ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “torii

WHITE CASTLE AND RED TORII, Izushi (出石), Hyōgo (兵庫), Japan

For each of our trip to Japan, we often included at least one onsen visit. There were plenty of hot spring options in and around Kyoto, but we opted for one a little further west in Hyōgo Prefecture (兵庫県). While Hyōgo is famous for its night view in Kobe, medieval castle in Himeji and hilltop ruins in Takeda, hot springs at Arima Onsen and Kinosaki Onsen are equally popular for tourists. This time, we picked Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉) for its traditional hot spring facilities, picturesque village setting, and proximity to Japan Sea, where the seasonal snow crab harvest (winter only) came as a bonus. Before sunrise, we left our hotel for Kyoto Station. After a quick breakfast at the station, we hopped on the 7:32am Kinosaki Onsen bound limited express train. The ride would take about 2.5 hours, passing through the rural and lush green interiors of Hyogo. On the train, we discussed about how to spend the day before our ryokan check-in time in the afternoon. We thought of getting off a few stops earlier to visit the Museum for Wood Culture (木の殿堂) in the forest of Mikata-gun. But we gave up the idea due to the lack of public transportation options that area. We ended up getting off at Toyooka (豊岡市), one stop before Kinosaki Onsen. At the first glance, the capital of the former Tajima Province (但馬国) didn’t seem to have much to offer except bags. Known as the “City of Bags”, it was said that about 70% of bags produced in Japan came from Toyooka. But we didn’t come for bags. We came to make a brief visit of Izushi (出石), a castle town outside the city that features frequently in tourist brochures.

We stored our backpacks in lockers at the upper level of Toyooka Station, and hopped on a local bus. The bus quickly left the city and sped along Izushi River towards Izushi. We got off at the bus terminus beneath Mount Ariko (有子山), a lush green hill where the castle ruins still stand. After passing by several soba noodle shops, we arrived at the visitor parking lot and a wooden bridge over Taniyama River that seemed to be the entrance of Izushi Castle Ruins (出石城跡). Built in 1604 at the foot of Mount Ariko, the castle was actually the second castle of Izushi. It was indeed a replacement to an earlier complex at the hilltop. We didn’t have time to hike all the way up to check out the ruined foundations of the first castle, but spent time wandering around the grounds of the second castle, where two restored guardhouses offered us a glimpse of its former glory. Standing out vividly against the white castle structures, a series of red torii gates revealed that an Inari Shrine must be nearby. We followed the torii gates uphill until reaching a tree-shaded terrace where stone foxes and lanterns flanked both sides of a short procession route. At the end, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Inari Ōkami (稲荷大神) stood silently under several old pine trees. We carefully walked over the muddy ground covered with fallen leaves to the cliff edge overlooking the town. After spending some time in the shadows of torii gates and old pine trees, it was fascinating to see the open vista of the old town, Izushi River Valley and distant hills further beyond. After the visit of the ruined castle and Shinto shrine, we couldn’t wait to head back down for the most famous product of Izushi – soba noodles.

There are three limited express train daily from Kyoto to Kinosaki Onsen. [2022.12.28]
Our train sped through the suburb of Kyoto and entered a misty and frosty country. [2022.12.28]
The turquoise stream briefly reminded us the scenery of the Japanese Alps in Kamikochi. [2022.12.28]
Built in 1576, Fukuchiyama Castle was dismantled in 1872 and reconstructed in 1986. Today, Fukuchiyama Castle Park (福知山城公園) is the main attraction for the sleepy town. [2022.12.28]
Like many nations, there was a trend in Japan during the pandemic that city dwellers were moving into the countryside for bigger houses and cleaner air. [2022.12.28]
Modern Toyooka, capital of the former Tajima Province (但馬国), doesn’t host a lot of attractions in the city, but may serve as a good base to visit the nearby sites, including Izushi castle town. [2022.12.28]
We got off at the small bus terminus of Izushi and walked over to Izushi Castle Ruins (出石城跡) below Mount Ariko (有子山). [2022.12.28]
A lovely wooden bridge welcomed us at the entrance of the Izushi Castle Ruins (出石城跡). [2022.12.28]
In 1979, the Tojo gate and guard tower of the second castle of Izushi were rebuilt. [2022.12.28]
The rebuilt structures offered us a glimpse of the castle’s former glory. [2022.12.28]
Built in 1604, Izushi Castle stood as an icon of the Tajima region until the Meiji Period. [2022.12.28]
37 red torii gates stood adjacent to the castle site, leading us up to the Inari Shrine. [2022.12.28]
Just 157 steps would bring us to the shrine. [2022.12.28]
The torii gates reminded us of our visit of Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, the head shrine of all Inari shrines. [2022.12.28]
After a short climb we arrived at Arikoyama Inari Shrine (有子山稲荷神社). [2022.12.28]
Some say there are about 32,000 Inari shrines throughout Japan. [2022.12.28]
Regarded as the messengers of the deity, fox is always featured at an Inari shrine. [2022.12.28]
Some visitors wrote their wishes on ema (絵馬) wooden plaques and hang them at the side wall of the shrine. [2022.12.28]
The shrine stood in the shade of several old pine trees. [2022.12.28]
We enjoyed the open scenery of the old town below the shrine. [2022.12.28]
We descended down the torii gates towards the old town of Izushi. [2022.12.28]

HOKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 ), Sapporo (札幌), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.24

Day 10 (1/6).

Under the Meiji Government, the Hokkaido Development Commission was established in 1869, and the pioneer movement in Japan’s northernmost and second largest island, Hokkaido, officially began.  The Japanese pioneers brought over their living culture, farming techniques, and faith of Shintoism.  Emperor Meiji in Tokyo enshrined three deities Ōkunitama, Ōkuninushi, and Sukunahikona as the deities of Hokkaido reclamation (開拓三神) to support the pioneer movement.  These deities were then moved to Sapporo from Tokyo.  The shrine housing these Shinto deities was first named as Sapporo Shrine, and then in 1964 renamed as Hokkaido Shrine (北海道神宮) along with the enshrinement of Emperor Meiji into the same shrine.  Today, the 150-year Hokkaido Shrine continues to play a crucial role in the lives of the locals, from New Year celebration to wedding ceremonies.  The shrine is also a popular spot for hanami (花見), the spring cherry blossom festival.  To start off our second last day of the trip, we spent a peaceful morning at the Hokkaido Shrine in Maruyama Park (円山公園) while most shops and cafes had yet opened for business.

DSC_6497In the shade of magnolias, maple, oak, Japanese Judas, and cherry of Maruyama Park, we arrived at the Torii gate of Hokkaido Shrine (北海道神宮).

DSC_65062019 marked the beginning of the Reiwa era (令和) and the accession of Emperor Naruhito (徳仁).

DSC_6499Before entering the main shrine complex, we arrived at the first shrine building called Kaitaku Jinja (開拓神社), the pioneer shrine.

DSC_6510We washed our hands at the chozuya (手水舎) before entering the main shrine.

IMG_0727The current Hokkaido Shrine was restored in 1978, after a fire destroyed the earlier structure in 1974.

DSC_6516Inside the main complex, we arrived at the courtyard in front of the main shrine.

DSC_6521Just like many Shinto shrines around Japan, the main shrine of the Hokkaido Shrine is a beautiful timber structure.

IMG_0745We had a quick peek into the main shrine as we left our offering coins and clapped our hands at the entrance veranda.

IMG_0734We also picked up an O-mikuji (御御籤) or sacred fortune slip from a wooden box.

DSC_6518There are a number of racks for visitors to leave behind their undesirable O-mikuji (御御籤), as well as wooden ema (絵馬), or wooden plaques with written wishes.

IMG_0748After the main shrine, we paid respect to the other small shrines before leaving the shrine complex.

* * *

HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)

DAY 5 (1/3): FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.07

For several years the famous Shinto shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) has been voted as the favorite tourist attraction in Kyoto on a number of travel websites.  The images of the vermilion Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, thousands of torii gates) winding up the Mount Inari (233m) and the clusters of miniature shrines and private graves hidden in the woods certainly nourish the public imagination of a mysterious old Japan.  We thought of visiting the shrine in late afternoon or early evening when the twilight was gradually fading away, shifting the tone of everything from orange to violet and then blue.  Somehow that wasn’t realized, and instead we chose to explore this highly popular and spiritual place early in the morning of our last day of the trip.  To beat the crowds, getting up before sunrise was crucial.  It was only a short JR train ride from Kyoto Station to Inari Station.  By the time we set foot at the entrance route of the Taisha it was a little before 7:30am.

01To make the most out of the last day in Kyoto, we get up before dawn and carried our backpack and luggage to Kyoto Station.  At daybreak, we bid farewell to the tranquil Shirakawa River in our Higashiyama neighborhood.

02At Kyoto Station, we stored our belongings at one of the many lockers and hopped onto a Nara-bounded train for Inari Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride to the peaceful Inari Station took only a few minutes, and the entrance route of Fushimi Inari Taisha was just right across the road.


Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) was first established in the 8th century dedicated to Inari (稲荷大神), the God of Rice and Sake.  In the agricultural nation, the God of Rice was a powerful figure who governed the fortune of lives.  In the modern age, the power of Inari had been shifted to offer blessing on the prosperity of businesses and people’s lives in general.

04A large torii gate led us towards the Romon Gate (楼門, Lower Gate).

05The Romon Gate (楼門, Lower Gate) was a donation in 1589 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉), the famous daimyō (大名, feudal warlord) who unified a large part of the country.

06There were only a few visitors at the Worship Hall in front of the Honden (Main Building).  After paying our respects, we couldn’t wait longer to begin the hike up to the peak of Mount Inari via the remarkable Senbon Torii.


On Mount Inari, two features stood out.  First was of course the vermilion torii gates.  Donated by individuals and business companies, there were over 5000 torii gates guiding our way up the Mount Inari.  The second feature was the kitsune (fox).  Uncounted statues of foxes appeared along the trail, usually came in pairs standing in front of the Shinto shrines.  Foxes were believed to be the Kenzoku, the messenger of god.

07We walked past the first pair of bronze fox statues right after the visit of the main shrine.  Many fox statues here carried a key in their mouth (to the rice granary).

08Our hike up the 4km trail began at this cluster of the vermilion Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, thousands of torii gates).

09Only a handful of visitors were there, such a blessing given this place is also famous for big visitor crowds throughout the day.  The record was 2.69 million during the 3 days of New Year period in 2006.

10Soon we arrived at the trailhead of the dual route.  Both route would ultimately converge back to a single path.  We picked the left route.

11From one direction, the Senbon Torii appeared clean and minimal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking back we could see columns of dates and donor’s names along the path as far as the eye could see.

14We stopped at most of the sub shrine along the trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a while, the trail gradually turned steeper with stone steps.

18Half way through the ascend, the view from the Yotsutsuji Intersection was amazing in a clear morning.  Many tourists would turn back from here.

19We continued on the uphill journey, and stopped by a number of miniature shrines and grave clusters.  Mini fox statues, mini vermilion torii gates and candles were often seen as offerings.

20We often made detours from the trail into groups of mini shrines and graves.  We bumped into this what looked like a shrine guardian cat.

21The cat came from behind the shrine and jumped from a a stone stele to another, and finally stayed on a small tablet under the morning sun… just for a few seconds.

22A pair of stone lions and foxes were on guard by the small shrine of God of Rain.

23The early morning sun was nice and warm, and cast a magical highlight onto the torii gates.

24Fallen autumn leaves added an extra sense of solitude to the quiet trail.

26While at certain spots the autumn leaves gave a vivid background to the otherwise greyish setting of stones steles and statues.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the time we reached “Second Peak” we knew we were just minutes away from the peak.

27At around 9:15 we reached the top of Mount Inari, after about an hour and 45 minutes of hike.


Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan

DAY 2 (3/6): KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.04

Leaving Kiyomizu-dera behind, we walked down Matsubara Dori (松原通) to the intersection of Gojo-zaka (五条坂), where we were drawn by a small shop selling different senbei (煎餅), or Japanese rice crackers snacks.  The shop Terakoya Honpo (寺子屋本舗) is a well known chain store of senbei in Japan.  We couldn’t resist but picked up a piece of delicious senbei with seaweed spices.  Turning into Sannen-zaka (三年坂), we found our way back to Yasaka Dori (八坂通), the historical alleyway dominated by the iconic Yasaka-no-to Pagoda of Hokanji Temple (法観寺 八坂の塔).  A number of locals and tourists dressed in traditional kimonos were posing for photos in front of the pagoda.   A strong coffee aroma led us to a few shops down from the pagoda.  The sleek design of curved glazing and minimal decor of %Arabica Coffee provided a pleasant contrast to the historical atmosphere of Higashiyama.  We went in, ordered two cups of hand drip coffee, and sat down at the communal table.  A female staff took our order and prepared the coffee at the counter.  After about ten minutes, our magnificent morning coffee were ready, and that was probably one of the best coffees we ever had.

Just round the street corner from %Arabica along Higashioji Dori (東大路通), we arrived at a alleyway leading to the Shinto shrine Yasui Konpiragu (安井金比羅宮).  Nothing monumental or extravagant, the low profile shrine in a residential neighborhood was surprisingly popular with local worshipers due to the specialized wishes of “sever bad relationships and established  good relationships (悪縁を切り良縁を結ぶ).  In the shrine complex, the centre piece “Power Stone Monument” is a 3m x 1.5m tall rock with an oval hole in the middle.  The monument is fully covered with white paper charms.  When we were there, there was a long queue of visitors (mostly young women) waiting for their turns to crawl through the oval hole in a ritual of making wishes related to relationships.  The main shrine building stood adjacent to the “Power Stone Monument”.  In front of the main shrine, racks fully loaded with ema (絵馬) wooden plaques and paper charms written with wishes captured our attention.  Judging from the amount of ema, Yasui Konpiragu should be considered a very popular Shinto shrine.  We exited the shrine complex through a side torii gateway into a residential lane, and soon found ourselves just steps away from the perimeter wall of Kenninji Temple (建仁寺).  Before entering this oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, we stopped by a soba restaurant next to the temple entrance for a quick lunch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside of Kiyomizu-dera, visitors including us began to walk down Matsubara Dori (松原通) towards the city.

02Senbei, Japanese rice crackers, with seaweed spices ordered from Terakoya Honpo (寺子屋本舗), a chain snack shop.

03On Yasaka Dori (八坂通), there were quite people dressed in traditional kimono and posed for photos.

04A grapefruit tree below the Yasaka-no-to Pagoda of Hokanji Temple (法観寺 八坂の塔).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, we passed by  Yasaka Koshindo (八坂庚申堂), a small Koshin (庚申) temple.

06Walking down Yasaka Dori looking for %Arabica Coffee.  Whenever we turned around the Yasaka-no-to Pagoda just dominated the vista.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree customers sat on a bench in front of %Arabica Coffee Shop.

08Front counter of %Arabica Coffee Shop in Higashiyama.

09Coffee beans stored behind glass cabinets against the long wall in the coffee shop.

10Coffee roasting machine at the back of the shop.

11Two cups of Hand drip coffee!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA long queue for the opportunity to crawl through the hole of “Power Stone Monument” at Yasui Konpiragu (安井金比羅宮).

13A young woman crawling through the “Power Stone Monument”.

14A young woman worshiping at the main shrine.

15A rack fully filled with ema (絵馬) wooden plaques

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Side Entrance and torii gate of Yasui Konpiragu (安井金比羅宮).

16soba restaurant.

17Interior of the soba restaurant.

18Soba with tempura

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoba with fresh tofu skin in thick broth


Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan

DAY 7 – KUMANO HONGU TAISHA, Kumano Kodo (熊野古道) 3 of 4, Japan

At Hongu, we dropped off our backpacks at a locker across the street from the main entrance of Kumano Hongu Taisha. We then went to check out the heritage centre where we learnt a little more about the history of Kumano Hongu Grand Taisha and the Kii mountain range. The Kumano Hongu Taisha is the house for the deity of Kumano Gongen, where pilgrims came to pay their respect to the deities of Kumano area for almost 1000 years. Every spring, the Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival would take place with three days of ceremonies.

On a bench outside of the centre, we took out the lunchboxes for a quick lunch. The yummy lunchboxes were ordered online before we left for our trip and delivered to our hotel at Yunomine in the morning. After lunch, we took our time to visit Kumano Hongu Taisha a second time.  This time, we had more time to examine the donor lanterns, flags, signs, etc. along the main access path. After a relaxing stroll around the complex, we walked down the main entrance stairs one last time under the afternoon sun. We picked up our backpacks at the locker and walked over to the bus stop in front of the heritage centre, where we would hop on a bus for Wataze Onsen.

1The banner at Kumano Hongu Heritage Center commemorated the 10th anniversary of inscription into UNESCO’s World Heritage for “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”.

2The Heritage Center represents a good example of modern architecture with a traditional touch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA33.9m tall and 42m wide, the Torii gate at the entrance to the sandbank of Oyunohara is the largest in the world.  This is where the original Kumano Hongu Taisha stood over a century ago, before the devastating floods destroyed much of the old shrines.

4Along with our accommodation and luggage shuttle service, we also reserved this local lunchbox online at http://www.tb-kumano.jp prior our arrival in Japan.

4bHoused in a bamboo box, our lunchbox contained a number of seasonal local delicacies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARebuilt after flood damages, the Zuihouden next to the entrance of Kumano Hongu Taisha houses religious study areas, a hall and a souvenir shop.

6The stair leading up to the main shrine is flanked both sides with donor flags.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWorshipers put all kinds of wishes onto these wooden “ema” to communicate with the deities.

8Tying the Omikuji, the fortune telling paper slips onto trees or ropes at the shrine is a common customs of worshiping.

9Small bamboo flags were another common option for worshipers to leave their messages.

10Before entering the complex, cleaning our hands at the purification trough had become a common practice even for foreign visitors like us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWooden staff in hand, lots of elderly worshipers spend great effort in walking the pilgrim route before reaching Kumano Hongu Taisha.

12Our second visit to the Hongu Taisha.  This time we had all the time we needed to wander around the complex.

13Beside the main shrines stood this small and popular shrine under tree shade.

14After a thorough visit, we walked down the main stair once again.

15Lanterns with donor’s name were hung on a rack near the main gate of Kumano Hongu Taisha.

16We bid farewell to the Kumano Hongu Taisha under the late afternoon sun.

* * *

Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino 
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka