What is an oji?

Oji are the shrines marking the way at fairly regular intervals along the Kumano Kodo ancient pilgrimage route stretching from Osaka to Kumano Nachi Taisha on the Kii Peninsula. The Chinese characters for oji, (ō) meaning "king" and (ji) meaning "child" ordinarily mean "prince." But, in this case, oji is a place where some Japanese god or gods are enshrined. When pilgrims come to ojis, they often offer a prayer to the gods. Pilgrims expect that the gods will watch over them for a safe journey and answer their prayers.

There are said to be ninety-nine shrines, but only ninety-seven have been discovered. Some scholars believe that there were never actually ninety-nine oji shrines and the number ninety-nine was religiously significant.

Jonan-gu

城南離宮
Jonan Imperial Villa

Jonan-gu is in the area that was under the peaceful rule of Emperor Toba. It was a strategic gateway to the ancient capital of Heian-kyo (now Kyoto). It was also a beautiful riverside scenic spot on the Kamogawa River. In time, it became a villa of aristocrats, and towards the end of the Heian era (794-1185), it served as a magnificent imperial villa for the retired emperor, Shirakawa. Then, it also actually became the imperial villa of Ex-emperor Toba and the start of government by cloistered emperors. There was a flow of people coming and going to the residence to the extent that it was a focal point of the capital, and residences lined the compound. There were also lodgings for nobility as well as the shrines and temples of the emperors. Thus, it was seen as a prosperous sub-capital at the heart of culture and government over a period spanning more than 150 years of the emperors and ex-emperors.


Jonan-gu was praised for its beauty in the changes of the four seasons. People often boarded barges on the lake of the imperial villa, and the villa was emulated for it s elegance as people enteretained there through poety parties from time to time. Jonan^gu came to carry out spendid religious festivals more and more for hte patron dieties of the imperial villa. Exhibitions of hourse racing and archery contests on horsback continue to be carried out today.

The Ex-emperor and monk, Shirakawa, left behind a record of things which wre popluar in his time in the writings of Ryoujinhishou. In the text, he invites others to come and see festivals, and to "see the festival at Jonan-dera."

At the end of the Heian era, there were the wildly popular pilgrimages to the Kumano Sanzan in Kishu (present-day Wakayama Prefecture).

Before departing on their pilgrimages, the nobility prayed for safe journey along the way as well as purifying themselves by abstaining from eating meat. In particular, the Ex-emperors, Shirakawa and Toba often chose Jonan-gu as a spiritual place to start their pilgrimages to Kumano. They would seclude themselves and do purificiation rites for seven days before departing on the pilgrimage of devotion which took a full month for the roundtrip. In those times, many people chose Jonan-gu because it impressed people with its lodgings, and it was believed that Jonan-gu was a suitable place to start from for a religious journey
.

Thus relious pilgrims from the capital would float down the Yodogawa to present day Osaka to the first of the ninety-nine ojis.


Kubotsu Oji is in downtown Osaka along the Yodogawa River in the area of Tenmabashi. It is the first oji. There is nothing left of it now except a momument marking the place. Abeno Oji is still an important place along the Kumano Kodo. It is near Tennoji Station in Osaka. From there, the oji shrines were found at regular intervals running somewhat inland along the coast to the boundary of Osaka Prefecture and into Wakayama Prefecture.
Kubotsu Oji Sakaguchi Oji Kozu Oji Ueno Oji Abeno Oji Sakai Oji Otoriishin Oji Shinoda Oji Hiramatsu Oji Inokuchi Oji Ikeda Oji Asogawa Oji Kuramochi Oji Kogishin Oji Sano Oji Kashii Oji Umayado Oji Shindatsu-ichinose Oji Jizodo Oji Umame Oji Nakayama Oji Yamaguchi Oji Nakamura Oji Kawanabe Oji Hanzaki Oji Kawabata Oji Wasa Oji Hirao Oji Nauchi Oji Matsushiro Oji Matsusaka Oji Bodaibo Oji Fujishiro Toge Oji Haraido Oji ...

Fujishiro Jinja

Fujishiro Jinja is one of the godai-oji, five most important ojis along the Kumano Kodo.
The next section of the Ki-ji pilgrimage route has many fine views of the Inland Sea stretching along the coast of Wakayama and laying along the coasts between Shikoku Island which can be seen on clear days and the western region of Honshu Island. Some oji have the same names as can be seen at the oji shrines of Umadome Oji. Some names are also found more than once on other sections of the routes.
Kitsumoto Oji Tokorozaka Oji Kaburazakatoge Oji Ichitsubo Oji Yamaguchi Oji Itoga Oji Sakasagawa Oji Kumezaki Oji Iseki Oji Gonose Oji Kutsusake Oji Umadome Oji Umadome Oji Uchinohata Oji Taie Oji Sendoji Oji Aitokusan Oji Kuama Oji Iwauchi Oji Shioya Oji Ueno Oji Tsui Oji Ikaruga Oji



At Ikaruga Oji with a group walking from Shioya Oji to Kirime Oji Shrine.

Kirime Oji

Kirime is one of the most important godai-ojis, the five most important shrines where a multitude of Japanese dieties are enshrined.
Oji often have what would be thought of as clever marketing tools to give pilgrims a reason to visit them. Nakayama Oji is one of these shrines. It is dedicated to straw sandals. In old times, pilgrims wore straw sandals that wore down pretty fast depending on the lay of the land. Travelers often had to buy or make new sandals. There are still places along the Kumano Kodo where you can find people making the sandals. Nowadays, they are mostly bought by fishermen who where them instead of boots.
Nakayama Oji Iwashiro Oji Senri Oji Minabe Oji Haya Oji Dedachi Oji Akitsu Oji Maro Oji Misu Oji Yagami Oji

Nakayama Oji is in the town of Minabe. Haya Oji marks the entrance into the city of Tanabe. Yagami Oji is near the boundary between Tanabe City and Kamitonda Town.

Inabane-oji

Inabane-oji is one of the five most important ojis along the Kumano Kodo.
Ichinose Oji

Ayukawa Oji

Takijiri Oji Shrine

Nezu Oji

Takahara Oji

Daimon Oji

Jujo Oji

Osakamoto Oji

Chikatsuyu Oji

Hisohara Oji

Tsugizakura Oji

Nakanokawa Oji

Kobiro Oji

Yukawa Oji

Inohana Oji

Hosshinmon-oji

Hosshinmon-oji was once a magnificent oji with torii gates standing to the east, west, north and south. It is a godai-oji, one of the five significant ojis where important ceremonies were carried out.
Yunomine Oji

Mizunomi Oji

Fushiogami Oji

Haraido Oji

Kumano Hongu Taisha

Kumano Hongu Taisha is the formal name of the major shrine in the heart of the mountains along the Nakahechi section of the Kumano Kodo. The major gods in the Japanese creationist myths and important Buddhist deities are enshrined in the austere ancient style of Shinto shrines.
video
There are four major shrines which appear to be housed in three buildings. Four main Japanese deities are enshrined as well as four Buddhist deities. Drums can be heard rumbling in the background for ceremonies being conducted in another shrine. The shrines are built in the grand shrine style with cypress bark roofs.
The site of the Kumano Hongu Taisha (Grand Shrine) is not the original site. In 1889, the grand shrine was washed away in a massive flood. The old site is called Oyunohara. At the entrance to the old site there is the largest torii gate in Japan.

It was erected to commemorate two thousand years of history. It is 33.9 meters tall, or about the height of a three to four-story building. Torii is written with the Chinese characters, "bird perch " in Japanese. Torii gates mark the entrance to a holy place.
It is befitting that the massive torii shows the site of a place which has been sacred for thousands of years.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha

Kumano Hayatama Taisha is located in the largest city located in the southern tip of the Kii Peninsula. The shrine is painted the brilliant vermillion colors sometimes seen in Shinto shrine architecture.
Hama Oji

Sano Oji

Hamanomiya Oji

Ichinono Oji

Tafuke Oji

Kumano Nachi Taisha

Kumano Nachi Taisha is located near the highest falls in Japan in the town of Nachi a few kilometers west of Shingu City where Kumano Hayatama Shrine is located. Known locally as Nachi Taisha, it is of the austere unadorned elegant ancient shrine style. It is nestled next to Seiganto-ji (Seiganto Temple) which is an important shrine of the Saigoku Pilgrimage route.