Shingu City in Wakayama Prefecture, aka Kumano Shingu, with a population of 33,000, is located at the southeast of the Kii Peninsula, about three and a half hours by train from both Osaka and Nagoya. It is a place famous for its abundant nature and mild climate. It has also been a famous spiritual heartland with everyone, from outcasts to emperors, making the long pilgrimage over the steep mountain passes. In July 2004, Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine, the Gongen Mountains, and the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes, including the Kumano River pilgrimage route, were registered as World Cultural Heritage Sites under gSacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.h
[World Heritage] Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine
KumanoHayatama Grand Shrine is located in the north of Shingu near the Kumano River. This Grand Shrine, as one of the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano, enshrines twelve deities including Kumano Hayatama no Okami and Kumano Fusumi no Okami. It is believed that this place came to be called gShinguh (literally meaning gnew shrineh) because the Kumano deities originally enshrined in Kamikura Shrine (gold shrineh) were transferred to a new shrine, Hayatama, in the era of Emperor Keiko (71-130). The present main shrines, rebuilt in 1953, enshrine images of the Kumano twelve avatars starting with Kumanofs three deities, all of which are designated either national treasures or nationally important cultural assets.
[World Heritage] Kamikura Shrine
In the southern part of the Gongen Mountains, Kamikura Shrine, located nearly a 100 meters up the steep side of Mt. Kamikura has been worshipped as gAma-no-Iwatate,h where the Kumano deities originally descended. Its main deity is Takakuraji-no-Mikoto, and the Gotobiki (which locally means gtoadh) Rock is the object of worship. A fire festival called gOto Matsurih is held there every February 6th.
This old shrine stands at the southern foot of Mt. Horai near the mouth of the Kumano River. This shrine is closely related to Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine, and about 200 Buddha statues dedicated by pilgrims are found at the back of the shrine.
[World Heritage] Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Routes ? Koya-zaka Hill
In the Nakahe-chi route, this is the only section where one can see beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. You can freely enjoy the abundant nature and the ancient history of Shingu. This ancient route overlooks Mitarai seaside where pilgrims used to clean themselves with salt water.
[World Heritage] Kumano River
The Kumano River, 183 km long, runs from the Northern Kii Mountains through Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine, and empties into the Pacific Ocean. Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine stands near its mouth. The river was often used as a pilgrimage route from Hongu to Shingu and was designated a World Heritage Site.
[World Heritage] Gongen Mountains
gGongenh means that Buddhist deities temporarily appear as Shinto deities. Their highest peak is Mt. Chihogamine (253m), which is very important as the sacred site where Kumano Hayatama-no-Okami first descended. As stated earlier, Kamikura Shrine is in the Gongen Mountains.
Ruins of Shingu Castle
In the north of the city area, the ruins of Shingu Castle stand in the heights with its back to the Kumano River. Since you can see the Pacific Ocean to the east behind the mouth of the river, this was also called gOkimi-joh (which literally means that you can see the offing from the castle). This castle was raised in 1618 and demolished in 1875. It is also called gTankaku Castleh and designagted a national historic site because before Shingu Castle was built, it was where Princess Tankaku established Tosen-ji Temple, where she also spent her later years.
Uki-jima Floating Island
The Uki-jima Floating Island Forest is located in the center of Shingu City. The entire island floats on a pond. Rare ferns and aquatic plants can be seen on the island, which is a national treasure.
The foremost gorge in the Kumano region, Doro Valley was formed by the violent flow of the Kitayama River that runs through Wakayama, Nara, and Mie Prefectures. You can enjoy from a water-jet boat. This gorge of stunning beauty is also designated as a national treasure.
The first Aikido Dojo was established in Shingu in 1928. Since then, the Dojo has been visited by a great number of pupils from all over the world, some of whom visit repeatedly. The Aikido Kumano Juku Dojo is located just one minute from the Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine, a twenty minute walk from Shingu Station.
Shingu has a variety of local specialties. Mehari-zushi (a big rice ball wrapped in a pickled leaf), Sanma (saury) -zushi, and Nare-zushi (fish fermented without vinegar) are representative specialties of the Kumano region. Also, since the feudal load of Kishu Clan in Tokugawa period eagerly patronized confectionary, there are quite a few confectionary shops in Shingu.