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Japan's Kumano Kodo

Regardless of spiritual beliefs, most visitors find it's useful to learn about the local religious

culture before embarking on the Kumano Kodo experience. Along the way, walkers encounter about 100 "oji" (subsidiary shrines of Kumano Sanzan), at which Japanese pilgrims stop and offer prayers. The oji's purpose is to enshrine natural landmarks in the area -- be it an ancient tree or a majestic waterfall. Here's the routine: drop a coin in the donation box in front of the shrine, ring the bell above the box, bow twice and clap twice, pray then bow once more. Got it? "Any coin is fine, but the most common is the five-yen coin, called 'goen' in Japanese," says Brad Towle, director of Tanabe City's international tourism promotion and development department.
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