World Heritage site, Kumano Sankeimichi path
Since about 2,000 years ago, the Kumano region has been considered as the Pure Land. The Kumano Kodo path is known as a place where people of all social classes, from commoners to aristocrats, walked to reach the remote land of Kumano in the mountainous area in hopes to be reborn in heaven while still living on earth. The three paths, Nakahechi, Ohhechi, and Kohechi, are collectively listed as a World Heritage site under the name “Kumano Sankeimichi” path. It is said that the Nakahechi path (also known by the name Kiiji) was traveled the most. The trip back and forth between the imperial capital Kyoto and Kumano meant walking about 600km. It is said that people traveled by foot to worship at Kumano Hongu Taisha in spite of all the hardships they had to endure during the nearly one month trip.
An easy hiking route for beginners
For beginners who want to experience the climax of the Kumano Kodo path leading up to the Kumano Hongu Taisha, there is an approx. 4km route that can be hiked in about 2 and a half hours. The trail starts from the easily accessible OkuKumano Kodo Hongu Roadside Station. You will pass by Fushiogami-ohji and will ultimately reach the Kumano Hongu Taisha. Ohji is a place for performing a ritual on the way to a shrine. Because there are a great number of ohji along Kumano Kodo, they are collectively called the 99 ohji (regardless of the actual number). It takes about 30 minutes to walk from the Roadside Station to Fushiogami-ohji; this portion includes uphill roads and stairs. From here, you will be walking on the Kumano Kodo path destined to the Kumano Hongu Taisha. Along the beautiful path from Fushiogami-ohji to the Hongu Taisha, cobbled pathways still remain in some parts and you will be walking through a village with terraced rice paddies and tea fields. This path is established relatively well with rest stops and guiding signs, making it a beginner-friendly route. From the observation platform, you can see the grand torii gate of Ohyunohara. It is an exceptional experience to walk along this path through beautiful woods, just like the people of the medieval period, to visit the Kumano Hongu Taisha.