The most sacred pilgrimage in West Japan is the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, but even more popular is the Kumano Sanzan. Composed of three shrines along the Kii Peninsula, the Kamano Sanzan once attracted prince and pauper alike throughout the history of Japan. Of those shines, Kumano Hayatama Taisha [熊野速玉大社], is a bit smaller shrine compared the other two shrines, but it it still has its many charms.
Most people take one of the limited express trains to Shingu, but we took the local lines the entire way because our 18 kippu was still valid. I can’t say if I really recommend just taking the local lines however, as it took a total of 7 hours and the trains were old and a bit uncomfortable to sit for such a long time… the ocean was pretty though.
This city got its name “Shingu” because of Kumano Hayatama Taisha. The gods of Kumano Hayatama Taisha were originally enshrined in nearby Kamikura Shrine, but during the reign of Emperor Keiko, he relocated the shrine to its current location and renamed it “Shingu”.
Upon entering, there is a rather short path to honden.
Once you enter the shrine grounds, you will see the honden. The honden enshrines twelve gods including its principle gods, Kumano Hayatama no Okami and Kumano Fusumu no Okami. These two gods are also recognized as the Buddhist deitiesYakushi Nyorai and Senju Kannon and the Shinto gods, Izanagi and Izanami. All the other shrines in the Kumano Sanzan only have one principle god and no one knows why just this shrine has two.
Points of Interest
Kamikura Shrine [神倉神社]
After you visit Kumano Hayatama Taisha, don’t forget to visit Kamikura Shrine too! The shrine is quite important as Kumano Hayatama Taisha originated there. Kamikura Shrine is located a little ways down the road from Kumano Hayatama Taisha. Unfortunately there is no map to show you the way to Kamikura Shrine from Hayatama Taisha, so try not to get lost! Still, it’s rather simple to get there; just walk straight along the road in front of the museum.
Kamikura Shrine is located on the top of the mountain. You have to clime up 538 stairs to the top, but it takes only 15 minutes or so.
Behind the mountain is huge rock called gotobiki iwa [ごとびき岩]. It looks as if it is about to fall, but it has stayed like this for thousands of years. Ancient Japanese people felt something mysterious or even divine about this rock, and they started to worship this rock as a god. This is a great example of how Japanese Shintoism started.
Information: Kumano Hayatama Taisha
Shingu 1, Shingu City, Wakayama Prefecture
The closets station to Kumano Hayatama Taisha is the JR Shingu Station via the JR Kisei (Kinokuni) Line. It takes roughly 3 hours from Osaka by Limited Express Kuroshio or 3 hours from Nagoya on the Limited Express Nanki. Since the local line doesn’t have that many stops after Kii Natanabe Station, you probably should just take a limited express.
8AM – 5PM