stefano told me that they were descending so I joined them and said my goodbyes to the nice lady.

Like with Mount Fuji the way down from Mount Gongen was almost harder than the way up because of the steep, hard and uneven nature of the steps, but it was at least blissfully short. On the way down we passed a small shrine marked as a fire shrine, I imagine that this is part of the Oto Festival, a fire festival that's held here every year on February 6. Only men and boys are allowed to attend the festivals while women watch from a distance. The festival entails that the men and boys race down this path while carrying flaming torches, I imagine that it's a chaotic but amazing experience to behold.

As we made our way down the mountain we all began to feel a bit hungry so I asked some of the locals for directions to the nearest convenience store. I got the directions to a FamilyMart a few blocks over and so we walked over there and I introduced Natasha and Stefano some of the available delicacies. I picked up some myself
Sarutahiko ShrineSarutahiko ShrineSarutahiko Shrine

Kamikura Shrine, Shingū
as well in order to complement the lunch that my accommodation had provided for me. While eating we found a huge (dead) insect on the ground that I certainly wouldn't want flying into me as it would probably knock me out.

After lunch we returned to the bus stop to catch a bus back to Hongū, but rather then going all the way to the shrine we would jump of in Yunomine, also a part of Tanabe, where we were set to stay for the night. We had different accommodations though. While we were waiting for the bus I took my mind of the sweltering heat by conversing with a lovely elderly lady while Natascha and Stefano rested.

The bus ride back went smoothly and the view was gorgeous as we drove alongside the Kumano River. We were all pretty tired after climbing up Mount Gongen in the oppressive heat but we were all happy about the day. I must admit though that I think this would have been a nice day to walk the actual pilgrimage trail, however I'm not sure if I would have had the time to visit both the Kumano Hayatama Taisha and the
Enjoying a Good ConversationEnjoying a Good ConversationEnjoying a Good Conversation

Kamikura Shrine, Shingū
Kamikura Shrine with my original schedule so this was probably for the best all things considered.

As we arrived in Yunomine said my goodbyes to Natascha and Stefano as their time on the Kumano Kodō pilgrimage trail ends today while I still have a few days left to go. After we said our goodbyes I made my way over to my new accommodation, the Yoshinoya Ryokan, to check in and drop of my backpack. I enquired about dinner as well as the status of the onsen and was told that the onsen was unfortunately still out of order but that dinner would be served in about an hour and a half.

With some time to kill I took a stroll around the town for a while to see the famous Tsuboyu Onsen, one of the oldest onsen in Japan and probably the only one bathing spot in the world that is a World Heritage Site. I also took a look at the Tokō-ji, a small temple located in the centre of town and the Yuzutsu, a public onsen cooking basin.

After my short stroll I returned to the Yoshinoya Ryokan where I took a shower and got
Natascha, Stefano and MeNatascha, Stefano and MeNatascha, Stefano and Me

Kamikura Shrine, Shingū
dressed in my yukata, the light cotton kimono, and then I joined the other guests for dinner. I sat close to the Hawaiian couple I met the other day. They told me that they actually had walked the distance from Chikatsuyu and that while the road had been difficult at spots it had been possible to walk it in it's full length.

They told me that they had planned to have a day of rest here in Yunomine and then go by bus to the Kumano Nachi Taisha, the last of the Kumano Grand Shrines that I have left to visit. They told me that they might still however take some walks around this area tomorrow. I imagine that I'll probably meet them again in Nachikatsuura, the town by the Kumano Nachi Taisha, the day after tomorrow as there only seemed to be one accommodation available there.

For me though I'm looking at a decent hike tomorrow to the small town of Koguci, located within the precincts of Shingū, similar to how Takahara, Nonaka, Chikatsuyu and Yunomine have all been located within the precincts of Tanabe.

I'm looking forward to the hike tomorrow, the leisure day of
Delicious Evening MealDelicious Evening MealDelicious Evening Meal

Yoshinoya Ryokan, Yunomine
today combined with the great weather have replenished my energy storage and I have a feeling that tomorrow will also be an amazing day!

Until tomorrow I wish you all peace and happy travels!


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6th July 2019
Enjoying a Good Conversation

Enjoying a good conversation
You share many of your fine qualities of determination, endurance and devotion in your blogs Per-Olof, but this one shows magnificently one of the finest...your time shared with locals and by so doing entering their lives and sharing stories they are so willing to hear and tell. One of our favourite times in all our travels was with a rickshaw driver over lunch in a peasant restaurant in the Fragrant Hills out of Beijing, who was one of the poorest men we have ever met but our time with him over two days was one of the richest.
10th July 2019
Enjoying a Good Conversation

Enjoying a good conversation
Thank you my dancing friend. =) One of the best parts of travelling is the people you meet, they often stand out more in memory than the monuments you visit. =)
6th July 2019
Huge Insect

Huge Insect
This is a cicada. We always know when summer is coming or has arrived in Oz when the cicadas start drumming.
10th July 2019
Huge Insect

Huge Insect
Ah, so that's what the look like, I hear them a lot in Japan but I've never actually seen one. I think there are seven or eight different species in Japan. =)
6th July 2019
Yuzutsu

Yuzutsu
It is places or scenes like this that capture my imagination and make travel so rewarding.
15th July 2019

Clear Day
Yay! Glad to read that the typhoon finally ended, and that you had some good weather on your day off rest, my friend. I hope all your things continued to dry out nicely.
16th July 2019

Thank you!
It was indeed very welcome with some good weather by this point. ☺

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