The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage is a well recognized sacred site because of its perfect demonstration of the Japanese spirituality, cultural and natural heritage. The editors of the website, “Tanabe City Kumano Kodo Tourism Bureau”, said that Kumano Kodo is seen as a place where many will go to worship and seek for purification. Also, many worshipped nature in the landscape of the Kii Peninsula because everything from Kumano is seen as “kami”(gods), so walking through them was represented as a sacred act.
Kumano is significant because it still provides those objects of tradition and lifestyle of the ancient Japanese. For example, it has multiple ojis which are subsidiary shrines that are a place of worship, and are also seen as a guide and protection for visitors. Well it all began in the sixth century when Buddhism was being presented in Japan. Kumano eventually became their official site to have their meetings/trainings. During the 11th to the 13th centuries, the constant visit of the Imperial family to Kumano caused for it to be visited by others which they all wanted Kumano to become improved and assembled.
During the 14th to the 16th century, the Samurais took over and in where the Imperial power were fighting for their power and what was theirs, but in which failed. Kumano did get affected to the loss of the Imperial power, however, by the 15th century, everything was getting better and the sacred sites were spreading from the samurais to the public. This was when Kumano was starting to become relevant once again.
Kumano Bikuni nuns were spreading their faith all over Japan and many high income merchants and urban artisans were becoming interested in Kumano. Kumano and other sacred pilgrimages were being under construction because many people valued them and were trying to improve their surroundings. This really helped Kumano because it brought and engaged more people to come to visit it and made it popular. Yet, after World War II it faced a downfall once again but it recovered by the late 1990s. During this time was when many more people were coming to visit it and later in 2004, it became registered as a UNESCO World Heritage as the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”. This recognition caused many to come, experience, and witness the tradition, the culture, and the countryside lifestyle of many Japanese.
Furthermore, in a documentation called, “World’s best unknown hike: Japan’s Kumano Kodo” by Hiufu Wong, explains his experience throughout the whole journey. He and his grandfather had the opportunity to walk the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. Wong states, “.. the rest of the trail was relatively easy to get through — the biggest obstacle was all the stops for photos”, which means he believed that it wasn’t as tiring and he really enjoyed every moment of it. He says that it has been one great experience he has had because he got to observe many astonishing places and got to try delicious foods. Also, he was surprised on how the prices of both the food and accommodation were affordable and reasonable. Wong states that if you go for the whole Kumano Kodo hike, that it’ll take up to four to five days. He really loved the fact that in this hike, they provided a good transportation network that allows hikers to rest and continue the hike by either bus or train. He was also fascinated to see that the people that were either born or raised around there are so nice and enjoy seeing people coming to visit. For example, Wong encountered this man named Matsumoto Seiko and the man told him that he has led twelve tours just in April. In addition, Wong states that “Chikatsuyu-oji and Kumano Hongu Taisha are the towns where most Kumano Kodo visitors crash for the night” as well as Takahara Kiri-no-Sato, and Takahara Lodge, however, he stayed at Fuziya and he says that it was only $151 per night, including two meals. He’s reason of staying was not only because it was a reasonable price but also because he says that’s the only place they digged holes to create outdoor bathing areas. In other words, his final suggestion is that if you’re more of a simple person, you’ll like to go eat to the local Wakayama food because it’s “fulfilling” and “far less exhausting to deal with”. There are also many restaurants in both Tanabe City and Nachi Katsuura which are indeed very famous too. Overall, he says, “So, was that uphill torture worth it? Of course — what great hike isn’t?”, which means he had no regrets hiking the Kumano Kodo and recommends it to all.
In addition, Kumano Kodo has become a benefit to the civilization that lives near there. In a newspaper one of their highlights were “Paradise is given a chance” written by UPI Archive: General News, on November 25, 2003, which states that the public relations director of Wakayama, Michiaki Doi, believes that due to improved tourism, it can “increase employment and the growth of populations in the mountains, more care for forest conservation, and more tourists for the local economy”. All indicates that tourism will help the community there because it’ll open a door of more opportunities and help their economy. This is one of the reasons why Kumano is important and valued so much.
Lastly, the reasons that this pilgrimage appeals to me is due to its significance and beauty. It came to a consideration because like stated by N.a. on the video, “World Heritage Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Routes”, Kumano Kodo is a great place to begin and appreciate the true beauty of Japan. This place is to “purify your body, mind, and soul” which is something I’m really looking forward to do. Kumano Kodo is so soothing and green that it’s the right place to admire and connect with nature. I’ll get to experience and learn about their heritage and values. In this pilgrimage, it provides seven different routes to get there and each has its significance and beauty. In each you can vary from seeing temples, forests, and waterfalls. Also, the routes can range from getting you there in hours to even several days. In each route, like mentioned before, if the hiker feels tired, there is transportation provided to continue it. I would like to hike through the Nakahechi route, it will began at the Shintō shrine Takijiri-ōji and this is where many people see rivers in which they were considered “the healing river waters”. Continuing uphill, people will see the “the village in the mist” which is for the visitors to stay for the night, which is where I’m planning to stay because of its mysteriousness and it has decent buildings to stay in. You’ll also get to see the ancient pines, Kumano Hongū Taisha, the grand shrines, perched over tree-covered ridge, Japan’s largest torii gate (shrine gate), and lastly, after the long, steep elevation, the visitors will get to see Nachi-no-taki, Japan’s tallest waterfall. These are all very amazing to observe, connect, and value their beauty. In the video by N.a. it states, that this route is “the route of spirituality” and it’s sacred because it “connects people’s thoughts and emotions”. Also, I would like to go to the famous restaurants which is in Tanabe City because it’s a “safe place for non-Japanese speakers to fully experience delicious local cuisine in an authentic environment” and the food is fresh and costs a reasonable price.
In conclusion, Kumano Kodo is a perfect demonstration of the Japanese spirituality, cultural and natural heritage. It has a beautiful view, you can range from seeing the ancient pines, Kumano Hongū Taisha, the grand shrines, perched over tree-covered ridge, Japan’s largest torii gate (shrine gate), and Nachi-no-taki, Japan’s tallest waterfall. It offers great things to not only hikers and visitors but also to the people that live there. It welcomes visitors to enhance their spirit and seek for relaxation. This trail is not tough, it provides transportation, costs of accommodations are very cheap, and the people there are very nice.