Kumano Hongū Taisha

Top choice in Kii Peninsula

Kumano Hongū Taisha is one of the Kumano Sanzan (three great shrines of Kumano) and if you're following the traditional pilgrim route, it's the first one you'll encounter. Though the shrine has been rebuilt many times over the years, it remains an excellent example of Japanese shrine architecture, made of unpainted wood using traditional carpentry techniques and with the signature chigi (cross-hatched beams) on the roof.

The shrine was originally located at Ōyunohara, a large sandbar in the Kumano-gawa and the original site of worship, but it was relocated here after flooding in 1889. It's now located on a tree-covered ridge, up a flight of stone steps.

In 2000 a giant torii (entrance gate to a Shintō shrine), Ōtorii, 33.9m tall and 42m wide, made out of steel, painted dramatic black and the largest in Japan, was erected at the entrance to Ōyunohara.