Kumano Hatayama Taisha is a part of the Kumano Sanzan and Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among three shrines of Kumano Sanzan, Kumano Hatayama Taisha seems to be the easiest to access. You can find it on the edge of the street in the small town of Shingu, at the shores of Kumano-gawa, a river with water from the sacred Kii Mountains flowing into the Pacific Ocean, without stairs or lush forest.
Kumano Hatayama Taisha shrine
Like the brother shrine Nachi, the shrine is specialized by red lacquer design which welcomes right from the entrance with the vermillion Shinto gate. Although the shrine is located in a busy town, the atmosphere changes immediately into quite and sacred in the moment you step into the temple. Over a large yard, you can see the row of low buildings sitting side by side which create a network of red lines by red wooden pillars under grey roofs. This appearance is quite similar to Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine but Hatayama has a little peacefull like a gentle God lying and sleeping among human and protecting them. Hayatama-taisha Shrine has 1,204 ancient sacred treasures including national treasures, some of which are on display at the sacred treasures museum. You can find inside the shrine’s precinct a sacred conifer tree which is considered as a a natural monument and also the largest one in Japan.
Much smaller than Hayatama, Kamikura Shrine is Kumano Hayatama Taisha's original shrine which houses the Gotobiki Rock donated by Minamoto no Yoritomo. Legend says that many deities in Kumano region including Shinto God Kumano-sansho-okami descended to this enormous rock, therefore it is considered as an object of worship. This huge rock is located at the top of 538 steep stone steps of irregular shapes and sizes known as the Kamakurazumi in Mt. Kamikura and overlooks the Shingu City and out to the Pacific Ocean.
Every year on the night of February 6th, they hold Oto Festival at Kamikura Shrine known as one of the oldest and most thrilling fire festivals in Japan. At the Oto Matsuri festival, only men are allowed to participate while women can watch from a distance. In the dark, men dressed in white clothing will carry torches and run around Asuka Shrine and Hayatama Taisha Shrine before gathering at Kamikura Shrine. The ritual also consists of racing down the stone steps at breakneck speed. The Kumano Hayatama Taisha shrine together with Kumano Nachi Taisha and Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine, Kumano Sanzan creates a holy land which is a destination of every pilgrimage trails around Kumano area.