The Iseji Route: Journey of the Soul over Passes *RERUN
The Kii Peninsula is in the south of Honshu, Japan's main island. On this peninsula is Kumano Kodo, a series of pilgrimage routes that connect a number of sacred spots. The "Iseji Route" is approximately 170 kilometers long and passes through the eastern side of Kii Peninsula. The Route has been a place where many people with troubles and suffering visit. Each pass you traverse, there are encounters with the people who live in that land and a warmth that sincerely welcome traveling strangers. The Kumano Kodo Iseji Route; a place to meet a landscape carved over a thousand years, and the kindness of humanity.

Yakiyama Pass

Yakiyama Pass is the hardest point in the Iseji Route, with a height difference of 600 meters from the foothills to the summit. There is a monument for the memory of those who lost their lives in this mountain pass during their pilgrimage. In this pass, there are statues of Jizo, guardian deities of children, place on the roadsides as if to encourage the pilgrims. Their expressions are different one by one. You climb the mountain pass by yourself, but you are never alone. More than 30 Jizo statues encourage you on the Iseji Route.

The Maruyama Senmaida

The Maruyama Senmaida is located in Kumano City, Mie Prefecture. Senmaida means "A 1,000 rice fields." The 1,340 terraced rice fields can be viewed from the Iseji Route. The terraced rice fields are made on small pieces of land on slopes. In July, candles are lit in the terraced rice fields, where prayers for a good harvest are heard. This is a ritual to ward off pests with fire and sound, known as "Mushi-okuri."


Once a year every August, the spirits of deceased loved ones are believed to return home, which is known as the "Obon" period. In Shichiri-mihama area, they have a unique way of sending out spirits of deceased ancestors who have returned during Obon. Locals believe that there is a place beyond the sea where the spirits of the deceased can live in peace, and the spirits can go there one year after their bodies die. As night falls, a fireworks display begins, in memory of those who passed away within the last year. People believe the spirits that travel beyond the sea eventually climb up to the sky, and watch the fireworks.