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.
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.
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.”
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.