Wednesday, May 6, 2015

2015 Japan Cherry Blossom Trip 08: The God's Sacred Place, Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine

After climbed up the Omotesando stairs, there is a platform before entering Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine. From here, the visitors could enjoy the view of rolling hills. Two red torii of Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine could be seen at the back.

One of the major attractions at Kumano, the Nachi Fall

A T-junction appears when we reached the first torii. Left is Nachi Grand Shrine, while right is Seiganto Temple. It is strongly suggested to go Nachi Grand Shrine first because the route at hilltop are facing towards right.

The first torii, the words on the plate means "Kumano Gods of Mt. Nachi"

"To the right is Seiganto Temple of Mt. Nachi, the first stop of Saikoku (Pilgrimage)"
"World Heritage, the Three Kumano Mountains, Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine" (words on big rock)

Name of the main gods of Kumano Gongen

Shrine is the religious place for Shinto religion and each shrine has its own god. The gods of Kumano are called collectively as Kumano Gongen, which appears in the first torii shown in photo above.

There are 3 major shrines in Kumano area, which are also known as the Three Kumano Mountains. Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine is one of them. The god that worshiped in this shrine is Kumano-Musumi-no-Kami, who also has other names including Izanami. Due to the co-existence of Shinto and Buddhism in Japan, Musumi also corresponds to the Thousand-Hand Guanyin of Buddhism. The statue appears as an image of goddess.

On the board above, there are another two main gods. One of them is Mikohayatama-no-Kami in Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine, who also corresponds to the Medicine Buddha and appears as mortal image. Another one is Ketsumiko-no-Kami in Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine, who also corresponds to the Amitabha Buddha and appears as immortal image. Together with another 10 small gods, they protect and bless the area of Kumano.

Chozuya, a place where worshipers wash their hands and mouth at shrines or temples.

Following is the common way of using Chozuya:
1. Bow first, then scoop with water ladle by right hand;
2. Wash left hand first, then hold the ladle with left hand and wash right hand;
3. Hold the ladle with right hand again, use left hand to hold water and rinse the mouth quietly. (Do not drink it directly from ladle) ;
4. Cover the mouth with left hand and spit the water out;
5. Wash left hand again, then hold the ladle with single (right) hand vertically to allow the water rinsing the ladle from top to bottom;
6. Put back the ladle to original place quietly and bow again as ending.

This is the Tahuke-ooji Shrine described previously. It has been moved to here.

After the first part of the stairs, we took a rest at the platform before climbing the coming steeper stairs.

There is a horse (of course not a real one) in this Shinme urn. Shinme means the horse sacrificed for shrine in japanese.

The second torii

It's the sacred area of Nachi Grand Shrine when reach at the top. Lot of sake could be seen at there.

Haiden (拝殿, oratory),omamori (お守り, japanese amulets) and souvenirs are sold at both sides

Miagatahiko-sha (御県彦社), where Taketsunumi-no-mikoto (建角身命) is worshiped. According to the legend, this god became Yatagarasu (three-legged crow) and led Emperor Shinmu during his expedition to the East. Therefore, Yatagarasu is served as a guardian of traffic safety in Japan.

Takaramono-den (宝物殿, Treasure Hall). The cultural heritage of Kumano Gongen belief is exhibited here.

Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine is built in Edo Period. It is also served as the head shrine of more than 4000 Kumano shrines nationwide. To understand more about this heritage, I have translated the introduction above:

This place is known as Kumano. Kuma means the deepest place or the hidden place in Japanese, therefore this place is thought to be a sacred place where gods are living. Kuma also has same meaning with kami, which is gods in Japanese, so Kumano is the place where gods are living.

Kamuyamatoiwarehiko-no-mikoto (神倭磐余彦命) landed here. He was led to the land of Yamato by Yatagarasu and became Emperor Shinmu. During that time, Nachizan belief, which worship the Nachi Fall, started in this area. The locals believe that the Nachi Fall is one of the Three Pioneer Gods, Ohonamuchi (大己貴命) and they built shrines in this area about 1680 years ago.

Since ancient times, Nachizan Kumano Gongen is also well known as "The great shrine of Japan". The main god of Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine is Kumano Musumi-no-Kami, who is also the first goddess of Japan, or Izanami. She and another 12 gods are worshiped together in more than 4000 Kumano shrines nationwide. This shrine, which is one of the Three Kumano Mountains, is the head shrine of these Kumano shrines.

This warmer place is located at the end of Kii mountain range and facing towards the wide ocean. It was the place where lot of people came for pilgrimage. This pilgrimage was started by Emperor Go-Shirakawa (1158 - 1192, 34 times) and Emperor Go-Toba (1198-1239, 31 times). They started their journey from Kyoto, walked more than 80 ri (about 320 km) to here and took 1 month for a round trip. The lively occasion was described as "Kumano pilgrimage like ants".

This shrine comprises 6 main buildings (5 at front, 1 at the side) and Miagatahiko-sha (御県彦社), Suzumon (鈴門) and Mizugaki (瑞垣). This shrine has a long history, including destruction by Oda Nobunaga, rebuilt during Toyotomi Period, renovation during Kyoho Period (1716 - 1736) and Kae Period (1848 - 1855), desturction by Muroto typhoon in 1934. Finally, it became National Cultural Heritage in 1995.

In 2002, after renewed the roof, which made by Cypress bark, and its symbolic red paint, the main buildings of this shrine and its surrounding area were listed as World Heritage under the name of "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range". This area is also part of Yoshino-Kumano National Park Special Region.

Goma-ki (woods for purifcation). After place 100 yen, take one piece of wood and pray without writing anything on it, then burn it in the censor.

There is a special cultural heritage here, which is the camphor tree shown in photo below. This 800-year-old tree is listed as cultural heirtage by Wakayama prefecture government. It's 27 meter tall, 8.5 meter long in its circumference and 25 meter wide of its canopy. The base of its trunk is empty inside, so visitors could go into the tree and pray inside. It is believed that this tree is planted by Taira no Shigemori (the Samurai during end of Hei'an Period, son of Taira no Kiyomori), who received the imperial edict to build the three shrines in Kumano area.

Nachi camphor tree

The torii before go into the trunk. Prayer shall hold a piece of Goma-ki before enter.

It's very narrow inside. There is one stairs for visitors to leave, which only half of the feet could step on it. The long plates in photo are Goma-ki.

Visitors could enjoy the view of rolling hills and sakura from hilltop. How I wish I could stay in this beautiful place.

Before proceed to Seiganto Temple beside the shrine, I drew an o-mikuji. O-mikuji is random fortunes written on strips of paper at shrines or temples. Chinese also have the same tradition, however, Japanese's o-mikuji is much simpler than Chinese's.

There are two ways to get o-mikuji here. One way is drawing a small well-designed packet from a box, the packet contains a piece of fortune paper. Another way is pour out a long stick from a metal cylinder, the stick will come out from a small hole at the top of the cylinder, then inform the staff the number of the stick and she will give you the fortune paper. Of course, a small offering of 100 or 200 yen has to be given.

Compared with Chinese way of fortune drawing, Japanese's o-mikuji does not need to use "shengbei" (a pair of red semilunar-valve-like woods) to confirm the result with gods. Whatever you get is the fortune that you obtain.

I chose to draw from the metal cylinder. It looks more sacred to me. Randomly drawing o-mikuji from box made me feel like having a lucky draw. The cylinder and the sticks are made by metal and quite heavy too. Initially, I shook the cylinder and waited for the dropped stick, which is the Chinese's way. After a while, I just realized that I should turn it over. One more difference is the stick could not be removed from the cylinder entirely, while Chinese one would actually dropped to the floor.

I was quite lucky because I get the first fortune, which is "Great Blessing". Thanks for the blessing from Musumi no Kami~


The First Stop of Saikoku Pilgrimage, Nachi Seiganto Temple

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