Kumano Nachi Taisha 熊野那智大社
A cascade of temples
The paved route from Daimonzaka winds through a cedar forest before reaching Nachi, culminating in an encounter between Buddhism, Shintoism, and nature.
It's a whole complex of temples and shrines that is perched on the heights of Nachi, on the southeast flank of the massif that occupies the Kii Peninsula. It used to be the domain of yamabushi, ascetics of the mountains, famous in the region, and of pilgrims, who are still numerous.
What they come to see here is typical of Kumano: a syncretic place of worship, mixing Buddhism, Shintoism, and worship of nature.
The Seigantoji Buddhist Temple is reputed to be the oldest structure in Kumano and said to have been founded in the fourth century (the dawn of Japanese Buddhism) by a monk who had returned from India.
Nearby, the Nachi Taisha Shrine is one of three sacred sites of local Shintoism. Several of its pavilions are reserved for a small circle of priests, but tourists and pilgrims can access the sumptuous pagoda overlooking the entire complex and offering a breathtaking view of the cedar forest, the ocean, and an impressive waterfall .
Nachi no taki ("Nachi Waterfall") is probably the oldest place of worship on the site; of an imposing, violent nature and inhabited by spirits. It's no coincidence that the Nachi temples and shrines were built at the foot of this 133m high waterfall, which is one of the highest in Japan.