Take a little journey to rural Japan! Here is a 7 minute journey to enjoy if but virtually! This little seaside village is just about 20-30 minutes from Kushimoto to the south on the Kii Peninsula. There are thousands of wonderful little hidden beaches, islands, villages, pristine streams, waterfalls, rivers, and hot springs to be explored not to mention all the shrines and temples scattered all over the landscape. Did you know that Kumano is an UNESCO World Heritage site and an ancient pilgrimage destination. It is one of Japan’s ‘power spots’ that few people know about. After getting worn out in Tokyo and Osaka come and visit Kumano and experience a little of the ‘Real Japan’.
This is short video showing the delegates of the Shingu Sister City Committee delivering financial support from Santa Cruz Sister City Committee and Alan J. Hiromura.
Here is a short interview of the owner of Nagi Bakery and Cafe on Ohshima in Kushimoto Town, Wakayama Prefecture. Kushimoto is about 50 minutes from Shingu City and about 3 hours from Osaka. The drive along the coast of the Kii Peninsula is quite beautiful and the best way to get to Kushimoto. Ohshima has a Turkish museum and some very nice beaches and small villages to visit. So, after enjoying a coffee or tea and some delicious bread of homemade pizza, you can travel around the small island and enjoy the sites. In the summer go for a nice swim in the Pacific Ocean.
Here is a picture of a Kagari Goku (かがり御供) which is made in the morning on February 6th, at the Hayatama Shrine in Shingu. Kagari Goku is made of ‘mochi rice’ and kind of glutinous rice. Under the guidance of appointed festival ‘guardians’ or ‘kaishaku’ （かいしゃく）, the mochi rice is steamed then placed in a large stone mortar and pounded with a cypress pestle until soft. It is then formed into a small cakes and usually eaten with miso soup.
In this case it made in a special ceremony and provided as a special offering to the entity of the Kamikura Shrine as part of the Shingu Fire Festival.
It is stretched out and cut into 3 small strips and tied up with a string tied formed a cross and then finally completed with an ‘Otokomusubi’, which is the same shape as the knot that used on the rope tied around the waist of the ‘noboriko’, or Oto Matsuri participants. This knot is shaped in the form of two ‘horns’.
The numbers involved in these Shinto ceremonies are rarely just arbitrary but normally have some symbolic meaning behind them. The 3 ‘mochi’ likely have something to do with the ‘Kumano Sanzan’ and the trinity of Heaven, Human, Earth, a commonly recurring theme in ancient eastern thought.
I interpret the two ‘horns’ as Yin and Yang, or Earth and Heaven, and the ‘cross’ to be where these two meet and blend in the Human experience.
Here is a rare video from 1995 where Hikitsuchi Michio Sensei, 10th Degree Black Belt, is performing a Shinto ‘norito’.
Ueshiba Morihei, founder of the Aikido, the peaceful martial art, was born in Tanabe on the Kishu Peninsula in Wakayama. Shingu, Wakayama is famous for the Kumano World Juku Aikido Dojo where Ueshiba Morihei, also known as ‘O Sensei’ or Great Teacher. His top student was Hikitsuchi Michio of Shingu and achieved the top ranking in the Aikido world, a 10th degree black belt.
Thousands of Aikido students from all over the world have come to Shingu for the sole purpose of learning the art of Aikido from Hikitsuchi Sensei.
Hikitsuchi Sensei died on feb 2nd, 2004, the same year that Kumano became a UNESCO World Heritage.