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Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

This pilgrimage route runs down to the south along the east coast of the Kii Peninsula, mostly used by those on a pilgrimage for Kumano Sanzan from the eastern part of the country. Connecting Ise Jingu (also known as the Ise Shrine) and Kumano Sanzan, it is characterized by many severe mountain slopes with sections of stone pavement remaining here and there.
The Iseji had been established as a pilgrimage route by the late 10th century; however, it was not until the 17th century that the number of people using this route increased to a significant level, as pilgrimage to Ise Jingu and the Saigoku pilgrimage starting with Seiganto-ji became popular. The Iseji starts from Tamaru, where it connects to the Ise Honkaido, a pilgrimage route to Ise Jingu, and forks at the Hana no lwaya into the "Shichiri-mihamamichi" Ieading to Kumano Hayatama Taisha via the Shichiri-mihama coast and "Hongumichi", which is the inland course leading to Kumano Hongu Taisha.
The Shichiri-mihamamichi, which is also known as "Hamakaido", extends along the Shichiri-mihama sand-gravel seacoast from Kinomoto, Kumano City to Shingu Crty with "Oniga-jo" and "Shishi-iwa", two scenic spots well known to people on pilgrimage, along the way.
The Hongumichi parts from the Shichiri-mihamamichi at the "Hana no lwaya" in Kumano City, which legend tells is the gravesite of lzanimi no Mikoto, the deity who created Japan, and goes through the mountain area and over the Kumanogawa River to Kumano Hongu Taisha.

The Kumano no Oniga-jo is a series of terraced caves that were produced through interactions between quartz trachyte cliffs and weathering processes of waves and winds. This spot is associated with the legendary story of Sakanoue no Tamuramaro's expedition to conquer Japanese ogres called Oni.

According to legend, the Hana no lwaya marks the location of the gravesite of lzanimi no Mikoto, the deity who created Japan in the origin mythology of Japan. As such, the shrine has been worshipped from generation to generation. The chief object of worship is a giant rock approximately 45m high, reminding the viewer of the ancient worshipping style at a time when there were no religious constructions for enshrining deities or giving prayers, as can be seen in contemporary shrines. Annually in February and in October, the "Hana no lwaya no Otsunakakeshinji" ceremony is observed in a manner which still retains the content of the ancient rites described in the mythology of Japan.

Like Oniga-jo, this lion-shaped rock out-cropping is the result of interactions between quartz trachyte cliffs and the weathering processes of waves and winds. It was introduced as a rarely-seen picturesque view along the Kumano Sankeimichi in a travelers' guidebook written in the Edo Period.

A flat sand and gravel coast which has been serving as an integral part of the pilgrimage route. Originally, people on a pilgrimage walked on the beach; after black pine trees were planted to make a windbreak forest in the early 17th century, people took their course through the forest. The magnificent landscape formed by the arched beachfront curving along a 22km stretch of the coastline has been treasured as the most scenic spot on the Iseji route.

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