as the kanji characters demonstrate in its name, kumano sanzan (熊野三山) is composed of shrines located on three mountains within 40km (25 miles) of each other in the southern part of wakayama prefecture (和歌山県). the various elements that are part of kumano sanzan are three shrines, two temples, a waterfall, the forest surrounding the area, and the pilgrimage routes between them. dating back to prehistoric japan, these shrines were connected by pilgrimage routes that are still passable today. though for easier travel there are paved roads that lead to each of the small towns where they are located.
i really enjoyed the drive to these locations, as much of it took me along the coast. i actually started by going to ise jingu (伊勢神宮), spending the night there and then headed towards these sites the following morning. there are only small towns here and there along the way. so i had to resort for lunch from a convenience store, which if you know anything about japan, they can provide a wide variety of tasty food. obviously the waterfall was a nice view as well, though a bit in the distance from seiganto-ji temple (青岸渡寺). if you want, you can walk close to the base of the waterfall. i capped off this trip by driving through the mountain and staying at a temple in koya-san. there are many onsen and especially rotenburo, the outdoor type, in the area so make sure to take a break! two night, three day trip. it was awesome. :)
this UNESCO world heritage site is part of the sacred sites and pilgrimages routes in the kii mountain range, which includes koya-san and yoshino and omine. kumano sanzan’s historic significance lies in its role to help propagate a unique blend of buddhism and parts of a japanese original religion throughout japan, with a focus on worshipping mother nature. in fact, there are 3,000 kumano shrines in japan and they all follow the distinctive architectural style of the original shrines that compose this UNESCO world heritage site.
without a rental car at your disposal, you can reach shingu (新宮) by train in about 4.5 hours from osaka. about 1.4 km (0.9 miles) from the train station is kumano hayatama taisha shrine (熊野速玉大社). from here you can walk the pilgrimage routes to the other sites or continue by train. to reach shingu, first get to tsuruhashi station (鶴橋駅) on the osaka loop line. once there, board the nasaka otsu tokyu (名阪乙特急) limited express train on the kintetsu line (近鉄). change trains at nabari station (名張駅), you want the kyoi tokyu (京伊特急) limited express east bound. change trains once more at matsusaka station (松阪駅), boarding the JR line train called waido byu nanki #1 (ワイドビュー南紀) until you reach shingu station (新宮駅). total cost from tsuruhashi will be 7,810 yen. though i have not ridden it, the last train must be very nice as it runs right along the coast.
from there getting to nachi no otaki waterfall (那智のお滝), kumano nachi taisha shrine (熊野那智大社), and seiganto-ji temple (青岸渡寺) is about a half hour train ride from shingu station (新宮駅) to nachi station (那智駅) for 230 yen. you’ll have to take a short taxi ride from there, since the shrine is over 8km (5 miles) away. i liked these locations the best of all the sites in kumano sanzan.
your final destination, though you certainly don’t have to go in the order i have outlined here, is 71km (44 miles) away. thus i don’t recommend taking a taxi as it will be quite expensive. there are no trains either, so your best option is to take the kumano kotsu (熊野交通) or nara kotsu (奈良交通) bus from shingu station. it takes about 1:20 and 1,500 yen.
kumano hayatama taisha (熊野速玉大社):
nachi taisha shrine, seiganto-ji temple, and nachi no taki waterfall:
central location of the sites: