Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Kumano Kodo: Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine, Seiganto-ji Temple and Nachi Falls

Of the three shrines that comprise the Kumano Sanzan shrines, the last shrine we visited was the Kumano Nachi Taisha. On our recent camping trip, we had not sure we would visit all three shrines, but we were sure we would make it atleast to the Kumano Nachi Taisha. Like the Kumano Hongu Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha is one of the main destinations on the sacred Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes, collectively forming part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. 
The Kumano Nachi Taisha is a large complex with temples, shrines and other sites and is a good example of the unique fusion and harmonious co-existence of Buddhism and Shintoism. The Kumano shrines have been worshipped and visited for centuries and date back to the time before Buddhism was introduced to Japan. When Buddhism was introduced to the Kumano region somewhere in the 6th century, the Buddhist deities were depicted as versions of Japanese Shinto Kami and the concept of Shinbutsu Shugo evolved which promoted the harmonious coexistence of Buddhist and Shinto beliefs. The Nachi Shrine is a living proof of this concept. 
The Nachi Taisha Shrine (Shinto) and the Seiganto-ji Temple (Buddhist) stand next to each other and had functioned as one religious institution for a large part of history. 

Paved stone routes through the woods lead visitors up to the hill to the shrine and the temple. 

The Nachi Falls at 133 meters is often credited as the tallest waterfall in Japan and figures in the three best waterfalls of Japan along with Fukuroda-no-Taki in Ibaraki prefecture and Kegon Falls in Tochigi Prefecture.
The Nachi Waterfall has been worshipped over the centuries in line with the Shinto belief of worshipping nature.
Visitors can offer prayers to the waterfall at the Hiro shrine at the foot of the waterfall. 
The Kumano Nachi Taisha is said to have been originally located near the foot of the mountain and was moved to its current location later. The waterfalls make a majestic sight even from the distance.

The Seigantoji temple, a Tendai Buddhism temple, next door is said to have founded by a Buddhist priest who had arrived in Kumano in the 4th century from India. Interesting to note is that the temple's foundation is said to date to the 4th century while Buddhism was introduced to Japan from China in 6th century. 

The wooden hall of the temple was built in 1590 and is said to be the oldest building in Kumano area.

The three storied Pagoda of the Seigantoji temple and the Nachi Falls in the backdrop make up a spectacular sight.

We couldnt resist clicking shots of the waterfall and the pagoda from different spots either !

We saw many visitors dressed up in Heian period costumes and getting photographs clicked against the spectacular scenery. 
An interesting sight was seeing some young girls in historical costumes clicking selfies of themselves on the cellphone.

Address: Wakayama Prefecture, 649-5301, Higashimuro District, Nachi Katsura cho, 
               Nachisan  8 

Phone: 0735-55-0001

Opening hours : Kumano Nachi Taisha and Seigantoji Temple - 8:30-16:30 hrs
                          Nachi Waterfall: 6:00-16:30 hrs

Admission: Free for the Shrine, Waterfall and Temple. 
                  300 yen for Nachi Shrine Treasure Hall
                  300 yen for Waterfall viewing platform
                  200 yen for Seiganto-ji pagoda

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