The headquarters of Kumano shrines across Japan
The three sacred areas of Kumano in southern Kii Peninsula, Hongu, Niimiya, and Nachi, are collectively called the Three Mountains of Kumano. Kumano Hongu Taisha is the headquarters of all Kumano shrines across Japan, and has the most traditional atmosphere among the three mountain shrines. In the back of the torii gate of Hongu Taisha’s main path is a stone stairway of 158 steps lined with dedication flags and surrounded by thickly grown cedar trees, speaking of the shrine’s history. After passing through the gate, you will see a shrine with an impressive hinoki (Japanese cypress) bark thatching, exuding a solemn, majestic atmosphere. From here, walk for 10 minutes or so to reach Ohyunohara–where the main sanctuary had been located until 1889 when it was damaged by a flood–to see the grand, 34 meters high torii gate.
Japan’s oldest hot springs with a history of 1,800 years
Located only 3.4km away (10-minute drive) from Hongu Taisha, we recommend visiting Yunomine hot springs as well. It is known as Japan’s oldest hot springs with a history of 1,800 years. Yunomine retains the atmosphere of a traditional hot springs area. In spite of being listed as a World Heritage site, you can still take a bath at the rock bath Tsuboyu. It is said that the color of this natural hot springs bath changes seven times a day. Along the river is a hot springs facility called Yuzutsu where you can boil eggs and vegetables–available for purchase at stands–in natural, nearly boiling water. Ten minutes by car from Yunomine hot springs is Kawayu hot springs where the hot springs river, Ohto River, is located. When the bottom of this river is dug, hot water springs up! Kawayu is famous for the Sennin-buro River Bath, opened only from December to February, which is built by damming the Ohto River. A natural hot springs bath created by digging the river, as you can imagine, the size of this bath differs every winter. Nevertheless, it is a gigantic outdoor bath with an average length of about 50 meters. It is a wonderful experience to look up at the blue sky or the star-filled sky from this specious, open-air bath. Since it is a mixed bath open both to males and females, you are allowed to wear a swimsuit. We also recommend staying the night here since there is a wide selection of Japanese style inns at Kawayu hot springs.