Friday, April 21, 2023

Tokei Shrine Tanabe World Heritage Site

Tokei Shrine Tanabe World Heritage Site

Tokei Shrine is the main shrine of Tanabe, Wakayama, known as the gateway to the Kumano Kodo.

In 2016 the shrine was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, most commonly known as Kumano Kodo.

The shrine grounds are home to many ancient Camphor trees with the oldest estimated to be 1200 years old.

The famed warrior-monk Benkei, known primarily as the sidekick of Yoshitsune, was born in Tanabe and a statue in the shrine depicts him with his father and some chickens.

According to the story, Benkei's father was asked for support from both sides of the conflict known as the Genpei War between the Taira and Minamoto clans. Unable to decide, he staged a series of cock fights between cocks with red and white feathers, representing each side of the conflict. The cocks with white feathers won and so he chose to support the Minamoto.

According to the shrine, it was founded in the 5th century, which seems very speculative to me, however the shrine rose to prominence in the 11th century as a branch of the Kumano Sanzan shrines. Pilgrims would pray here for a safe journey into the interior, and in some cases, because the pilgrimage route was at times heavily traveled by bandits and robbers, pilgrims would go no further and "worship from afar" here.

Tokei Shrine enshrines all the kami that are enshrined in the Kumano Sanzan, the three big shrines of Hongu, Shingu, and Nachi, that are the focus of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, which is why there are so many hondens.

There are also a wide variety of sub-shrines scattered throughout the grounds. many festivals take place throughout the year including the massive  Tanabe Matsuri held in July and also a Benkei Festival.

I arrived here at the end of my 4th day walking the Saigoku Pilgrimage. The previous post in the series was Takahara to Takajirioji on the Nakahechi.

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