Kumano is, or used to be, a great popular center of pilgrimage for devotees of its Ryōbu Shinto temples. The so-called three holy places of Kumano are Hongū (Original Shrine), Shingū (New Shrine) and Nachi, the last being noted for its famous Nachi waterfall, 430 feet in length, and the highest in Japan. The origin of these sacred regions is lost in the haze of antiquity. If they are less visited today for devotional purposes than they used to be, they are none the less popular for their scenic attractions.
Kumano is not so conveniently situated as Yoshino, and therefore carries an air of remote seclusion, dear to the hearts of jaded visitors from the cities. Among Kumano's natural gems the first place is given by general consent to the marvelous gorges of the river Kitayama, particularly at a place called "Toro-hatchō" (Gorge of Eight Chō) and its continued gorge, where, for a distance of several miles, the waters run in a tranquil and listless manner, giving the impression of being as still as a deep mountain lake, and it is flanked with tall cliffs and rocky bands of indescribable beauty. The gorge is best visited in May and June when the azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom in the crannies of cliffs are reflected in the liquid mirror below. It is good for bathing, boating and angling, and most visitors to Kumano go up or down the river by the special local craft driven by a propeller. This peculiar type of boat is used because of the shallows and rapid currents at some parts. The river flows from the Yoshino mountains, and joins the Kumano at the lower reaches before pouring into the Kumano sea. The coast of the Kumano sea again affords an exquisite landscape, especially in the vicinity of Katsuura, where the water is deep, making a lovely harbor with many picturesque islets adorning its mouth. This part is often compared to the pine-clad-isle Matsushima of northern Japan, and to its own advantage. Along the harbor of Katsuura and its vicinity are found several good hot springs, and the added charm of this shore resort is the exceptional mildness of its climate, which, with its bracing mountain and sea air, renders it a most admirable summer and winter resort.