The Ancient Road of Kumano was a road of worship for noblemen and commoners walking to the three shrines of Kumano Sanzan (Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine, Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine, and Nachi Grand Shrine) in Wakayama prefecture after the Heian era. There are several routes to take; the Kii route connecting Osaka and Kumano, the Ise route connecting Ise in Mie prefecture and Kumano, the Koya route passing Mt. Koya, etc, and all of them are arduous. The Kii route from Kyoto was approximately a month round trip, with a total distance of 600km. It was felt to be an important road to salvation, as was sung in the Ryojinhisho, a famous anthology made in late 12th century. The Land route of Kii route starts at Hakkenya Funatsukiba (Hakkenya Landing) near Temmabashi (Temma bridge) in Osaka. In the city, the route to the ancient road via Shitennoji (Shitenno temple), Abeno, and to Sumiyoshi Taisha remains indicated with road signs, inviting us to travel. Let's walk the ancient road of the 21st century with prayer.
Osaka Metro Temmabashi Station
3 min walk
1. Hakkenya Funatsukiba
Pilgrims coming down from Kyoto by boat landed here, near Temmabashi which was formerly called Watanabenotsu. First they worshipped Kubotsu Oji in back of the shore, and then started walking. Sanjukkoku boats (passenger boats) went up and down the river in the Edo period, the environs teeming with people and cargo. Currently bank improvement work is underway. It will become the new center of the water town. A monument to identify the former Hakkenya Funatsukiba stands quietly at the storefront of Nagata Kombu Seaweed Store on the road on the west side of Keihan Line Temmbashi Station. From there to the south. Pass the 3 parks; Kita Oe, Naka Oe, and Minami Oe, and turn east at Nagahori Dori Street, connecting with the ancient road route of Ueshio-suji. Head for Shitennoji from here. Walk carefully to follow the dotted road signs of the ancient road. By train, return to Subway Temmabashi Station from Hakkenya Funatsukiba, go to Shitennojimae Yuhigaoka Station by Tanimachi Line. Approx. 3 minutes walk to Shitennoji.
Approx. 15 min by subway and on foot
Shitennoji is the oldest official temple in Japan, built by Prince Shotoku. Among its several gates, the "West Big Gate" especially attracted the faith of common people who wished to go to the Western paradise because the setting sun over Osaka Bay can be viewed across the gate on the middle day of Higan (a special period in Buddhism), therefore it is a.k.a. the "Paradise Gate". Listen to the ringing of the bell, pray for a while with a clear mind. Approx. 15 minutes walk from Shitennoji to Tennoji. One station from Shitennoji Yuhigaoka Station of Subway Tanimachi Line. Arrive at the huge Tennoji Station terminal, take a bumpy ride on the Hankai Tramway, the only streetcar in Osaka.
Approx. 7 min by Hankai Tramway
3. Matsumushi Zuka
Right after going on a narrow railway brushing the eaves of townhouses from the heavy traffic of Abeno-suji Street, get off at "Matsumushi" streetcar station. Go west on the wide Kizugawa-Hirano road to the west for about 100m, and there is Matsumushi Zuka. It was preserved thanks to strong requests by the local people when it was about to be demolished to make way for the road planning of Osaka City. Matsumushi means "bell cricket". It is said that tourists took pity on those insects chirping with a beautiful voice and perishing after a short life, so they built this tomb. The 800-year-old tall Japanese hackberry tree has watched over the pilgrims to Kumano for a long time. Return to the station and take the narrow road to find the "Kumano Road" road sign. Head for Abeno Seimei Jinja.
Approx. 15 min walk
4. Abeno Seimei Jinja
Abeno Seimei Jinja lies on the Kumano Road, a little over 7km from Hakkenya Funatsukiba. The birthplace of Seimei Abeno, a genius Onmyoji (ying-yang diviner) of the Heian period who served 6 emperors. The legend has it that it was built in 1007, two years after his death. What was an Onmyoji, by the way? Some say they were natural scientists who observed the planets and made calendars according to the Chinese ying-yang theory. Some say they were sorcerers who told fortunes and manipulated divine beings. A Mysterious existence. It is a popular shrine as the original place of fortune-telling with a best-selling "Onmyoji" novel and hit movie. Tall camphor and gingko trees grow thickly to make the premises dark even in daytime. Our heartbeat goes a little faster.
Approx. 2 min walk
5. Abeno Oji Jinja
Abeno Oji Jinja is about 2 minutes walk to the south from Abeno Seimei Jinja. It is said that the Emperor Nintoku built it. It was crowded with worshippers in the "oji" along the Kumano road when Kumano pilgrimage was flourishing. What is "oji"? It means 'rest area' along the Kii road from Hakkenya to Kumano. Since there were numerous ojis, they are also called "Ninety Nine Oji". There are tall trees in the premises, too. Was there shade to comfort the pilgrims back in time? Thoughts wander in the quiet shrine. Go down south on the wide road along the track of Kamimachi Line from Abeno Oji Jinja. Walk if you don't mind. Take the streetcar from "Himematsu Station" to "Tezukayama 3 chome", "Tezukayama 4 chome" if you enjoy its rocking motion.
Approx. 10 min by Hankai Tramway
6. Sumiyoshi Taisha
Get off the streetcar at "Sumiyoshi Station" or "Sumiyoshi Toriimae Station", and right in front of you is Sumiyoshi Taisha. It is known by the nickname "Sumiyossan" and for the arched bridge painted vermillion. A very popular shrine, vying for the position of No. 1 in terms of the number of worshippers every New Year's Day. The sea came up very close to Taisha in ancient times. It was called "Sumi (= clear) noe" because the view was very clear. It is still attracting faithful people who pray for calming and protecting the country, and divine protection on voyages. The beautiful main shrine with hinoki cypress gabled roof and entrance at the end is called "Sumiyoshi Construction" and is designated as a National Treasure. There are over 600 stone lanterns donated by merchants of Osaka and Sakai wishing for thriving business. The view is grand.
HUNGRY?： Hirotaya noted for its bean rice “Always beanie (means “diligent” in Japanese) bean rice”.
SOUVENIRS： Luck-inviting cat of Sumiyoshi Taisha, Suminoe Miso of Ikedaya Main Shop.