Kumano Nachi Taisha – 熊野那智大社
In western Japan, at the southernmost tip of Honshū, extending over the Nara, Mie and Wakayama Prefectures, there is a place called the Kii Peninsula, which is almost untouched by human hands and full of nature.
As a matter of fact, this area is the location of a UNESCO World Heritage Site known by the name “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”.
This time we are going to introduce the charm of Kumano Nachi Taisha, in the Kii Peninsula. By the way, Kii Peninsula is the area with the greater amount of precipitation in Japan.
【What’s special about Kumano Nachi Taisha?】
The biggest attraction about Kumano Nachi Taisha is the waterfall on the background of the Shinto shrine. The Nachi falls boast a 133 m height and together with the Kegon falls in Nikkō, Tochigi Pref., and the Fukuroda falls in Ibaraki Prefecture, can be counted among the three famous waterfalls in Japan.
Moreover, looking at it from a religious point of view, Kumano Nachi Taisha is a shrine where Shinto and Buddhism meld. In the grounds it is possible to see both Shinto and Buddhist architectural styles.
【How to get to Kumano Nachi Taisha】
Kumano Nachi Taisha is in the southern part of Wakayama Prefecture and getting there takes a bit of time. A daily trip from a distance from Nagoya or around Osaka may be good.
First, take a shinkansen to Nagoya Station. In Nagoya take the “Nanki” Limited Express train and get off at the last stop, the Kii-Katsuura Station. It should take approximately 6 hours to get there from Tokyo.
First from Tennōji Station in the southern part of the Osaka Loop Line take the “Kuroshio” Limited Express train to Kii-Katsuura Station. It takes around three and a half hours.
All the route above described is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. However, note that the pass doesn’t allow you to ride on the “Nozomi” fastest Shinkansen, and this means that the journey will take you some 20-30 more minutes to reach Nagoya from Tokyo.
A direct flight is available from the Tokyo Haneda airport to Kii-Shirahama Airport. A ticket for the local line costs 30000 yen but if you buy it in advance it is possible in some case to receive a discount.
From Kii-Shirahama Airport take a Meiko bus to the Shirahama Station.
(Timetables for the Meiko bus, in Japanese: http://tinyurl.com/kl5mxny)
From Shirahama Station take a train to Kii-Katsuura Station.
・From Kii-Katsuura Station
From the station, take a Kumano Kotsu bus to Mount Nachi. There is roughly one bus every hour.
(Timetables for the Kumano Kotsu bus, in Japanese: http://tinyurl.com/lhg67qv)
I think it’s convenient to visit the Kumano area by car too. However, access from the Osaka/Nagoya area where there is no highway will probably take time.
Lodging and renting a car in the Kii peninsula is also suggested.
【My impression of Kumano Nachi Taisha】
I visited Kumano Nachi Taisha by car. From Osaka, following the coast of the Kii peninsula, as soon as I left the city of Wakayama I entered a world of nature.
On the way I stopped to take a break in Shirahama, but I remember that the sea was so beautiful that I wanted to swim, despite the fact that it was February.
The first night, I slept in a Youth Hostel at Shionomisaki, in the southernmost margin of Honshu.
The second day I left Shionomisaki and in about one hour with the car I arrived in Kumano Nachi Taisha, which is a bit on the inland.
Walking few minutes from the parking area there was the Daimonzaka, a part of the Kumano old road.
The Daimonzaka has beautifully paved stone steps and trees along both sides (these trees are the Japanese “sugi”, also known as “Criptomeria Japonica”, abundant on most of the Japanese Mountains). Daimonzaka is reasonably long, about 1.3km, and beyond the 260th step there was a magnificent tree called Meotosugi.
Climbing the Daimonzaka, I could see the Nachi falls in the distance.
That image appears alongside the beautiful three ordered red pagoda of the Seiganto-ji temple, it was a great poscard-like scene.
Climbed up all the Daimonzaka, there were many shops selling souvenirs and snacks.
Here was also the entrance to the Nachi Taisha.
Kumano Nachi Taisha scarlet main shrine surrounded by tall trees was very beautiful and impressive.