The 45-meter high rock is the object of worship of the oldest shrine of Japan.
Iwaya means huge rock. The shrine named Hananoiwaya is dedicated to a 45-meter high and 80-meter wide huge rock on the Shichiri-mihama beach. Some say that Arimamura that appears in Nihon Shoki (an old history book of Japan: 720) and where Izanami-no-mikoto who was the mother of gods and creator of Japan was buried is here Hananoiwaya. The year of the foundation is not known but it is believed to be one of the oldest shrines of Japan. The sacred place has attracted a large number of worshippers from across the country since ancient times. "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range" that include Hananoiwaya-jinja was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2004.
Its highlight is definitely the huge rock to which the shrine is dedicated. Looking at the powerful and unusual shape, you will understand why this is the object of worship. The rock has numerous holes gouged by erosion. According to tradition, if you put a white stone in one of the holes with a wish, the wish will come true. Many worshippers do this even today.
During regular festivals on February 2 and October 2, "OtsunakakeShinji" (Rope Changing Ritual) is conducted. After dancing in dedication to gods, a 170-meter long giant rope is suspended from the 45-meter high huge rock to a sacred pine tree. The ritual that has been conducted from long ago is designated as an intangible cultural asset by Mie Prefecture. The shrine is full of visitors on the day. It is highly recommended to see the ritual.
Address: 130 Arima-cho, Kumano City, Mie
Phone: 0597-89-0100 (Kumano Tourist Association)
Hours open to visitors: free to enter any time
Admission Fee: Free admission to the grounds
Directions: Train: 5 minutes by Mie Kotsu bus for Shingu from JR Kisei Honsen Kumano City station (3 hours and 20 minutes from Nagoya) to Hananoiwaya and a short walk
Car: One hour and 30 minutes from Kiesi-Ouchiyama Interchange on the Kisei Expressway