In the isolated valleys of the Kii Peninsula lies the large Buddhist ans Shinto complex of Nachisan. It was built around the magnificent Nachi waterfall, one of the largest in Japan (133m high). It is a mystical place in every way, which I strongly recommend you to visit !
You can start the visit from the bottom of the Nachi falls. A stone paved path, surrounded by beautiful Japanese cedars, leads to the river. Here is a small shrine to pray in front of the impressive waterfall. It is the original religious site of Nachisan.
Nachisan takes part in the Kumano Kodō, a long pilgrimage through the various temples and shrines of the Kii Peninsula. Nachisan is representative of the “fusion” between Buddhism and Shintoism because there is a mix of temple and shrine. Going up the trail, you’ll arrive to Seiganto-ji, a buddhist temple famous for its iconic three-story pagoda overlooking the Nachi falls. Seiganto-ji is believed to be the oldest structure in Kumano, dating from the 4th century, when Buddhism had just reached Japan.
Right next door is the Kumano Nachi-taisha shrine, an important place of the Kumano Kodō pilgrimage. The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004, as part of “the sacred sites and pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountains”. Every July 14, the Nachi no Hi Matsuri (festival) is held at the shrine. It can be considered as the the “fire festival”. Indeed, there is an impressive procession with twelve mikoshi (portable shrine) and large torches, that represents the twelve gods of Kudamo. It is an unmissable celebration !
Access : There is a bus from Kii-Katsuura station going to Nachisan (30 min for 630 yen).
Kumano Nachi-taisha Festival : every July 14th.