Mt Omine’s Ban on Women and 3 Tests of Courage!

  • NARA
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  • Mount Omine is a holy mountain located in the Nara Prefecture and although it is popularly known as Mount Omine, its official name is actually Mount Sanjo. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is popular for its three tests of courage.

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    The Ominesanji Temple is situated at the top of the mountain which is the headquarters of the Shugendo sect of Buddhism. For the adventurous females out there, if this tempts you to want to climb this wonderful mountain, then, unfortunately, you are out of luck.

    Ban on Women

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    This mountain is controversially known for its ban on women as well. There is a traditional practice of not allowing women to climb mountains sacred to the Shinto religion. This may be due to the concept of blood impurity as a result of menstruation and childbirth. Besides that, the women may serve as a distraction to the Yamabushi monks who live a hermit lifestyle and practice strict self-denial. However, Mount Omine’s ban on women is actually not forced on visitors. There had been breaches by women but no reports were lodged so far. Nevertheless, it is a rather disrespectful act to go against the lifelong religion and tradition placed upon this mountain, so it is advised to respect the ban, regardless of being a visitor.

    Moreover, it is said that the ban is not supposed to serve as discrimination towards women but rather as protection for them. Supposedly, in the past, the mountain was not a safe place to climb due to bears and other hazards like falling rocks and unfortunately, even nowadays, there have been deadly incidents from climbing the mountain.

    3 Tests of Courage (shugyo)

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    Climbers can choose to partake in these 3 tests of courage but if you choose not to do so, you can easily walk around them.

    1. The first test of courage is “Kane Kane Iwa”, the Hanging Stone or Crab Rock where one has to climb up a 30-foot rock wall. The last part requires one to climb over an overhanging rock.
    2. The second test of courage is “Nishi no Nozoki” or The Insight from the West is where novices are held head-first over the 200-foot high cliff and are then obliged to admit their wrongs and vow to obey social and religious laws.
    3. The third test of courage is “Byodo Iwa”, or Stone of Equality which is can only be arranged by special request. It is a rock spire overlooking a cliff with a number of projections which allow individuals to travel across from one side to the other.

    Have you ever climbed a sacred mountain in Japan? To further enhance your spirituality, go through the three tests of courage and experience whether you are inspired to become a hermit on the mountain!

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