|2005 Spring - Intro - Kumano - Ise Jingu - Meiji Jingu - Miyazaki's Anime - Sacred Forests
Kumanothe spiritual path of forest pilgrimage for 1,200 years
Sacred trees that framed a culture
photography by Yasunobu Kobayashi / translation by Alex Kerr
Many forests are rich in natural beauty, but if one is seeking supernatural spirit, Kumano tops the list. Stretching across the Kii Peninsula in Wakayama prefecture, it has peaks and valleys lined up one after another like waves billowing across the sea. This area of remote mountains was a pilgrimage route from the Heian period (794-1192) through the Edo period (1603-1867). Commoners and emperors alike came to its three great shrines. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is still used by ascetics for spiritual practice.
||Dotting the path are ancient mossy Jizo carvings, placed there through the centuries to honor those who have died and to protect travelers en route. The left hand holds the Jewel of Truth to shed light and hope, while the right hand holds a pilgrim's staff.
In the Heian period, these mountains and forests were considered the Pure Land of Buddhism, therefore sacred. Today the hills are largely covered with Japanese cedar plantations, but in antiquity the glossy-leafed temperate forest was dark and deep and full of spiritual feeling. Even now mossy stone walls and ancient Jizo carvings line the old winding path. There is a feeling of awe toward something invisible, and at the same time the simple thought of one's tiny existence within it all. One could say Japan's sense of nature is completely summed up by this feeling. These forests gave birth to writers Kumagusu Minakata, Haruo Sato, and Kenji Nakagami. These are forests that stir the imagination.
Articles from the 2005 SPRING issue:
Kateigaho International Edition Issues:
2005 SUMMER - 2005 SPRING - 2005 WINTER
2004 AUTUMN - 2004 SUMMER - 2004 SPRING - 2004 WINTER
2003 AUTUMN - INAUGURAL ISSUE