The home of the Sanada Clan in exile.
Kudoyama is a quiet little town in the north of Wakayama Prefecture.
Yet, it is largely ignored by foreign tourists as they pass through it on their way to nearby Koyasan, which is consistently one of the most popular destinations for readers on GaijinPot Travel. However, for people interested in samurai history, it is well worth stopping at Kudoyama to look around.
Following the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, the famous Sengoku period samurai Yukimura Sanada, his son Daisuke and his father (and Daimyo of the Sanada Clan) Masayuki, were exiled here.
There are several sights to see, all of which are just a short walk from Kudoyama Station, along what is called the “Sanada Road.” The first is an unassuming hole in the ground called the “Sanada Kofun” or Sanada tomb. There are a few myths surrounding it; one that it was the grave of Yukimura following his death at the Battle of osaka Castle; and another that it was a tunnel he dug all the way to osaka Castle so that he could come and go in secret.
Not far from the Kofun is Zenmyosho-in Temple, more commonly known as Sanada-an. This temple is actually the former home of the Sanada family while they were living in exile. Throughout the temple grounds are many carvings of the Rokumonsen, the six circles that make up the Sanada Clan banner. There is also a small museum holding several artifacts from their life here and a covered well in which Yukimura is said to have trapped thunder and lighting to save the town during a fierce storm.
The final stop is the Sanada Museum. This is a much more modern museum, built in the wake of the popular NHK drama about the Sanada that helped rekindle interest in their story. The museum has lots of great information in Japanese and English about their final days as well as an excellently produced (though Japanese only) movie about their life.
The Koyasan Choishi-michi Trail
For people seeking a more unusual route to Koyasan, you can also find the start of the Koyasan Choishi-michi Pilgrimage Trail. This begins from a temple called Jison-in and follows a trail of around 20 kilometers to the Danjo Garan at the heart of Koyasan and a further 4KM from there to the Torinto in okunoin Forest. The trail is marked every 109 meters by a stone marker.
The people of Kudoyama are fiercely proud of the history of their town and many hang flags bearing the Rokumonsen from their houses and the station is similarly decorated. The town is also quite well known for its persimmon during fall and you can pick up larges bags of this delicious fruit for very cheap.