熊野三山へと導く参詣道、熊野古道。なかでも、紀伊半島西岸を進み、田辺から山中を結ぶ「中辺路」は、熊野参詣に最も頻繁に利用されたルートです。

「蟻の熊野詣」と言われたのも中辺路で、数多くの参拝者がこの山間の町を往来、当時は、はるか大阪淀川の河口から熊野三山に至るまで、約2キロの間隔で「王子」という中継所が置かれ、参詣途上で儀式が行われていました。その数の多さから「熊野九十九王子」と呼ばれた「王子」の跡には、今も多数の史跡や当時の面影が残り、熊野古道の大きな見どころになっています。

例えば、継桜王子の社殿に向かう石段の脇にそびえる「一方杉」。推定樹齢800年の杉が、南にある熊野那智大社を慕うように一方向に枝を伸ばして立ち並ぶ景色は、神々しい何かを感じます。

Traveling on the path of prayer, healing, and revival

The Kumano Kodo leads to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano.  From the west coast of the Kii Peninsula the Nakahechi route leads to into the mountains, the most commonly traveled route toward the shrines. 

It was the Nakahechi that was referenced in the phrase, “procession of ants.”  In the olden days, between the mouth of the river in Osaka and the destination of the Three Grand Shrines, smaller shrines called ‘Oji’ appeared every two kilometers or so along the pilgrimage path, and ceremonies were held there as the pilgrimage passed.  From the great number of Oji comes the phrase “99 Oji of Kumano,” and some of these shrines or ruins still provide many interesting sites along the path.  

For example, towering over the stone staircase leading to Tsugizakura Oji is the Ipposugi, an 800-year-old cryptmeria whose branches all point south, toward the grand shrine in Nachi.  From sights like this we can catch a glimpse of the sacredness that the original pilgrims felt while walking path.

 

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