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

Criteria: (ii) (iii) (iv) (vi) | Date of Inscription: 2004 | Location: Mie, Nara and Wakayama Prefectures | Justification for Inscription

UNESCO

Description

A sacred place with a spiritual presence.
There are dark forests, numerous waterfalls and steep cliffs to be found throughout the Kii Mountain Range where sacred sites and pilgrimage routes add to a spiritual presence ingrained in the land.

Kii Mountain Range
Kii Mountain Range
Konpondaito in Koyasan
Konpondaito in Koyasan
A guardian deity of children in Kumano
A guardian deity of children in Kumano
The Kii Peninsula is located at the southernmost tip of the Japanese mainland and has long been thought of as an area where the gods have been enshrined since the age of myths and legend. Buddhism imported from China regarded these deeply forested mountains as a Pure Land where the Amitabha Buddha and the God of Mercy lived leading legions of Buddhist monks to engage in ascetic practices in the region. As a result three sacred sites; Yoshino/Omine, Kumano Sanzan and Koyasan, all with different origins, contents and backgrounds and a number of pilgrimage routes were long since created. Each, and the combined trio have made a great impact on the development and interaction of Japanese religion and culture, with large numbers of visitors-cum-pilgrims arriving from all over the nation.
The vastness of the area
The combined registered areas of the above total 11,865 hectares and is the largest cultural asset in Japan. The area as one covers Wakayama, Nara and Mie prefectures including 29 municipalities. The area is only the second such registered road following that of the "Route of Santiago de Compostela" from France to Spain.
Walking and hiking routes total 307.6 km in length and include the Kumano River which runs along the border of Wakayama and Mie prefectures, and also Shichirimihama, a coastal area in the southern part of Mie Prefecture.
Kii Peninsula
The Kii Peninsula is located to the south of Nara and Kyoto, both former centers of the Japanese cultural and political scene for a total period of some 1400 years. South being important in Japanese religious beliefs, the area was regarded as "the area the gods are enshrined," a "Pure Land," and a "land of the dead," the modern day result being the three sacred sites that each pay homage to these concepts.
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