The base point for visiting Kumano, a designated world heritage site
The town of Shingu, situated on the eastern edge of the Kumano area in Wakayama prefecture, is site of the Kumano Hayatama-taisha Shrine, a World Heritage registered Grand Shrine. It is said that God dwells in the mountains of Kumano, and since long ago people have come from far and wide in pilgrimage to this place. In the famous 'Kumano Hayatama-taisha' Shrine, there is a giant Nagi (Broadleaf Podocarpus) tree around 1000 years old that is carefully tended as a tree of God. 'Nagi dolls' made from the seeds of this tree are believed to bring about lucky encounters with the opposite sex or a happily married life to couples.
The Kamikura Shrine on Gongen Mountain situated at the back of Kumano is where people come to worship a large rock as a god, and there is a very mystic atmosphere there. As described here, one of the characteristics of Kumano is the number of shrines for worshipping nature. In fact, this area is blessed by nature even now. 'Ukishima no mori (forest on floating island)' is a classic example. In this strange forest, the entire island floats in a swamp and you can feel it moving as you walk. The forest covers an area nearly 5000 m2 wide where approx. 130 kinds of rare plants live.
Why not take a trip down the Dorokyo River? It is about 30 min. by bus from the Shingu station to the water jet boat pier, where the beautiful scenery passes by as a succession of gigantic boulders, cliffs and strangely shaped rocks ? it will take your breath away.
In front of the Shingu station is 'Jofuku Park', named after an ancient legend about a Chinese wise man. Jofuku, who served Shi Huangdi (B.C.259-B.C.210) of Qin in ancient China, came to Shingu in search of an elixir for immortality and discovered a medicinal tree. According to the legend, Jofuku settled there permanently and passed on his knowledge to the local people. Written material is exhibited at the park and unique items, such as health teas and sake, are sold there. You can also have your photograph taken in Chinese costume.
English-speaking tour guides are at the ready, so please contact the Shingu City Tourist Association if you are going sightseeing in the city.
From Nagoya :
[Rail] Approx. 3 hours 10 minutes by JR Tokai express from the JR Nagoya station.
From Shirahama :
[Rail] 1 hour 40 minutes by express from the JR Shirahama station.
Approx. 1 hour 10 minutes to Nanki Shirahama Airport from Haneda Airport