Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival

With declining rural communities as well as less Shinto followers  across Japan, local religious and cultural local festivals might be struggling to maintain community interest and participation. S0 I say to fellow visitors in particular – seek out and celebrate small festivals.

One such festival is the Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival, in Hongu, Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture in mid-April every year. With shrine ceremonies and procession of mikoshi, this festival is like many others just smaller scale.

Here Veronica and I observed the strength in local people working together to both celebrate and respect the religious and spiritual significance of Kumano Hongu Taisha. Refreshing was the involvement of young people, those who will be responsible for maintaining the spirit of Kumano for generations ahead.

The festival has a schedule but was not led by raucous announcers over public address systems. So it was very special to be standing at the right place at the right time when without fanfare a group of esoteric priests arrived at one of the outer shrines, took place in front, and chanted rhythmically for some minutes expressing the immense spirituality of the place.

Hongu is a central place in the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes which are registered as UNESCO World Heritage and part of the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”. The shrine complex sits atop 200 stone steps. And very steep they are too!

Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau has a great website with details about all the Kumano routes, sights and accommodation – as well as about this festival and others in the region.

For a sample of images from the 2016 festival, see this post

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5 Responses to Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival

  1. Jia Wei says:

    Hi,
    I chance upon your blog and would like to seek your advise regarding the festival on 15April.
    I will be going to Hongu Taisha on the 15 April. The initial plan was to reach Yunomine Onsen before 10am and hike to Hongu Taisha and to leave the area by 3-4pm to catch my bus to Shingu.
    Since there is a festival going on, I am thinking of skipping Yunomine Onsen area and go straight to Hongu Taisha. So I will be at the festival from 10am to 3pm+. What do you advise?
    Thanks in advance!
    Best regards,
    Jia

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    • TonyJ2 says:

      Hello Jia, I am not a travel advisor but …. yes I would head for Hongu! Here is a link to the festival schedule. On the 15th, the procession does not start till 1:00pm but the activity at the Shrine itself is well worth seeing and participating in. http://www.tb-kumano.jp/en/what-to-do/festivals_event/kumano_hongu_taisha-spring_festival/

      Are you walking the Kumano and coming in to Hongu? This Kumano Shrine is a very significant element of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, so seeing the festival would add an extra element.

      The Hongu Taisha, the World Heritage Centre, and the bus stop are all right in Hongu town.

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      • Jia says:

        Hi Tony. Thanks for the link. I saw it, that’s why I was wondering if there are other stuff happening between 9am – 1am at the shrine, and is it worth to skip my hike from Yunomine Onsen to Hongu. I will just be hiking a little here and there, as I am actually staying in Mie prefecture (20mins from Shingu stn). Thanks for the extra information on the bus stop and Heritage Centre. ^.^ Looking forward to the event!

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  2. dragonlife says:

    Greetings from Shizuoka City!
    Interestingly enough we have exactly the same “tengu dancer” in Shizuoka City!
    It seems that is it is shared by many Shinto Shrines all over japan!
    Best rgards,
    Robert-Gilles

    Like

    • TonyJ2 says:

      Yes I imagine that is the case maybe with the decline in number of Shinto priests etc. irrespective of that, the ritual of sending the arrows in four directions, clashing with another, and lighting the pyre was interesting to experience. And without a narration, or understanding Japanese – the story was understandable.

      Later on, when we were back at our hotel, two small vans parked right in front. In strode the tengu group – each quaffing a quick beer, out for a quick dip in the Onsen, then back in the car and away!

      Maybe to the next shrine festival.

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