Thursday, October 21, 2010
Osoresan: aka “Mount Fear”
Osoresan is located in the Shimokita Peninsula of Aomori. According to myth, it marks the entrance to Hell. It is also known as the Japanese equivalent to Styx".
When you first arrive, you can’t help but notice the smell of sulfur. Though it did bother me at first, after a while I couldn’t smell it anymore. There are certain sections where the water near the rocks will be bubbling or there will be a pile of steaming rocks. Osoresan is considered a pilgrimage. Though the path is not very long, it takes you through purgatory, hell, blood hell, and finally heaven. When we first arrived, it was sunny out, by the time we were halfway through it started raining. We were soaked!
Along the rocky path, you will find many statues, some covered with a kerchief or bib, and maybe money or food in front of it. These statues represent babies that died. People clothe them to ease the pain of their loss. Also, there is a legend that a poor old man went to visit some statues but he didn’t have any money to offer. Instead, he took off his hat and scarf and clothed the statues. When he went home, there were gifts waiting for him. (Supposedly from the grateful spirits (statues) ).
When we got to this building it was absolutely pouring outside. There were some people inside and an old man kept inviting us in. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but there were clothes and shoes lining the edges and an alter with money and food. The old man went to the alter and picked up a bag of oranges and handed them to me. I was quite surprised. I asked him with what little Japanese I know if I was supposed to eat them and he said yes. I thanked him and was on my way. I still have the oranges and I’m terrified to eat them, actually. I know they were offered to some spirit. (Mind you, the section where this building was was “Blood Hell".) I know sometimes when people offer food to a spirit, they will eat it afterward.
Osoresan was really very interesting. It takes about 4 hours to get there from base. I apologize for not giving directions, but we went there from Cape Shiriyazaki, so I don’t have a direct route. I also forgot to mention that they also have an onsen there. (Which probably also smells of sulfur) and there is a restaurant and small gift shop.
We left Osoresan soaked and cold from the rain. Will I ever return? Perhaps only the spirits know for sure.
Directions: Exit base out POL/Falcon Gate.
- Turn left at the first light.
- You can either continue east on this road until it merges into Hwy. 338,
or take a left at the second light at the Circle K. This will eventually intersect with Hwy. 338 at the top of Lake Ogawara
- Turn left onto Hwy. 338 and head north. You will drive through the nuclear plant at Rokkasho and along the rocky coastline of Higashidori.
- Continue on to Mutsu City
- In Mutsu, look for signs to Osorezan. This will be route 4. Once you start on route 4, the road climbs quite a bit before dropping down to Osorezan.
- There is ample parking. The entrance fee is 500 yen for adults, 200 yen for kids. It includes the temples and entire grounds.