Retrace The Steps of the Japanese Ancestors on Mount Kii's Pilgrimage Route

Kii Mountains is dotted by Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples. It is a classic fusion of Shintoism and Buddhism that illustrate interchange and development of religious cultures in East Asia. They have become a unique shrine and temple buildings that have had a profound influence in temple and shrine construction all over Japan.

The ensemble consists of 3 sacred sites in a heavily forested Kii Mountains. The sites flourished from the 6th century to 1868 and were nestled between ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto. The rugged mountains of the Kii Peninsula rise to 1,000 – 2,000 meters and are heavily wooded. The forested mountains underpin the significance of the whole site. The beauty and drama of the mountains and their contrast with seascape attracted pilgrimage for more than 2,000 years.

The three shrines contain temples, shrines statues, and stupas. The surrounding environment contains trees, waterfalls, rocks etc. The structures are all made of wood, with post and pillar construction to similar houses. The following are the 3 sites:

Yoshino and Omine

This is the northernmost site in Nara. The Yoshino site gained notoriety in the mid-10th century. Its fame reached the crescendo in the 10th century even in China and Southeast Asia. Yoshino became a sacred place in the 7th and 8th century. It was especially popular with the Shugen sect of the ascetic Buddhism.

Omine on the other hand is situated on a harsh mountain terrain and was also associated with Shugen Sect. The groups of buildings in this site are an embodiment of Shinto/Buddhism religious fusion.

Kumano Sanzan

This site is located on the furthest south. The buildings show outstanding wooden architecture that has no rivals. The site has 3 main shrines, temples and is connected to the pilgrim’s route. Shinto and Shugen sects of Buddhism are the ones that are associated with this site.


The site is located south of Nara in an alpine basin at an altitude of 800 meters. It is located on the foot of the mountains and is actively used for annual festivals and rituals.

Pilgrim routes

This was the route established by pilgrims from the 11th to 12th century on their way to the three sites.

The Kii Mountains are some of the most established travel destinations in Japan. Trust me; you will find a lot of fun exploring this region.

By Kennedy Runo about Japan

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