Kansai region, including Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and around, was the cultural and historical heart of ancient Japan for over 1000 years. The imperial government conducted the affairs of country from here until the end of Edo Era.
Beside of popular historical sites, there are also numbers of spiritual spots where people have prayed, worshipped, meditated, mourned or sentimentalised century to century.
Here I picked up some of those spiritual sites. The base is of course grown on some kind of religion, but I believe any one can immerse in some thing in these spots.
Kongobuji Temple, Mt. Koya 高野山 金剛峰寺
Region : Wakayama Prefecture
Access : 2.5 hours from Shin-Osaka Station by trains
Kongobuji Temple of Mt. Koya was found in 815AD by a legendary priest Kobodaishi Kukai. This school of buddhism has became one of the majority in Japan Buddhism field.
Aside of its history, what interesting about this place more is the site (you know, big part of the mountain is considered as a part of the temple in general, or maybe for their training field) contains a vast grave field around Okuno-in where you can find graves of Family of Tokugawa and many other shoguns and important individuals in Japanese history. Truth or not, it is incredible if all those spirits really settled there silently.
More Info : Koyasan official web site
Kumano Kodō, ancient pilgrimage routes 熊野古道
Region : Nara, Wakayama, Mie Prefectures (and little bit of Osaka)
Access : 6 hours from Shin-Osaka Station to Kumano Hongu Shrine
Kumano Kodo (Kumano Ancient Route) is a series of sacred trails in Kii Peninsula. Kumano area is one of the oldest nature worshipping mountains since the prehistoric times. Shugen-dō monks were (or maybe still they “are” ) training in these forest and mountains for making their spiritual power raise.
The large part of Kumano Kodō and Kumano Sanzan, along with Koyasan and Yoshino and Omine, were registered as UNESCO World Heritage sites as the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. You may enjoy trekking several days, and of course hot springs await you.
Ise Grand Shrine 伊勢神宮
Region : Mie Prefecture
Access : 2 ~ 2.5 hours from Nagoya Station
Japan is officially built on importance of Shinto-ism. Shinto-ism holds tons of deities who construct the world and lead mortals, just like the myths of Greek, Roman, Norse or Hinduism.
There are tens of thousands of shrines all over Japan, Ise Grand Shrine is the queen among all shrines, the shrine on the throne. The goddess Amaterasu reign the world of Shinto-ism.
In order to fetch a fortune, or to get granted a prayer, people traveled to Ise Shrine from all over Japan since 16th ~ 17th century. In some peak time, tens to hundreds of prayers visited Ise Shrine day by day.
The construction of the shrine remained ancient style. It is a kind of half boiled if you visit there just for sight seeing. Breathe deep, feel the holy atmosphere.
More Info : Ise Jingu official website
Mount Kurama 鞍馬山
Region : Kyoto City
Access : 1.5 hours from Kyoto Station to the gate of Mt. Kurama
This is my fave spot when I visit Kyoto. A legendary genius general Yoshitsune Minamoto (12th century) was grown in his childhood in Kurama temple and being trained by tengu, a spiritual long nosed monster, in the mountain here.
It is a easy trekking from the train station to Kurama Temple and further way to Kifune Shrine. You’ll walk down dark forest where kid Yoshitsune and his master tengu used to practice sword and art of war.
More Info : Kyoto Travel Guide <Official>
Ōmiwa Shrine 大神神社
Region : Nara Prefecture
Access : 30 mins from Nara Station, plus 10mins on foot to the entry
I guess it should not be reported in other corporate websites and official’s , but many mysterious experiences have been reported. Some person saw a gigantic god snake, another one encountered a rough brizard while climbing the Mt. Miwa but did not get any dirt on his shoes nor clothes.
Although I mentioned it, it is not a good idea to go there to seek for a mysterious experience, what you need is modesty attitude and to admire any deity whatever you feel there.
Entire Mt. Miwa is the god and where god himself/themselves live. This whole site is called Ōmiwa Shrine. One of the oldest and important Shinto shrines.
You may allowed to enter the trail route after pay a moderate amount of the fee. It is not a fun trekking but a walking mountain as worshipping. Eating and drinking are prohibited, except some water for you to keep hydration. Do never take anything away from the sacred mountain. Sense a mystery of ancient belief in Japan in your 2 ~ 3 hours trail.
Awashima Jinja 淡嶋神社
Region : Wakayama Prefecture
Access : 2.5 hours from Shin-Osaka station by rail, plus 15 min. on foot
Do you have an experience that you felt like your beloved doll thinks like a human? or do you keep a toy friend for long time because it is too tough to look at it is being disposed? Awashima Shrine in Kada, Wakayama is one of the place that take care of such spirited figures, perform a prayer ritual for them properly.
If you visit this shrine you will see Japanese dolls and many kinds figures everywhere. The priest of Awashima Shrine takes doll floating festival as an ritual activity on 3rd March praying for girls’ health, which is said the origin of Hina Matsuri.
The deity(-ies) of Awashima Shrine is a god of medicines, also has a legend that he helped womens pregnancy. You guess many ladies visit this shrine on some specific purposes.
More Info : (1) Welcome Kansai (2) Awashima Jinja official website via Google Translate Web
Chikubushima (Tsukubusuma-jinja Shrine)
Region : Shiga Prefecture
Access : 4.5 hours from Kyoto Station by rail and boat
A small island on the Lake Biwa, ” Chikubu Shima” is located around 6 km off the coast of the lake. The whole island is enveloped in mysterious air. It is a recommended power spot which is extremely popular among females of Kansai area as it site is said to have a benefit of fulfillment of prayer. The trees, mainly coniferous trees, cover the whole island, and there is a benefit of luck coming up just by walking and walking.