53. The Kumano Kodo 熊野古道 is a network of pilgrimage routes, trekked for centuries by the Japanese from all levels of society. Kumano has been sacred since prehistoric times, associated with animism in which mountains and water are key elements in shaping the Japanese sense of spirituality. Kumano is considered to be the abode of the gods by the Japanese. Along the Kumano Kodo pilgrims walk through leafy paths deep into the mountains every year to purify themselves, praying to deities dwelling in the trees and rocks. Over time, hiking the Kumano Kodo became less of an animistic or Shinto rite, especially after followers of Kobo Daishi made it into a Shingon Buddhist pilgrimage route. Koyasan is also considered to be a major stop before or after the Shikoku Pilgrimage Trail. In modern times, tourists have largely replaced pilgrims.