Shingu Yamabiko ("Echo") Group
2004winners environmental conservation
Has maintained the southern half (about 45 kilometers) of the Omine Okugakemichi (Kumano Kodo) pilgrimage route for 20 years
Shingu Yamabiko ("Echo") Group

Formed in 1974 by a group of mountain-climbing friends

Award summary

Omine Okugake Michi is an old mountain trail extending about 90 kilometers along the mountain ridges 1,000 to 1,900 meters above the sea level from Mount Yoshino in Nara Prefecture to Kumano Hongu-Taisha Great Shrine in Wakayama Prefecture. However, Minami Okugake Michi, the southern part of the trail, had refused entrance of mountain-climbing lovers as the path was blocked with dense weeds. Shingu Yamabiko Group has been working at a volunteer activity to clear and maintain this 45 km section of the trail for as long as 20 years. The late Yuichi Maeda, a mountain-loving ascetic, initiated this activity to restore the trail. And the activity was succeeded by this mountain climbing group, formed 30 years ago. A total of 4,000 mountain lovers has trekked the trail, weeding and shearing thickets to clear the path. Huts were also built to maintain and manage the trail. The work is very hard. Volunteers advance side by side in a 5-meter interval as they shear bamboos taller than their height. Gnats and leaches torment them. There is also a danger of vipers in the bush. The cleared path would return to the former bush if not maintained. So they continued the second and the third rounds of weeding treks. Two huts were also built to invite more visitors to the trail. "Shedding sweat in this activity is our mission," said the leader of the group.

Reasons for this award

Comments from the winner

It is very honorable that our activity for these 20 years is recognized. I would like to share this honor with all other members. The work of this activity was hard, but we enjoyed what we wanted to do. That is why we could continue. This commendation would give great power for the activity of the group in the future. It was wonderful that the trail was listed as a world heritage, but we need to remember that the primary purpose of Okugake Michi Trail is a route for ascetic training. I am a little bit concerned as only one side of the place as a tourist site is attracting people's attention now.