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From Value One, Winter 2005-2006 No. 11  

Tanabe City in Wakayama Prefecture is situated in the southern part of the Kii Peninsula, the biggest peninsula on the Japanese archipelago. The city is host to Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine, which is the headquarters for the more than 3,800 Kumano-jinja shrines around the country, and the area has long been known simply as Kumano.

The height of 33.9 meters was arrived at by using the equation 3 x 3 = 9 and also because it symbolizes " ku " (meaning nine) in the family name of Mr. Munetaka Kuki, chief priest of the shrine when the torii was built.

 

The shrine's sanctuary was originally built on Oyunohara, a huge shoal formed where the Kumano-gawa, Otonashi-gawa and Iwata-gawa rivers merge. As the original building was submerged in a disastrous flood in 1889, the sanctuary was moved to its present location. "We wanted to restore the torii (entrance arch to a Shinto shrine) at Oyunohara, which the local population refer to affectionately as 'Furumiya-san' (old shrine), so that it could become a symbol of the renewed shrine," says Mr. Yuichi Sugimoto of Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine's General Affairs Section. Responding to these wishes, Japan 's biggest steel torii was built in 2000. It is a huge structure, 33.9 meters tall, with a pillar span of 24.5 meters, a 42-meter wide kasagi (top lintel) and weighing 172 tons. To make the torii the biggest in Japan, stone could not be used for safety reasons, while wood would not have offered adequate durability or protection from the weather in what is a rainy area. As a result, it was decided to use weather-proof steel plates. JFE Engineering Corporation (formerly NKK Corporation), which built the torii, "designed the structure in a similar way to constructing an office building, as no error was permissible in light of its religious nature," according to Mr. Hideto Shitaki of JFE's Building Structure Marketing Department. More than 600,000 worshippers visit Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine every year and most of them are captivated by the magnificence of the huge steel-built torii, which dominates at Oyunohara. Once they walk underneath the torii, they enter into another world of divine solemnity.


Kumano-Kodo is a registered World Heritage site.

Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine, dedicated to the gods who created Japan.
Hongu, Hongu-cho, Tanabe City , Wakayama.
About one hour by car from JR Shingu Station


The roads linking Osaka and Kyoto to Kumano Hongu-taisha Shrine have traditionally been called "Kumano-Kodo" (the Kumano Old Roads). The "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range," including the Kumano-Kodo, were registered as a World Heritage site on July 7, 2004. Kumano-Kodo remain as they always were, having undergone no major change since the Heian Era (794-1192). They remain precious "Kodo," both historically and culturally.

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