Chohoji Temple in Shimotsu Town in Wakayama Prefecture is a temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. It is known for the graveyard of the successive lords of the Kishu domain. The Daimon gate, the main hall and the Tahoto pagoda are designated as National Treasures.
This Tahoto is a two-story pagoda with tiled roof. It is presumed to have been built in 1357. On top of the roof is the decorative finial. Fine woodwork is given to every part of the building including the bracket complex under the roof of the lower story and the closely spaced parallel rafters at the eaves of the upper story.
It is said that the lower story is supported by four pillars and an alter housing the statue of Dainichi Nyorai is placed inside the lower level. With a height of 13.4 m, this pagoda is relatively small in size, it is said to be a well-balanced masterpiece, gracefully constructed in the pure Japanese style.
Negoroji Temple in Iwade City in Wakayama Prefecture is a head temple of the Shingi Shingon Buddhism. The Daito pagoda at Negoroji temple was constructed by modeling after the one in Mt. Koya, the headquarters of the Shingon Buddhism. According to the document discovered during the demolition work for renovation, the construction started in 1480, continued for nearly 70 years and completed in 1547. The bullet wound made at the time of the Siege of Negoroji commanded by Toyotomi Hideyoshi can be seen on the surface of the base wood.
A “daito” is a large-sized “tahoto” pagoda with a circular core inside the lower story. The Daito pagoda at Negoroji Temple is designated as a National Treasure as one of a few existing Daito pagodas that escaped war damage. It is an overwhelmingly huge wooden building with a height of 35.1 meter and a width of 15 meters. It is a two-story pagoda with a tiled roof. Seen from outside, the lower story looks square but the inside is a circular sanctuary surrounded with twelve pillars.
Karekinada (sea of withered tree) is the sea along a ria coast from Shirahama-cho to Kushimoto-cho, Nishimuro-gun, Wakayama Pref. There are some opinions about the origin of its name. One explanation goes that the only port along the coastline that a ship can drop at on a stormy day is Susami Port. There is no other port to take a rest, namely “the shade of a tree” for overland travelers, the rest of the coast is as good as withered trees. Another explanation is that the sea wind and waves of this coastline are strong enough to wither trees. There are strange-shaped stones and huge rocks continuously standing along this inhospitable shore. This is also a part of the Ohechi route of Kumano Ancient Road. It is a steep mountain path above bold cliffs and rocky beaches, but the view from above is said to be the best on the route. It is also known as the setting of a novel “Karekinada” by Kenji Nakagami. The area along the coastline was designated as Kumano-Karekinada-Kaigan Prefectural National Park in 1968, and a strong effort for nature conservation is being made.
This strange rock located in Kozagawa-cho is a nationally designated Natural Treasure. In the midstream of the Koza River with a total length of 56 km, which runs into the Kumanonada Sea and is known for its clear water, there are beautiful gorges formed by natural processes, which can be called the “figurative art created by nature.” One of them is the Kozagawa Gorge, located between Shichikawa Dam and the downstream. Along the gorge continuously stand strange rocks, each of which has a name according to its shape such as Ichimaiiwa (a monolith), Shojo-mine (a girl’s peak), and Mushikuiiwa Rock (worm-eaten rock). Mushikuiiwa Rock has numerous holes created by natural erosion, looking like a beehive. It is a worth-seeing art work made by nature. Kozagawa Gorge is one of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in the prefecture. In spring, a lot of people come to enjoy cherry blossoms while looking around the strange rocks.
Zenpukuin Temple is an old and distinguished temple located in Kainan City, Wakayama prefecture. This temple was originally one of the five sub-temples of Kofukuji Temple, which was built in 1214 by the Zen priest Eisai. Kofukuji Temple, which was once a flourishing temple with the formal seven main buildings, fell into ruin with its sponsor having gone bankrupt. After that it was converted to Shingon Sect and repaired some of the buildings. In the Edo period, when the area became a part of the Kishu domain, it converted again to Tendai Sect. The three of the five sub-temples had remained until the Meiji period, but only Zenpukuin Temple remains to the present time. Shakamuni Hall in Yosemune-zukuri style (a square building) covered with a double hipped roofs and standing on the Ransekizumi podium (made of natural stones piled up in a random fashion) is designated as a National Treasure. Its Yosemune-zukuri style with a tile roof and the construction method using Heiko-darugi (rafters laid parallel to each other from the ridge) are considered as the typical examples of Zen architectural elements in the late Kamakura period, which can also be seen in Shariden at Engakuji Temple in Kamakura and Buddha Hall at Kozanji Temple in Yamaguchi.
Nokami Hachimangu Shrine is an old and distinguished shrine located in Kimino-cho, Kaiso-gun, Wakayama Pref. It is said that the shrine dates back to the period during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (around A.D. 550). It is one of the 3 largest Hachiman shrines in Japan. As a branch shrine of Iwashimizu Shrine in Kyoto, Nokami Shrine has been worshipped by people for a long time. The shrine is also known for a lot of nationally designated cultural properties including the Main Hall built in the Azuchi Momoyama period (1568-1598), the Main Hall of Takeuchi Shrine (one of the branch shrines), and a sword. Brilliant vermillion of the Main Hall reminds us of its ancient flourishing times. At the autumn festival held on Sunday in the middle of October every year, flamboyant Shishimai dance (lion dance) is dedicated to the god and a lot of local people come to enjoy the festival.
Kongozanmaiin Temple in Mt. Koya in Wakayama Prefecture is the Bakkaku-Honzan (extra-status cathedral) of the Shingon sect. The principal object of worship is Aizen Myoo. It is the 11th of the 18 Holy Places of Butto-koji (Old Temples with Pagodas) and the 17th Holy Place of Saigoku Aizen Myoo Pilgrimage. .
The temple was founded in 1211 as Zenjoin Temple by the plea of Hojo Masako to hold memorial services for her husband, Minamoto no Yoritomo. In 1223, when Masako died with the Buddhist name of Zenjo Nyojitsu, the temple changed its name to the present name.
Tahoto pagoda was constructed by the order of Masako and under the supervision of the Zen monk Kakuchi. It is a 14.9 m tall pagoda with Japanese cypress-bark roof. The first story is not very tall and the second story has the stability. It is the second oldest Tahoto pagoda and counted as one of the three finest Tahoto pagodas in Japan. It is designated as a National Treasure.
The pagoda houses the statue of Gochi Nyorai, which is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property.
Kouchi Festival takes place at Koza, Kushimoto-cho, Wakayama prefecture on July 24th and 25th each year. It is also known as “Mifune-matsuri”, or Boating Festival, and is held on the banks of the Koza River. The festival is designated as an important intangible folklore cultural asset by the Japanese government.
The festival dates back to the Gempei War in 12th century when the naval forces of Kumano who fought for Genji Clan celebrated their victory at Kouchi Shrine. The festival replicates the triumphal return of the military force.
Three boats decorated with vividly colored battle cloth, mizuhiki paper strings, spears, halberds and lanterns enter the river after the opening ceremony at the Koza Shrine and slowly move up to Seisho Island where Kouch Daimyoujin, the local deity, is enshrined. The boat takes two days to reach the island and therefore all prayers and offerings take place on the 25th.
Shishi dances are demonstrated in the town and an exciting boat race called “Kaitenma Kyousou” is undertaken by junior high school students further enchanting the crowd.