Tamaki Syncretism

What is now known as Tamaki Shrine used to be a shrine-temple complex until the the early Meiji period when Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples were separated by governmental degree.

This is also true for the Kumano Sanzan, the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano, located in Hongu, Shingu and Nachi respectively. They are registered as shrines now but in the olden days they also used to be shrine-temple complexes.

In fact, Tamaki Shrine was the so-called Oku-no-in (the inner-most sanctuary) of the Kumano Sanzan.

The watchful observer will notice some traces of Buddhism at this shrine complex.

What Tamaki is really famous for are the 1,000 year old cedar trees in the vicinity of the shrine buildings. They were most likely planted there and have survived the turmoil of the Meji period when almost all that looked and was Buddhist here was destroyed. Even the Buddhist monks were killed. Their graves are found in a valley behind the shrine but not many people know this or notice the graves.

Many visitors who walk the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails and visit the Kumano Sanzan do not make it to Tamaki Shrine because access is difficult and it takes time. While in the old days pilgrims had to walk a 20km mountain trail uphill to get to Tamaki from Hongu, one can drive there now. From Totsukawa Village a small road winds its way up the mountain to Tamaki, which is located at an elevation of roughly 1,000m. From the car park it is still a 20 min walk to reach the main shrine.

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