We take a train from Kyoto and then a bus to Takijiri-oji to begin our hike.
For over 1000 years, pilgrims have made an arduous pilgrimage, using a network of trails to sacred Shinto sites in the mountains south of Kyoto: Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha
Shintoism is the ancient religion of Japan, originating as long ago as 1000 BCE. Shintoism includes belief in Kami — spirits, essences, or gods that exist in the natural world. These gods can aid those asking help through rituals. Many Japanese engage in Shinto rituals without thinking of themselves as being Shinto practitioners — it is part of their cultural heritage.
We visit the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Center. The map above Karen shows the pilgrimage route.
We will walk from Takijiri-oji to Takahara and spend the night at the Takahara Lodge.
Historical marker – beginning of the trail
We walk under the torii.
The Kumano Kodo and the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) in Spain and Portugal are the only two pilgrimage routes registered as UNESCO World Heritage. We pass a stamp center — for pilgrims to stamp their credentials.
Examples of stamps — indicating that the pilgrim has reached a particular “Oji.” Oji are subsidiary shrines of the Kumano Grand Shrines that line the trail. They are places of ritual worship and rest.
Shrine with Jizo statues. Jizo is a Buddhist Bodhisattva — a being who has vowed to help others attain enlightenment.
After a long climb, we reach the ridge.
Buddhist shrine – Shinbutsu-shutout is the belief that Japanese (Shinto) deities are local manifestations of Buddhist figures.
The view from Takahara
The view from our lodge room — Kari-no-Sato Takahara Lodge
View over a rice paddy
In the morning, we walk towards Chikatsuyu-oji. I am not performing rituals. I am merely doing walking meditation.
For me, the pilgrimage is an inner path, a way inside.