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sacred sites and pilgrimage routes in the kii mountain range
On July 7th 2004 "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range" were granted World Heritage status. It consists of three sacred sites "Yoshino Omine" which is a place for the "self training", " Kumano sanzan" which is the center of Kumano belief and "Koyasan" which is a place for Shingon esoteric Buddhism and the pilgrimage route connects those places. From ancient times they have been special sacred sites for Shinto and Buddhism; fueled by various beliefs such as nature worshipping Shinto and Buddhism from China.

  Sacred site Koyasan
Koyasan is located in about 30km west southwest of the "Yoshino Omine mountains". It is a sacred site whose head temple is Kongobu-ji, built in 816 as the training grounds in mountains for Shingon esoteric Buddhism brought from China by Kukai. Garan in Kogobu-ji is a unique structure with hondo and tahoto based on the doctrine of Shingon esoteric Buddhism. It is a good model Garan of Shingon temples all over Japan. The deity of Nibutsuhhime jinja is the local god around koyasan, they say the god gave the place to Kukai and enshrined as tutelary deity of Kongobu-ji.

  Sacred site "Kumano sanzan"
Kumano sanzan is located southeast of the Kii mountains. There are three shrines "Kumano hongu, Kumano hayatama, Kumano Nachi" which are about 20 - 40km apart and two temples "Seiganto-ji, Fudarakusan-ji". It is said that the three shrines used to practice different forms of nature worship, but in the latter half of 10 century, they were united and came to be called "Kumano sanzan" or "Kumano sansho gongen. They became a place where many members of the imperial family and the aristocracy came to worship. Seiganto-ji and Fudarakusan-ji are called " Kumano nachi taisha" and have been combined and maintain worship of both Shinto and Buddhism.

  Pilgrimage road
As belief in the three sacred sites got more popular, the three pilgrimage roads called "Omine okugake-michi, Kumano sankei-michi, and Koyasan choishi-michi" were improved. These roads are training grounds for people to be close to the sacred places of Shinto and Buddhism. In a steep and clean natural environment, the roads remain well maintained and show a cultural scene full of mountains and forests. Omine okugake-michi, connects Yoshino Omine and Kumano sanzan which are two big sacred sites, they are considered the most important training places. Kumano sankei-michi is the pilgrimage road to Kumano sanzan. It consists of "Nakahechi" used frequently by people from around Kyoto, "Koheji" is connected to Koyasan, "Ohechi" is along the coastline in the southwest part of the Kii peninsula and "Iseji" is connected to Ise jingu. Koyasan choishi-michi is opened by Kukai from Jisonin from the foot of Koyasan to the top. There are stone made signs called choishi in every town.

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