Towering cedar trees and fluttering white pennants bearing Shinto inscriptions flank the long, stepped approach to the beautiful Hongu shrine, one of the three principal shrines on the Kii pilgrimage circuit. Its wooden construction and classic, upswept roofs, clad in mossy shingles of local cedar, lend a wonderfully natural feel to the complex, which remains a busy place of worship.

A kilometre away stands another of the region’s great sights: the mighty Oyunohara torii – Japan’s largest torii gateway. Its giant beams loom 34m (111ft) above the surrounding rice fields, marking the entrance to the sacred Kumano region.


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