At the long-sought end of the Kumano kodo lies Nachi-san, a sort of religious Shangri-la nestled in the mountains with—finally!—a view of the Pacific Ocean. While some pilgrims do it the hard way and walk the ancient stones of the Kumano kodo up to mountain passes and down through valleys to arrive in Nachi-san, most visitors arrive by scheduled bus, or by tour bus. Like Lourdes in France, or Mt Koya in Japan, Nachi-san is a destination for religious tourists, almost all of whom are Japanese. The constant construction on the temple complexes indicates what a booming business this religious tourism is.
Religious tourism or not, the site is beautiful, and there are still plenty of stairs to climb even if the destination was reached by bus. As I shouldered my tripod and paid my 500 Yen extra to get close to the holy waterfall (shown in the rear of the photo above) I couldn’t help feel sadness at leaving the Kii peninsula and the Kumano kodo pilgrimage area. The next day I would be taking a bus, train, taxi, ferry, another taxi, and a train—where Aya would meet me at the little Awa Yamakawa train station in Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku, the least populous of Japan’s four major islands.