Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage
in the Kii Mountain Range (2004)
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Set in the dense forests of the Kii Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean, three sacred sites - Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, and Koyasan - linked by pilgrimage routes to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto, reflect the fusion of Shinto, rooted in the ancient tradition of nature worship in Japan, and Buddhism, which was introduced to Japan from China and the Korean peninsula.
The sites (495.3-ha) and their surrounding forest landscape reflect a persistent
and extraordinarily well-documented tradition of sacred mountains over 1,200
years. The area, with its abundance of streams, rivers and waterfalls, is still
part of the living culture of Japan and is much visited for ritual purposes and
hiking, with up to 15 million visitors annually. Each of the three sites
contains shrines, some of which were founded as early as the 9th century.
|The Kii Mountain Range is located in Wakayama
Prefecture, south of Kyoto and
Nara, ancient capital cities that ruled Japan for over 1300 years. The mountains
occupy most of the area known as the Kii Peninsula, a landmass that juts
outwards into the Pacific Ocean. The mountains are covered with a dense blanket
of green forest and have been Japan's spiritual heartland through the ages, a
sacred place to where, it is said, the gods of Shintoism and Buddhism descended
|Over time, three mountain areas in particular,
Kumano Sanzan and Koyasan, came to be revered as sacred places associated with
certain religious groups. Respectively, these were the Shugen sect of ascetic
Buddhism, another sect practicing Shinto-Buddhist Syncreticism (the belief that
Japan's traditional gods are incarnations of Buddhist deities), and the Shingon
sect of esoteric Buddhism, each with their own distinct identity, yet
Along the Omine Okugakemichi pilgrimage route, the strict 'okugake' training rituals of the Shugen sect continue to be practiced and the Kumano Sankeimichi and Koyasan Choishimichi pilgrimage routes also draw large numbers of people seeking such paths to enlightenment. All of these have had a profound influence on the formation of Japan's spiritual culture.
Sources and links:
Other World Heritage Sites in Japan (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Japan for further information about the individual properties.
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Revised 21 jul 2006