– Kumano Kotai Shrine – 熊野皇大神社-
Karuizawa (軽井沢) – July 22, 2022
Kumano Kotai Shrine is one of the many shrines located along the Nakasendo Highway connecting Kyoto and Tokyo. Built right on the border between modern day Nagano Prefecture and Gunma Prefecture, you can straddle the border and literally be in both prefectures at once. There’s even a plate set into the ground marking the line. We had a good time hopping back and forth across the line.
There are several goshuin available at this shrine. This is one of the special ones available on the Gunma Prefecture side of the shrine located near the entrance. The words in purple in the middle is “Nihon San Dai Kumano” Or “The Three Great Shrines of Kumano.” Also, you can see an illustration of a yatagarasu, the 3 legged crow, in the background.
Izanami no Mikoto and Yamatotakeru no Mikoto are enshrined here. According to legend, when Yamatotakeru was crossing the Usui Mountain Pass, a dense fog fell upon him. He saw a leaf fall and noticed a yatagarasu, a legendary 3 legged crow, that showed him the way. It’s because of this legend that the 3 legged yatagarasu is featured on many things from omamori to goshuin at for Kumano Kotai Shrine.
One of the key features of this shrine is the shinanoki, or holy tree, located within. It’s at least 1000 years old. It’s leaves are heart-shaped and people pray at the tree for love.