The Pilgrimage Routes
Over the past ten centuries, people from all levels of society have journeyed to the tranquil Kii Mountains, following many pilgrimage routes to the revered Kumano Sanzan Shrines. The various paths are known collectively as the Kumano Kodo. The seven routes are the Nakahechi (the main route), Ohechi, Kohechi, Iseji, the Choishi-michi Route which links the sacred Shingon Buddhist Koyasan to the Kumano Shrines, and the Yoshino & Omine route, an isolated treacherous mountain trail reserved for ascetic practices by the Shugendo sect, and one recommended only for expert hikers. In 2004, the majority of these routes – excluding a modern route called the Kiiji – were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.