What is an oji?

Oji are the shrines marking the way at fairly regular intervals along the Kumano Kodo ancient pilgrimage route stretching from Osaka to Kumano Nachi Taisha on the Kii Peninsula. The Chinese characters for oji, (ō) meaning "king" and (ji) meaning "child" ordinarily mean "prince." But, in this case, oji is a place where some Japanese god or gods are enshrined. When pilgrims come to ojis, they often offer a prayer to the gods. Pilgrims expect that the gods will watch over them for a safe journey and answer their prayers.

There are said to be ninety-nine shrines, but only ninety-seven have been discovered. Some scholars believe that there were never actually ninety-nine oji shrines and the number ninety-nine was religiously significant.