Seiganto-ji is a Tendai Buddhist temple in Nachikatsuura, Wakayama Prefecture. It is the first station of Saigoku 33 Pilgrimage, its main hall designated as an Important Cultural Property, and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.”
According to legend, the temple was established in the 4th century by a monk named Ragyo Shonin who came from India. He found a golden statue of Kannon at the basin of the Nachi Falls and built a temple for it.
In around the late 6th to the early 7th century, a priest called Shobutsu Shonin constructed a temple complex here, created a large statue of Kannon and placed the statue Ragyo Shonin discovered inside the large one.
This story is of course only a legend, and since it was not until the mid-Heian period that the worship of Kumano gained momentum among aristocrats and the imperial family, not much can be known about Kumano before that.
Hence, when the temple and adjoining Kumano Nachi Taisha were actually established is unknown, but it is thought that nature worship has flourished at this site from the ancient times.
This area was famous for Shugendo, a highly syncretic mountain religion developed mainly from Shintoism and Buddhism, until it was banned during the Meiji Restoration which took place in the late 19th century.
On this occasion, most of the Buddhist buildings at the three Kumano sites (Hongu, Shingu, and Nachi) were removed except for Nyoirindo in Nachi, the building currently being used as Hondo (the main hall) at Seiganto-ji.
When Nyoirindo was rebranded as Seiganto-ji, it is said that it was named after Seigan-ji which existed in Mt. Koya until 1869. This building was completed in 1592 and is an Important Cultural Property as aforementioned.
Where to eat around Seiganto-ji
Kumano Nachi Taisha Seiryotei
This restaurant is located on your way to Seiganto-ji and Kumano Nachi Taisha. It uses water from the upper reaches of the river for its menu and therefore is quite popular for being refreshing.
If it’s summer, you can enjoy cold drinks such as hiyashi-ame (a sweet beverage seen in the Kansai region) or ume (Japanese apricot) juice, and in winter you can have warm udon or soba noodles.
They offer many seasonal dishes, and maccha zenzai is also popular. It boasts the splendid view of the famous Nachi Falls, and you can have your meal outside, weather permitting. It’s open 365 days a year.
Where to stay around Seiganto-ji
Katsuura Kanko Hotel
Katsuura Kanko Hotel is a hotel at the base of the mountain on which Seiganto-ji is located, and is a 5-minute drive from JR Kii-katsuura Station, making it a suitable place for seeing around. It serves local cuisines such as Kabuto-yaki (baked head) of tuna and steamed seafood for meals in a private room.
Its common bath uses water from the Katsuura hot springs, and you can see the sun rising from the sea from the bath in the morning. Other than standard rooms, they offer rooms with an open-air bath, too.
Seiganto-ji is a Buddhist temple which developed together with Kumano Nachi Taisha, the Shinto shrine adjoining the temple. You can enjoy not only their architecture but the wonderful nature here.
If you stay overnight in the seaside town at the foot of the mountain, it will allow you to see a beautiful sunrise.