Travel

Kumano Hayatama Taisha (Kumano Sanzan)

Today I want to introduce Kumano Hayatama Taisha, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano also known as Kumano Sanzan (熊野三山).
The shrine is connected to the other two by the Nakahechi Trail which belongs to the sacred Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trails.

Visited: November 4th 2012

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

Where is Kumano Hayatama Taisha?

The Kumano Hayatama Taisha (熊野速玉大社) is located in Shingu City on the Kii Peninsula, Wakayama Prefecture (map).

You can get there by train from Osaka within 4 h. The shrine can be reached in a 15-minute walk from the JR Shingu Station. A rental car would also be an option.

Most people want to visit all three of the Kumano Sanzan. You can save time if you travel to the other shrines by car, but public transportation is available as well.

 

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

World Heritage Site Kumano Hayatama Taisha

Hayatama Shrine is registered as UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the Kumano Sanzan under the name “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range“.

Originally the shrine stood nearby the Kumano River. Its location has changed now, but is still not far from the river. Kumano Hayatama Taisha is also known as Kumano-gongen (熊野権現).

The shrine plays an important role in a Shinto legend. According to the myth three gods (kami) came down to earth on a rock which was not far from Kumano Hayatama Taisha. That rock known as Gotobiki-iwa (ゴトビキ岩) can be found on Mount Gongen at Kamikura Shrine. Since it was touched by gods it became a sacred object of worship.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

Besides the rock, there’s also an ancient tree that’s worshiped and shows that the deification of nature has a long history in the region.

It is said that the ~850 year old Nagi-no-Ki tree was planted by Taira no Shigemori in 1159 in order to celebrate the construction of Hayatama Taisha.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

This hall is where people and pilgrims can pray.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

The main building is not accessible to the public.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

There weren’t many people when I visited, simply because it was still early in the morning (~ 8:30 a.m.).

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

Here’s a close-up of some of the wooden carvings you’ll find at the shrine.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

Kumano Hayatama Taisha also offers their own shrine seal book (御朱印帳) for 1000 yen.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

The shrine’s ema were really beautiful. I ended up buying the one you see above as a souvenir. The gold is actually shiny and glittering.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

Here’s another ema of the shrine displaying the alternative name “Kumano Gongen” (熊野権現) on the shrine gate.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

You’ll find some smaller shrines on the grounds of Hayatama Taisha.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

There’s also a treasure house (you can see the entrance on the left photo, protected by a wooden statue). On display are various national treasures. It’s a small museum, but they offer quite a nice collection. If you have some extra time and are willing to spend 500 yen, then I highly recommend you check it out. It won’t take too long, maybe about 5-10 minutes.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

The pilgrimage trails that lead to the shrine have been paved, but signs still remind you that you’re walking along the ancient route.

There are also pictures carved in stone on the main road to the shrine that tell the story of Hayatama Taisha and the city.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha Kumano Sanzan

And that was the first of the three Kumano Grand Shrines. To be honest with you, Kumano Hayatama Taisha was my least favorite of the Kumano Sanzan, but I still highly recommend you visit all three if you can!

If you use public transportation like I did, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to visit all three in one day!

I visited Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Nachi Taisha in one day and did Kumano Hongu on the next day.

 

Tourist Information:
Opening Hours:
8:00-17:00 (Treasure House: 9:00-16:00)
Holidays:
none
Entrance fee:
free (500 yen for the Treasure House)
Time required:
about 20-30 mins
Contact:
〒647-0003 Wakayama Prefecture, Shingū, Shingu, 1 // (+81)(0)735-22-2533
Access:
About 20 min walk from JR Shingu Station.
Please note: Prices as well as opening hours / holidays are subject to change. Please make sure to follow the provided link to the official website to check out the latest updates.

11 Comments

  • For some reason I’m a bit burned out on shrines. The nature of Wakayama prefecture is definitely a draw though. Maybe next time I’ll make it farther than Shirahama Onsen :)

    • It depends on the shrine I’d say. I swear you’ll LOVE Nachi Taisha! (*____*)b
      A post about Shirahama is coming soon. After all I visited the Kumano Sanzan after enjoying Shirahama for a day.

  • Looks very interesting! Would it be possible to visit all three shrines in one day with a car and have enough time to fully enjoy them. Also love those amazing wooden carvings :)

    • I haven’t tried it myself, so it’s hard to tell, but I think it’s not impossible to visit all three.
      I doubt you could fully enjoy them, though. Especially for Nachi Taisha you want a lot of time, trust me! ;)

  • Another great introduction, Jasmine!
    I always wonder how the Japanese take care of their heritage. All places are so well maintained. They always look freshly cleaned and newly painted.

    • I don’t know because I can’t really compare it to other countries.
      I’ve been to a few in Italy and Spain, but that was about 15 years ago, so I can’t really remember well. *g*

      All I know is that the Japanese are really proud of their heritage sites and try to take care of them as good as they can.

  • So in a gist, Kumano Sanzan is the name of the group of the group shrines in Wakayama. And it’s loosely connected to Kumano Hodo trail. Correct?

    Where does Mt Kouya lie in all of this?

    Lol, sorry I’m deeply interested in these areas. =D One thing I have to admire from you is, you can see a lot of shrines and doesn’t get burnt out from it. Plus, you can probably remember its name. =D

    • I can remember the names of the bigger ones.
      It doesn’t get boring because I don’t visit shrines and temples all the time. I have a good mix of different things that interest me.
      I will, however, NEVER get tired of Japanese castles, I guess. :D

      Yes, Kumano Sanzan refers to the three grand shrines of the Kumano area and they are connected by the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails.
      Please have a look at the Kumano Kodo post. There’s a map where you can see Mt. Koya’s location as well.

      • Still better than me. I don’t even remember now which one is Nara’s Todaiji. Too many names, short-term memory. :kyah:

        For castles, I’ve only been to Osaka-jo and the Imperial Palace 皇居 in Tokyo. I’m targeting Himeji next time, it must be good since it earned a four star in your castle list for a reason.

        Ah, sorry I must’ve missed it. Now that I see it, these trails spread over several prefectures. It’s impossible to travel there on short period, though actually it would be cool to hike through all the trails. It’s a pilgrimage and an adventures altogether!

  • I’ve never been to Wakayama, but when I get the chance to go, I really hope that I can see this shrine. You’re photos are really great, and your descriptions are wonderful! :happy:
    I always enjoy visiting shrines and castles, and I love hearing about places I haven’t been yet!
    :hearts:

    • I’m so glad to hear that!
      I created this blog for people like you who also enjoy visiting shrines and castles and love to hear about places they haven’t been to before! :D