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World Heritage – Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

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Since old times of lore, the Kii Mountain Ranges have always been thought of as a special region inhabited by the gods.  For Buddhism’s esoteric school of Shingon, imported from China, the Kii Mountains were also a place to practice mountain asceticism.

Moreover, along with the Rising of the influence  of Buddhism, the spreading notions peculiar to Japan such as the “fusion of Shinto and Buddhism” and of the Buddhist concept of the “eventual demise of Buddhism and  a time of no enlightenment leading to chaos in the world” lead to the thought of the Kii Mountain Range as a “pure land.”

It became the area for ascetic practices such as Shugendo’s mountain asceticism, through which the practioner could acquire supernatural strength.

As a result, the three sacred mountainous regions in the Kii Mountain Ranges of Yoshino/Omine, Kumano Sanzan, and Koyasan, and the pilgrimage routes leading to them such as Omine Okugakemichi, Kumano Sankeimichi, Koya Sankeimichi came to life.

The people from the capital, and also from around the country began visiting, and these sites came to exert a big influence upon the developments and exchanges of Japanese culture and region.

The “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” spreading over the three prefectures of Wakayama, Mie, and Nara with its “sacred mountain sites” and “pilgrimage routes” would not have been possible but for the nature of the Kii Mountain Ranges.

Its surrounding mountains, forests, rivers, waterfalls, Onsens, an rural areas – in short, its “Cultural Lanscape,” plays an essential role.  It is an asset of the kind of which the world has no other example of.

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