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Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes
in the Kii Mountain Range

  • HOME
  • Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

The rare World Heritage that has "pilgrimage way"

One of only 2 World Heritage registered pilgrimages in the world. One of only 2 World Heritage registered pilgrimages in the world.Courtesy of Kumano Hongu Tourist Association

The Kii Mountains run through the 3 prefectures of Wakayama, Mie, and Nara, and this forested region has long been worshipped as a special place where gods reside.
The range stretches East to West and North to South with elevations of 1000 to 2000m high and ample rainfall throughout the year. The mystical atmosphere of the area has led to it being seen as a sacred site, fostering a number of religions.
Recognized as contributing to the development of Japan’s religious culture over more than a thousand years, this site was listed as World Heritage in 2004.
Each sacred site has a pilgrimage way leading to it, and this is one of the 2 rare World Heritages that has pilgrimage way with religious background (the other one is Santiago e Compostela in France and Spain).

Nature of the Kii Mountains in coexistence with religious culture.

Nature of the Kii Mountains in coexistence with religious culture. Nature of the Kii Mountains in coexistence with religious culture.Courtesy of Kumano Hongu Tourist Association

Sacred sites usually cover a wide range of beliefs and places of ascetic training, however in this case, it indicates 3 sites - Yoshino/Omine, Kumano Sanzan, and Mt. Koya.
Yoshino is known as the place where followers practise Shugendo, the original form of mountain worship; Kumano Sanzan is the birthplace of Shinbutsu-shugo, a special form of religion that merges Buddhism and Shinto; and Mt. Koya is the sacred site of Japanese Buddhism, where Kukai, the grand master who propagated Buddhist teaching, established a retreat.
The fact that religions with different origins and structures were fostered in this same area is said to be the most important characteristic of the Kii Mountains.
Also, while being cultural heritage, these temples, shrines and pilgrimage routes (Kumano Sankeido route, Omine Okugakemichi route, Koyasan Choishimichi route) also include important aspects of the natural landscape such as waterfalls, primeval forests, rivers, sea cliffs, rocks, and hot springs.
The religious culture has unified with the nature of the Kii Mountains and demonstrates how gods, Buddha, and humans have coexisted and evolved together.

Data

Site : Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range
Location : Mie, Nara and Wakayama Prefectures
Date of Inscription : 2004
Criteria : (ii) (iii) (iv) (vi)
Property : 495 ha
Buffer zone : 1,137 ha

The official website of The World Heritage Centre
"Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range"
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1142

Location map

No. Heritage Assets
1 Yoshinoyama
2 Yoshino Mikumari-jinja
3 Kimpu-jinja
4 Kimpusen-ji
5 Yoshimizu-jinja
6 Ominesan-ji
7 Kumano Hongu Taisha
8 Kumano Hayatama Taisha
9 Kumano Nachi Taisha
10 Seiganto-ji
11 Nachi no Otaki
12 Nachi Primeval Forest
13 Fudarakusan-ji
14 Niutsuhime-jinja
15 Kongobu-ji
16 Jison-in
17 Niukanshofu-jinja
18 Tamaki-jinja (Omine Okugakemichi)
19 Kumano Sankeimichi (Hananoiwaya-jinja)
20 Koyasan Choishimichi
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