Kumano Nachi Taisha (熊野那智大社) is one of the three Kumano shrines, situated a few kilometers inland from the coastal hot spring resort of Katsuura. The shrine is part of a large complex of neighboring religious sites that exemplify the fusion of Buddhist and Shinto influences that is particular to the Kumano region. The site also boasts the tallest waterfall in Japan.
The veneration of the Kumano shrines as holy sites of Shintoism predates Buddhism's introduction to Japan in the mid 6th century. Once Buddhism arrived in Kumano it took root quickly, and rather than competing with the indigenous religion for religious authority, it began a long process of harmonious mixing.
A product of this congenial relationship can be seen at Nachi Taisha. Directly beside the eminent shrine is the Buddhist temple Seigantoji. In fact, for most of their history the buildings were not even under separate control and functioned as one religious institution. The buildings of both the shrine and the temple are impressive, and among the buildings of Seigantoji there is a three-story pagoda.
The eight islands of Japan sprang into existence through Divine Intervention.The first two gods who came into existence were Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto, the Exalted Male and Exalted Female. It was their job to make the land for people to live on.They went to the bridge between heaven and earth and, using a jewel-encrusted halberd, Izanagi and Izanami churned up the sea into a frothy foam. As salty drips of water fell from the tip of the halberd the first island was formed. Its name was Onogoro.So far, so good. But when Izanagi and Izanami first met on their island, Izanami spoke to Isanagi without being spoken to first. Since she was the female, and this was improper, their first union created badly-formed offspring who were sent off into the sea in boats.The next time they met, Izanagi was sure to speak first, ensuring the proper rules were followed, and this time they produced eight children, which became the islands of Japan.I'm sure you did not fail to miss the significance of this myth for the establishment of Japanese formal society.At present, Japan is the financial capital of Asia. It has the second largest economy in the world and the largest metropolitan area (Tokyo.)Technically there are three thousand islands making up the Japanese archipelago. Izanagi and Izanami must have been busy little devils with their jewelled halberd...Japan's culture is highly technical and organized. Everything sparkles and swooshes on silent, miniaturized mechanisms.They're a world leader in robotics, and the Japanese have the longest life-expectancy on earth.Text by Steve Smith.