God of water and cinnabarNiutsuhime-jinja Shrine

Niutsuhime no Okami, who has been enshrined in this shrine halfway up Koyasan for more than 1,700 years, is a goddess considered to have propagated agriculture in Kii and Yamato province. She is deeply connected to water. The shrine territories, which were donated by Emperor Ojin along with shrine buildings, are the source of water for agriculture in the northwest Kii Mountains. Since Kukai received part of the land granted to the shrine 1,200 years earlier and opened the Koyasan temple complex, the shrine has been known as the head shrine in Japan deifying Niutsuhime no Okami as the guardian deity of Shingon Buddhism. Niu refers to cinnabar, which is also a raw material of mercury, and it is thought that vermillion has the power to ward off evil spirits. Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine became the number one shrine in Kii Province because during the Mongol invasions of Japan, members of the shogunate prayed there, and then strong winds blew, allowing Japan to escape a national crisis. The sight of the brilliant vermillion-painted scenery — the four main inner shrines, which are the largest kasuga-zukuri inner shrines in Japan; the two-storied gate; the arched bridge and the torii — overwhelms everyone who sees it.

TEL:0736-26-0102 230 Kamiamano, Katsuragi- cho, Ito-gun
8:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (shrine office) Free to visit

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Sacred water ~Sacred water that connects nature, people ... and faith~

Abundant precipitation brings up forest deep in the Kii Mountains, and before long the water that cultivates that abundant forest turns into the enormous river and waterfall that have been deified by the people since antiquity.
The UNESCO World Heritage sites Kumano and Koyasan make up a special world created by the overwhelming power and natural processes of water — a world overflowing with "sacred water" that connects nature, people ... and faith.

A 'water city' in the mountains that is protected by a dragon and a water goddessKoyasan

The monk Kobo Daishi Kukai said of Koyasan, "It has east-flowing water, like a dragon stretched out from east to west." "East-flowing water" refers to the Odo-gawa River, which originates at the mountain peak Benten-dake at the west edge and flows east, wetting the entire mountaintop zone like a guardian dragon god. When Kukai founded the temple compound on Koyasan, his first priority was securing water, and he prayed for the coming of the water goddess Saraswati in seven locations that serve as water sources, including the summit of Benten-dake. Koyasan, which is still protected by one dragon and seven goddesses, can be said to be a sacred city of water.

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Kongobu-ji Head Temple

TEL:0736-56-2011 132 Koyasan, Koya Town, Ito-gun
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. *last admission time Entrance fee: ¥1,000

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Where the water spirits dwell quietlyOyunohara, Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine

The name of Oyunohara, the land where the Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Rain that creates abundant water and a laurel forest Shrine used to be located (2018 was the 2050th anniversary of its founding), means "sacred place where water deities are worshipped." The "yu" part of the name was formerly written with a character meaning "hot water" rather than the current one that means "worship." With that spelling, the name meant "place purified by sacred water." Also, when Kumano Hongu Taisha was affected by an extended drought, a ceremony was held to pray to the gods for rain. Oyunohara, where the water spirits dwell (water being the origin of life), is also compared to Mount Penglai, a paradise of eternal youth. In 2021, the first New Year's prayer there in 132 years was held.

Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand ShrineTEL:0735-42-0009 1110 Hongucho-hongu, Tanabe City
Contact the shrine office for visiting hours. Free to visit

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A divine spirit that shines like a jewel is the main enshrined deityKumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine is a shrine on the water pilgrimage route located at the mouth of the Kumanogawa River. It is one of the three Kumano Sanzan shrines. The main enshrined deities are Kumano Hayatama no Okami and Kumano Fusumi no Okami, a married couple. Hayatama means a shining spirit, and it is a name to praise the powerful vitality of the god. A sacred nagi tree 1,000 years old grows here. It is said to have been planted personally by Taira no Shigemori and is the largest in Japan. "Nagi" is pronounced the same as a Chinese character that means "calm," so the tree is a symbol of tranquility and peace. It is said that guides gave pilgrims to the Kumano region a nagi leaf when they visited to symbolize wishes for a safe journey. The god of Kumano resides in a single leaf.

TEL:0735-22-2533 1 Shingu, Shingu City
6:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (vary with seasons)
Free to visit

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Water of life that has fallen continuously since antiquityKumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine Betsugu Hiro-jinja Shrine

Nachi Waterfall was first discovered by Emperor Jimmu. It is said that he made his way to it after seeing a light shining in the mountains. Based on a legend that an elixir of eternal youth sank in the basin of the waterfall, it has attracted adherents who believe the water grants longevity. Pilgrims still come to drink it to this day. The fundamental idea of the Kumano faith is great reverence for nature, and Nachi Waterfall, whose flow of life-granting water never ceases, can truly be called a symbol of that.

TEL:0735-55-0321 1 Nachisan, Nachikatsuura Town
7:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Free to visit (visiting the waterfall worshiping spot ¥300)

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Rain that creates abundant water and a laurel forestThe forest of Kumano

The Kumano region is a place with abundant water. For example, the distance between the mouth of the Nachi-gawa River and Nachi Waterfall is only 5 kilometers as the crow flies, and it is less than 1 kilometer from Nachi Waterfall to the source of the river. That means there is only 6 kilometers between the source of the water, from where it goes on to become a waterfall, to the place where it flows into a river. You can tell just how abundant the water is from the fact that an enormous waterfall and river come into being within in such a short stretch of land. That is because of its environment of high rainfall — more than 3,000 millimeters per year — due to the strong effect of the Kuroshio Current and the laurel forest that has developed there. From the abundant forest of the Kumano region a person should be able to feel an aura of energy bubbling up from the ground.