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Kumano, Japan's Soccer Roots

Kumano is the home of Japanese soccer with a special connection both past and present.

Kakunosuke Nakamura 中村覚之助, the founding father of Japan’s soccer.

In May 1878, Kakunosuke Nakamura was born in Hamanomiya, Nachi-Katsuura town, Wakayama Prefecture.

In 1900, he entered the Tokyo Academy of Higher Education (the present University of Tsukuba), and translated an English book, “Association Football” 「アッソシエーションフットボール」. This book was the basis of the introduction of legitimate soccer to Japan in 1902.  In the same year, Nakamura established Japan’s first soccer team, the so-called “Ashiki Shukyu-bu” 「ア式蹴球部」(association football club).

In 1904, his team had its first match against a foreign team in Yokohama.  Newspapers reported the game nationally and he was deluged with requests for coaching from middle schools throughout Japan.

Although he died young at the age of 29 in 1906, he introduced soccer to Japan and made a great contribution to its popularization.

The Yatagarasu, is a sacred legendary three-legged crow that is believed to be a messenger of the gods and a supernatural guide.

It is the symbol of the Kumano Sanzan.  You can see it at all three Kumano Grand Shrines: Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha.  The three legs mean heaven, earth and mankind.

This divine connection goes back to the foundation myth of Japan recorded in the first official compilation of Japan’s history.  Emperor Jimmu sailed from Kyushu to Osaka to battle for the new country.  He was defeated and subsequently sailed down the coast to Kumano.  Arriving from the west he ascertained that the battle was lost because they were travelling against the movement of the sun Goddess Amaterasu.  After spending time in Kumano the Emperor and his troops set off once again for Yamato, present day Nara across the rugged mountains.   The Yatagarasu was sent as a messenger from heaven and guided this Imperial legion which finally succeeded in winning the war and founding Japan.  The roots of the Japanese nation can be found in Kumano.

There is also a more modern day usage of the Yatagarasu, the symbol of the Japan Football Association.  Two legs are planted firmly on the ground and the third leg is grasping a soccer ball with its talons.  This powerful guide is supposed to help lead the ball into the back of the opponent’s net!

Earlier this year there was a monument build at the Daimon-zaka parking area celebrating the National Women's Soccer team who won the FIFA World Cup in 2011, and received silver at the 2012 Olympic games.

There is a statue of the Yatagarasu crow and footprints of the players.

Kumano is often visited by the athletes coaches and management of the Japanese National soccer teams to pray for victory.

When visiting the Kumano Grand shrines be on the lookout for signed uniforms and flags.  The soccer amulet at the Kumano Hongu Taisha is an excellent souvenir for soccer fans.

Good luck to the Japanese National Soccer team at the current FIFA World Cup in Brazil from Kumano!

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NEW Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass

NEW Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass
This is an easy way to do a loop of the Kii Peninsula.

From July 15, 2016 (Friday)
PRICE Adult 11,000 yen Children 5,500 yen (Children 6 to 11 years old)
NOTE: This pass is not available for purchase in Japan.
VALIDITY PERIOD Five consecutive days
AREA ●JR conventional lines: Nagoya-Shingu-within Osaka City (via lse Tetsudo Line or Kameyama, via Kisei Main Line/Hanwa Line) ●Nagoya-Kameyama-Nara-within Osaka City (via Kansai Main Line) Taki Toba (Sangu Line) ●Kansai International Airport-Hineno (Kansai Airport Line) ●Bus routes for accessing Kumano Kodo, Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha (Only Kumano Kotsu Bus); and Select bus routes
TRAIN TYPES ●Unlimited use of non-reserved seats on ordinary cars on all JR conventional line trains in the subject section. ●Reserved seats can be used up to four times on ordinary cars of limited express and rapid trains. ●Only non-reserved seats can be used on the limited express "Haruka' between the Kansai Inte…