Cultural Routes are one of the most important tools for the promotion and the interpretation of cultural heritage. They are itineraries designed around a core theme and they include, inter alia, monuments of archaeological or historical interest, architectural monuments, industrial heritage buildings, religious heritage edifices, traditional settlements, spiritual places. In Japan, one of the most important routes, in Kii Mountain Range, is the Kumano Kodo religious-cultural route. The route reflects the merging of the ancient worship of nature – which is believed to be inhabited by Gods or spirits - Shintoism and Buddhism. The route, due to its great importance, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 and was the second to be named after the Santiago de Compostela Route (1987).
Both religious-cultural routes have started a close collaborative partnership, in order to enhance visibility and attract visitors, by twining the cities of Santiago de Compostela and Tanabe and awarding a ‘Dual pilgrim status’. Τhis article is an attempt to describe and explain the innovative ways of harnessing cultural, religious, and natural heritage in Kumano Kodo and the results to the local community.
Both routes are followed not only by pilgrims but also by tourists who want to experience nature, local traditions, and customs. The region in the Kii mountains is promoted as a destination for pilgrims, religious tourists and generally for tourists who wish to walk around in a unique natural environment, to enjoy the hot springs, to engage in sports, to visit neighbouring beaches, to attend festivals, to visit temples and cultural venues etc. All those who travel on the route, are still known as ‘pilgrims’. A question therefore arises whether the use of the term ‘Dual pilgrim’ is accurate, as those who follow the path cannot be faithful to both religions.
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Moira, Polyxeni; Mylonopoulos, Dimitrios; and Konstantinou, Georgia
"Tourists, Pilgrims and Cultural Routes: The Case of the Kumano Kodo Route in Japan,"
International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage:
3, Article 5.
Available at: https://arrow.tudublin.ie/ijrtp/vol9/iss3/5