Text: Tadao Yasui, owner,of Oguriya Guesthouse and a menber of Hongu Storytellers Circle
Photos: Kumano Hongu Tourist Association
A long time ago,the Oguri clan built a castle in Hitachi (present-day Kyowa,Makabe-gun,Ibaraki).
According to “Kamakura Daizoshi”,Oguri allied with Uesugi when Shuzen Uesugi rebelled some 600 years ago (1415) in Kanto,only to be defeated by Mochiuji Ashikaga.
Mitsushige,Lord of Oguri Castle,and his son Sukeshige (Hangan Oguri) fled for Migawa where the Oguri clan lived. While hiding in Sugami,Oguri was poisoned by thieves at Gongen-do Temple.
However,he was saved by a maiden named Terute. He then fled to Fujisawa on an unbroken horse where he was aided by the Priest Yugyo. Later,Oguri became ill,but with the guidance of Yugyo and the sympathy of many including Terute,he made a pilgrimage to Kumano where the protection of Deities and the healing waters of Yunomine nursed him back to health.
Oguri was the 15th Lord of the Oguri Castle,but was ultimately killed in battle against Nariuji Ashikaga.
It is believed that a shrine maiden from Oguri’s home country of Hitachi created the heroic epic to console the spirit of the ruined Oguri clan. From historical fact,the story became legend and was ultimately told time and time again.
Historical Sites Associated with Hangan Oguri
“Makazu-no-Ine (Unplanted Rice)”
It is said that Hangan Oguri left a rica plant (which his hair has been done) at this place and later it grew up there. That is why it is called “Unplanted Rice”.
Get off the bus at Yunomine Onsen bus stop and the follow the rise keeping the hot well and Tsuboyu bath on the right.
At the top of the rise,take a left down the narrow path. Shortly after,you will discover the sign in the below photo.
These round lifting stones (right of monument in photo) sit on a stone wall along the right side of the path beyond Makazu-no-Ine (Unplanted Rice).
They were used to test one’s strength.
Land of Hangan Oguri’s Resurrection – Yunomine Onsen
Yunomine Onsen is known as one of the oldest Onsen in Japan,a cleansing spot along the pilgrimage to Kumano and where Hangan Oguri healed himself.
These natural springs are a hot 93 degree when they come out the ground and the therapeutic effect has been reveled for years.
Since the springs rise to the surface without boring,it is academically a rare source of water.
Slightly off the Nakahechi Route that takes you through Hongu, Shingu and Nachi is Yunomine-Oji,one of the 99 Shrines of Kumano.
Every April 13,the Yunobori Shinto Ritual (Intangible Cultural Property of Wakayama Prefecture) is performed as part of celebrations at Kumano Hongu Taisha. The ritual begins with a procession of Shinto priests,religious leaders and children in festive costumes that winds its way to Yunomine where they immerse and cleanse themselves in the springs,then eat a specially prepared gruel of rice.
The children then perform Yahagi dance at Yunomine-Oji. The return trip takes the Dainichi Trail to Tsukigaoka Shrine where the same ritual is performed.
The procession then passes through the original site of Kumano Hongu Taisha and eventually makes it back to the starting point.