Monday, March 4, 2019

Carpe Diem #1619 Kumano Kodo ... Nakahechi route (aka the Imperial Route)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

We are on our way ... yesterday we started our Kumano Kodo pilgrimage ... and I think it will be awesome. I hope you all will enjoy this pilgrimage and I hope it will bring you Inner Peace, Spritual Balance ... and maybe more.

The Kumano Kodo or "ancient road" is one of Japan's most gorgeous pilgrims routes ... it's by the way not just one pilgriage. The Kumano Kodo is a collection of five routes all through the Kii Peninsula. Let me give you some background on this.

climbing the mountain
together with the smiling Buddha
embraced by nature

© Chèvrefeuille

Kii Peninsula
One of Japan's most remote and rewarding journeys, the Kumano Kodō hiking route weaves through the mountainous Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka. Once a sacred pilgrimage reserved for emperors and samurai, the ‘Kumano Old Road’ is today open to all modern-day seekers and wanderers.

Even before organised religion existed in Japan, locals worshipped nature in the mystical landscape of the Kii Peninsula. Towering trees, the nation's tallest waterfall, and the mountains in between were themselves considered kami (gods), and a walk among them became a sacred act. Emperors and samurai kept detailed diaries of their pilgrimages here; one of the earliest was by Fujiwara-no-Munetada (1062–1141), an aristocrat who travelled to Kumano in 1109.

Over the years Buddhist temples and shrines of Shintō, Japan's native religion, were built, making the route's iconography more familiar for the common folk.

Shinto Shrine along the Kumano Kodo

The Kumano Kodō is actually not one route but a network of trails through the deeply forested mountains, with no official start and end point and no prescribed order for approaching a hike. There are moderate to strenuous hiking options lasting a few hours to several days, taking in some of Japan’s top ‘power spots’ – temples, forests and waterfalls thought to enrich the soul.

Historically, pilgrims would visit the Kumano Sanzan – the three grand shrines of Kumano – which are the cornerstones of the Nakahechi route (aka the Imperial Route), the most action-packed route through the region.

This main trail traverses the peninsula from Takijiri-ōji in the west, 38.5km east through to the first of the three grand shrines, at Hongū. Here, the trails diverge toward the other two shrines, either southeast through the mountains toward the waterfall Nachi-no-taki or eastward along the river Kumano-gawa to the town of Shingū.

five sacred routes
in praise of nature's spirits
Kumano Kodo

© Chèvrefeuille

I can imagine the beauty of nature along this "ancient route" ... and nature is (as you all know) the main theme of our wonderful haiku.

thin mountain air
surrounds this old mountain cabin -
I hear the stream

© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until March 11th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode later on. For now ... find your balnce and inspiration.

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