All routes of the pilgrimage trails lead to Oyunohara, the original location of Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine. Now it is a peaceful area in the midst of an old forest. The first recorded emperor of Japan, Jimmu, came to Oyunohara about 660 BC in his quest to reach Yamato in present day Nara in order to establish the first capital of Japan. Legend has it that Jimmu was led to Nara by Yatagarasu, a giant, three-legged raven who was the Goddess Amaterasu's spirit helper.

This was the site of the most holy area along the Kumano Kodo until 1889 when a massive flood washed many of the shrines away. The parts that were salvaged were taken to the mountain nearby and rebuilt.

Oyunohara is surrounded by the Kumano River and two smaller rivers called the Otonashigawa River and the Iwatagawa River. Pilgrims repeatedly crossed the rivers to purify themselves before entering the shrine grounds in olden times.

Since the year 2000, a huge torii gate has graced the entrance to the shrine. It is the largest torii gate in Japan at 33.9 meters in height and is impressive and inspiring.