The vermillion lacquered Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine lies along the Kumano-gawa River. The shrine's main deities are Kumano Hayatama no Ohkami and Kumano Fusumi no Ohkami, who are husband and wife, but twelve other gods are also worshipped. Kumano Hayatama no Ohkami is believed to be the deification of flowing water, and also represents Shingu, which is situated at the mouth of the Kumano-gawa River.
On the grounds of Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine is a grand Asian Bayberry that was planted by Taira no Shigemori and is designated as a natural monument. There is also the Kumano Sacred Treasure Museum, where more than 1000 nationally appointed cultural properties are on display, including hiougi, handheld fans made of cypress.
After walking a few hundred kilometers from Kyoto on the Kumano Mode (the Kumano Pilgrimage), the first shrine pilgrims would reach was Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine.
The shrine, which is roofed with cypress bark (hiwadabuki), is sure to impress visitors, but also conveys a gentle warmth. A poet of the 12th-13th centuries wrote about how he was moved to tears when he visited it.
The shrine was moved to its current location in the 19th century. It was originally on Oyunohara, an island where Kumano-gawa River converges with two other rivers. A torii gate on the island is 34 meters tall, making it the tallest in Japan.
The Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine is reached by walking up the Daimon-zaka Slope trail, through a forest of centuries-old cedars fragrant with the trees' scent. At the top of the trail, another 473 stone steps lead to the gates of the shrine. A splendid view opens up upon reaching the plaza in front of the shrine. Next to it is the main hall of Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple, from which one can see Nachi Falls, one of Japan’s top three waterfalls.
The Kansai area, which includes Shingu, has a pilgrimage of 33 Buddhist temples, called the Kansai 33 Kannon Pilgrimage. Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple is the first stop on the pilgrimage, and many pilgrims still visit and pray there today. The main hall was rebuilt by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590, and its unique architecture is representative of that era. Behind the main hall is a vermillion three-storied pagoda, and behind and to the side of the pagoda is Nachi Falls. The pagoda and the waterfall together make for a stunning view, and many people come to take photographs.