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.
Where is Kumano Hayatama Taisha?
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.
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.
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.
This hall is where people and pilgrims can pray.
The main building is not accessible to the public.
There weren’t many people when I visited, simply because it was still early in the morning (~ 8:30 a.m.).
Here’s a close-up of some of the wooden carvings you’ll find at the shrine.
Kumano Hayatama Taisha also offers their own shrine seal book (御朱印帳) for 1000 yen.
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.
Here’s another ema of the shrine displaying the alternative name “Kumano Gongen” (熊野権現) on the shrine gate.
You’ll find some smaller shrines on the grounds of Hayatama Taisha.
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.
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.
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!