熊野古道, Kumano Kodō: Oyunohara 大斎原

Oyunohara (大斎原) photo by Sydney Solis
The Oyunohara (大斎原) Otorii Gate, the largest of the Kumano Kodo sanzan.

Before 1889, 熊野古道, Kumano Kodō pilgrims arriving at Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine visited its original site of Oyunohara 大斎原, an island located at the fork of the Iwata River and the Otonashi River in Tanabe, Wakayama. Instead of Misogi, 禊 a Japanese Shinto practice of ritual purification by washing the entire body, visitors had to wade through the cold river to worship.

Kumano Kodo: Oyunohara 大斎原 rice fields.
Rice fields and mist approaching the shrine’s ruins.

A flood destroyed the complex, with salvaged buildings brought to the new site, and the ruins were moved north to the top of a hill.

Kumano Kodo: Oyunohara 大斎原 rice fields
Rice is sacred to the Japanese, as it follows the agricultural cycle of fertility and life, death, life that connects a person to nature.

After a visit to the new Kumano Hongu Taisha, Sensei and I walked through freshly harvested rice fields in the rain and mist to approach Oyunohara, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site called “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.”

Otori Gate, Oyunohara.

The weather made it especially inviting and mystical, as we wandered the gorgeous, wet forests along the rivers’ sandy banks and communed once again with the trees.

Kumano Kodo: Oyunohara 大斎原 original site map and photo.
Map and photograph of the original shrine, which was destroyed by a flood in 1889. The shrine was then relocated to its present location.
Kumano Kodo: Oyunohara 大斎原 purification fountain.
Purification fountain at the entrance of the shrine.
Kumano Kodo: Oyunohara 大斎原
The beauty of walking the Kumano Kodo is that you get so absorbed into nature that you never want to return to “civilization.”
Mystical truth speaks from the mist and trees!
“Who will speak for the trees?” – The Lorax
Kumano Kodo: Oyunohara 大斎原
Lack of respect for nature is the source of today’s ills.
Kumano Kodo: Oyunohara 大斎原 Sydney Solis
A beautiful day to walk on the Kumano Kodo.
Kumano Kodo: Oyunohara 大斎原 torii gate
The Return.
Kumano Kodo: Oyunohara 大斎原 rice fields.
Walking back through wet rice fields along the river with my Sensei, Masashi Nakamura. And onward with our journey on the dark path, the Kumano Kodo.

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