THE DELOS INITIATIVE

 

Kii Mountain Range

The Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range is a group of sacred sites and pilgrimage ways connecting them, which are distributed in Mie, Nara, and Wakayama Prefectures, Japan.

Since ancient times, the Kii Mountain Range has nurtured the spirit of nature worship, in which mountains, rocks, forests, rivers, and waterfalls are deified and revered as object of worship. Located to the south of Nara Basin, site of one of Japanís ancient capitals, this region came to be revered by people in the Nara and Kyoto capitals as well, recognized as a sacred place where gods descend and reside.

When Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the 6th century, the Kii Mountain Range became the central place for Buddhist ascetic practices. The Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism, which was introduced in the 9th century, also established itself choosing this area as a place for their ascetic practices.

From the mid-10th to the 11th century, the Shugen sect of ascetic Buddhism was established as an indigenous religion of Japan, combining elements of pre-Buddhist mountain worship, esoteric Buddhism and Taoist belief, which was introduced from China. The followers of Shugen sect chose the Kii Mountain Range as the principal site for their practices.

On the strength of the diversity of religious beliefs and activities which have been nurtured by the regionís unique geological features, climate and vegetation, the three outstanding sacred sites of Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan and Koyasan, and the pilgrimage routes linking them have developed. Buddhist priests and practitioners of the Shugen ascetic disciplines engage in active religious rituals and activities, and the general public visit those places continually for pilgrimage, which represents a living culture, alive in the spirituality of the Japanese people for over more than a thousand years.

All elements in the core area of the World Heritage Site (inscribed in 2004) are designated as National Historic Sites, Places of Scenic Beauty and Natural Monuments under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. Some elements in the core area are included in the National Park and Quasi-national Parks under the Natural Park Law.  Finally, some parts of the buffer zone are protected by Forest Law and the Municipal Ordinances for Conservation of Cultural Landscapes.

Responsible:Makoto Motonaka

E-mail: matonaka@bunka.go.jp