Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (紀伊山地の霊場と参詣道)

Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range is a World Heritage (Cultural heritage) registered for the three sacred sites and pilgrimage routes (Kumano-kodo Road, Omine Okugake-michi Road, Koyasan Choishi-michi Road) in Kii Mountain Range straddling Wakayama, Nara, Mie Prefectures. It was registered on July 7, 2004.

Category of the heritage

Cultural heritage

Monument

Site (cultural scenery)

Registration standard

Specifically, (2) monuments and sites, which form cultural scenery in Kii Mountain Range, are unusual syncretization of Shinto with Buddhism, while it illustrates the interaction and development of religious culture in the east Asia. (3) The shrines and Buddhist temples in Kii Mountain Range, together with their associated religious rites, are regarded as particularly excellent evidence on the development of Japanese religious culture over 1000 years. (4) Kii Mountain Range served as a foundation to create shrine and temple architecture with a unique style, and they significantly influenced shrine and temple architecture out of Kii Mountain Range in Japan. In addition to (6), the remains and forest scenery of Kii Mountain Range reflect the tradition of sacred peak which has been continuously and extraordinarily recorded over the past 1,200 years.

Heritage

The following is the list of registered heritages. Among registered heritages, 'Yoshino, Omine,' 'Kumano Sanzan' (three major shrines, Kumano-Hongu-Taisha, Kumano-Hayatama-Taisha and Kumano-Nachi-Taisha) (excluding Fudarakusan-ji Temple), a part of 'pilgrimage routes' (Omine Okugake-michi Road and a part of Kumano Pilgrimage Routes) are included in Yoshino-Kumano National Park. In addition, 'Mt. Koya' and a part of Kumano Pilgrimage Routes are included in Koya-Ryujin Quasi-National Park.

Disputes with land owners

In Owase City, Mie Prefecture, the land owners of the area which is registered as world heritage protested against the registration and drew graffiti on the trees of sando (an approach to the temple). Since it was not a common graffiti but intended to protest, therefore, dialogue is planned to solve the problem instead of taking a forceful action. This is because their lands were registered as world heritage without explanations in advance, and forestry, which is their occupation, came to be prohibited.

Effects due to having the town as a tourist site

There are constant damages on the body of heritage, a buffer area, and even the area in the vicinity of the heritage (not included in the world heritage). This is particularly prominent in the area around Kumano-kodo Road which is a site of Pilgrimage Routes. Some people pointed out that some heritages have been further devastated due to rush of tourists since it was registered as world heritage.

The wind power generation plan by The Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc.

In January 2005, The Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. announced the plan to construct wind turbines on the Hatenashi mountain range to generate wind power
The Hatenashi mountain range is neither a world heritage nor a buffering zone, but Kumano-kodo Road has an easy view of the Hatenashi mountain range. Therefore, wind turbines may affect the scenery. In addition, the Hatenashi mountain range is a dividing mountain of neighboring rivers (the Kumano-gawa River, the Hiki-gawa River, the Tonda-gawa River, and the Hidaka-gawa River), and adverse effect caused by constructions on the rivers is concerned.

Maintenance' of Kodo

Public projects (aiming to maintain Kodo) by local government bodies and cutting of vegetation in Kodo and the surrounding area have been conducted several times since around 2002 mainly in Nakahechi and Ohechi (Kumano-kodo Road). Adverse effects including devastation of scenery and loss of precious laurel forest are prominent and it is subject to criticism. The attitude of administrative authorities on the protection of heritage or the adverse effect caused by 'vertically-segmented administrative system' are questioned in that Wakayama Prefecture is involved in some cases, and some projects were conducted as a part of Prefectural projects, 'Green Employment Project' under special subsidy for emergency regional employment creation of the nation.

Efforts to protect world heritage

In July 2005, the World Heritage ordinance of Wakayama Prefecture was enforced.