Kumano Kodo, the great pilgrimage route in Japan

Kumano Kodo is the great pilgrimage route in Japan, paths that run through a sacred region for various religions such as the Kii Peninsula.

Beyond the Camino de Santiago, which we all know more or less well because of what it catches us close to, there are other pilgrimage routes in other countries of the world, which also go beyond the Christian religion. Today we are going to know one of those different or less known pilgrimage routes, Kumano Kodoin Japan.

This pilgrimage route has more than a millennium of history and its objective is to reach the three sacred shrines of Kumano. These three temples, collectively known as the Kumano Sanzan, are Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha, and all three are located in the Kii Mountains, on the peninsula of the same name to the south of the great Japan island. This region is sacred to various religious currents.

Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Routes

In the year 2004, the pilgrimage routes to Kumano were declared as a World Heritage Site, a hallmark that only has another pilgrimage route in the world, the Camino de Santiago. These two “paths” have been twinned for a long time, and beyond this they have another characteristic in common, since both are not one route but several, with different points of origin to the same point of destination. In fact, even the different routes can be started in different places and alternative paths.

These are the main routes that reach the shrines of Kumano:

  • The Nakaechi Route, which is the most popular. It is also known as the Imperial Route, because it was the one used by the nobility and emperors to reach Mount Kii, and it can be done in four or five days.
  • The Kohechi Route, a mountainous route and not suitable for everyone because mountains above a thousand meters of altitude are crossed. One of those mountains is Mount Koyasan, which is one of the sacred places for Buddhism in Japan.
  • The Ohechi Route, or coastal route. In the past, it was a fairly popular route but today it has practically disappeared and is only suitable for the most adventurous who seek to discover roads and trails that are barely marked.
  • The Iseji Route, which leads to a city, Ise, where there is a shrine with more than a hundred little centenarians in it. This great Ise Shrine is a sacred place for Shintoism.
  • The Omine Okugake Route, a route that leads to Yoshino-Omine. This is a sacred region for the followers of shugendo, a spiritual practice typical of Japan and very old, but still has some followers.

Photo 1 | Flickr – Big Ben in Japan
Photo 2 | Flickr – Nao Iizuka

Japan Leisure and culture #Roads #Religious routes