Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Tamaki Shrine – The Shrine that Can only Be Reached if Summonded

Tamaki Shrine (玉置神社) in Totsukawa Village, almost at the summit of Mt. Tamaki (Tamakisan, 玉置山), is the oldest shrine in Japan. The shrine is at an altitude of 1,076 meters and was founded in BC 37 by the imperial court for demon expulsion. In 2004, the shrine, one of the Shugendō’s (修験道) training sites, was registered as a World Heritage as part of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (紀伊山地の霊場と参詣道).


The shrine is surrounded by a dense forest of cedar trees over a thousand years old. Among them, the one that has lived for more than 3,000 years is called Jindaisugi (神代杉). It is another object of worship in the precinct.


Shugendō (修験道) originated in Japan. It is derived from animistic beliefs and embraces Shintoism, Taoism, and Buddhism. It aims to cultivate spiritual power through ascetics in holy mountains.


From the car park and the torii gate to Tamaki Shrine, it is a 15-minute walk on the earthen road that connects to the staircases leading to the shrine’s worship hall.

Walking in rich nature will really make you feel like you have arrived in the world of Princess Mononoke of Ghilbi (*´ω`).

Explore Tamaki Shrine With a Guided Tour

If you prefer to be guided when you visit Tamaki Shrine, consider booking the below tour!

Tamaki Shrine’s Prosperous Past and the Shrine’s Office

It doesn’t seem like it now, but in the early 18th century, when the head temple of Shugendō – Shōgo-in (聖護院) in Kyoto had a strong connection and influence on the imperial court, Tamaki Shrine used to have as many as 200 monks living there! In 1868, with a decree separating Buddhism from Shintoism, the Buddhism elements of Tamaki Shrine were completely eliminated.

Traces of its past prosperity are evident in the shrine’s office building (in the photo). The wooden fusuma sliding doors in the building were all lavishly painted back then.

The doors were made from cedar trees that were more than 600 years old and dried for five years. The paintings were completed more than 200 years ago. Fortunately, with the moisture from the mountain, the paintings were only damaged slightly over time.


So if you ever visit Tamaki Shine, you have to see the wondrous and historic office building. After all, the entire building is a National Important Cultural Property. To have a peek at the doors, check out the photos on the official website HERE (and scroll down).

The Shrine that Can’t Be Reached if You Aren’t Invited?

Another special quirk of Tamaki Shrine is that it is somehow known as a shrine that can’t be reached unless the gods call you. The rumor is probably because of past travelers whose engines stopped halfway through. Or before they started their journey to Tamaki Shrine, urgent matters arose. Others ended their trip as their car hit a deer that suddenly came out from the side of the road.

Hearing all this, the Tamaki Shrine priest said that although the gods here are kind, they are also strict. So if you do not come with a sincere heart to worship the gods, they won’t let you in. This might be why some of those who got to the shrine said they were guided or had small wildlife follow them up to the shrine.

Mihashira Shrine (三柱神社) and Tamaishisha Shrine (玉石社)


From the shrine’s office, the path continues to three other shrines behind another torii gate. The gods that are enshrined here all hold a deep connection with the god of Tamaki Shrine and the three main shrines in the Kumano region (熊野三山).

After a 15-minute hike from the main worship hall, you will get to the top of Mt. Tamaki.

There are white pebble stones surrounded by a wooden fence on the way to the summit of Mt. Tamaki.

Before a proper shrine was constructed, white pebble stones placed on the ground were treated as objects of worship and can still be seen en route to the top of Mt. Tamaki from Tamaki Shrine.

Ⓒ 十津川村役場

Tip: Rhododendron around the shrine will blossom around the end of May.

☛ There is no mobile reception in the mountain.
☛ Allow 90 minutes to fully explore Tamaki Shrine.

Tamaki Shrine’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The shine’s office is open from 8 am to 5 pm
  • To explore the interior of the shrine’s office, it will cost 500 yen.
  • From Totsukawa Onsen (十津川温泉), it is around a 20 to 30-minute drive
    • The mountain road can be hard to drive on if you are inexperienced.
      • If you don’t have access to a car, we would suggest you visit the shrine on weekends or public holidays because it is when the World Heritage Bus will be running.
      • Taking a taxi isn’t advisable, as it will be hard to get a taxi for your return trip.
  • To get to Totsukawa Onsen by public transport, take the Nara Kōtsū’s (奈良交通) limited express 301 (特急301) Yagishingū Line (八木新宮線) bound for Totsukawa Onsen (十津川温泉), and get off at Totsukawa Onsen (十津川温泉). From Yamatoyagi Station, the bus trip will
    • take around 4 – 4.5 hours
    • cost 3,450 yen
    • Note the service only operates on weekends and public holidays.
  • On weekends and public holidays from April to November, the World Heritage Bus will be running on the below schedule.
    • Hotel Subaru (昴の郷) 8:40 → Totsukawa Onsen (十津川温泉) 8:44 → Tamaki Shrine (玉置神社) 9:24
    • Tamaki Shrine (玉置神社) 11:10 → Totsukawa Onsen (十津川温泉) 11:50 → Hotel Subaru (昴の郷) 11:54
    • The bus fare is 810 for a one-way trip and 1,620 for a return trip
    • You will need a booking by 5 pm the business day before to use this service. Call +81-746-64-0408 between 8:30 am and 5 pm.
    • Please get your accommodation staff to make the booking for you if you don’t speak Japanese.
  • If you want to visit Tamaki Shrine on a weekday, reserve a taxi (三光タクシー) by calling +81-746-64-0231.
    • The one-way cost is around 4,000 yen.

Mt. Tamaki Observatory (玉置山展望台)

From Tamaki Shrine’s torii gate at the car park, if you hike in another direction, you can reach Mt. Tamaki Observatory in around 15 minutes.

If the weather is good, you will be overlooking Dorokyō Valley, Kōyasan, and as far as Kumano-nada Sea (熊野灘)!

Ⓒ 十津川村役場

From April to November, the view of the sunrise from the observatory is really stunning. From late August to early December, you will get a high chance of seeing the sea of clouds in the early morning (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Ⓒ 十津川村役場
Ⓒ 十津川村役場

Important: As the road leading to the observatory is really narrow and hard to drive on, it would be better to visit the observatory by taxi if you aren’t confident with driving and don’t plan to stay there for too long.

Discover Other Amazing Places to Visit in the Wider Yoshino District

Click the photo to find out more about this stunning spot!

Do you yearn for more natural beauty in this part of Nara Prefecture? Discover more astonishing places in the wider Yoshino District where Dorogawa Onsen resides with our Yoshino District article!

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