Out of all the important designated sites in Japan, Sanbutsu-ji Temple and Nageire-do Hall in Tottori can be termed the two of the most dangerous because of their locations on Mt. Mitoku. Said to have been built in the 8th century A.D., the temple, together with its cliff-hanging halls, is one of the oldest religious structures in the entire country. Let’s see why you need to visit Mt. Mitoku to see this awesome place and why it will give you chills!
Mt. Mitoku is part of the Chugoku Mountains and is a significant place for both Shintoism and Buddhism. On the top of the mountain lies many cave temples dedicated to Kannon and Buddha. It is the center of the Shugen-do sect of Buddhism, which encompasses different beliefs of Shintoism, Animism, Taoism, and Zen, and it is one of the earliest doctrines dating back to the 7th century A.D. when Buddhism was on the rise in Japan.
The period is also said to have witnessed many conflicts, and that is one of the reasons why many temples were built on mountains and in secret, inaccessible locations such as the Nageire Hall, which was constructed along a 500-meter steep cliff. Some say that the idea of many Asian religions is to embrace nature and to practice the original teachings of the founders through effort and realization. Only monks with high skills in mountain climbing could reach the Nageire Hall to offer prayers.
It is still shrouded in mystery how it was built at such height and accuracy, and it has been standing in good condition to this day. If you are not an avid hiker, you may have to use a lot of energy over the rough terrain to reach the bottom of the hall, which takes over forty minutes of intense climbing. However, for those who are enthusiastic about hiking and climbing, this could be an exciting adventure!
There is actually no information as to who exactly built the Nageire-do Hall. Many of the temples on Mt. Mitoku are said to have been founded by one of the greatest monks of all time, En no Ozuno, but the Sanbutsu-ji Temple was later developed by another master of Japanese Buddhism, namely, Jikaku Daishi Ennin.
Nageire-do is considered to be the inner temple and is now a National Treasure according to the Japanese administration. You can also find other things that are considered Tangible Cultural Properties belonging to the country such as the Zao Gongen-zo, which is made of copper and portrays Kongo Zao Bosatsu, the main god of the Shugendo sect. The entire mountain is one of the most scenic places in Japan to visit as it is covered in snow in the winter, and beautiful green and other wild colors in the spring and autumn.
The place can be reached easily from either of the Tottori airports, Sakyu Conan and Yonago Kitaro. All you need to do is take a train or a bus from the airport station to get down to Misasa Hot Spring. This takes around an hour or more.
The Misasa Hot Spring is an another great spot to visit in the area that should not be missed. From there, you have to take the local Hinomaru Bus which will drop you at the foot of Mt. Mitoku in a few minutes.
Once you reach the mountain, approach Tozan Jimushitsu, an office which gives you permission to climb. You may have to buy tickets to hike up to the Nageire Hall, which will be a few hundred yen. One thing to remember before planning your trip is that you won’t be allowed to go alone as the path towards the inner hall is really dangerous. You have to have a fellow hiker with you and pack beforehand all basic needs such as water before you start climbing. There are also chances of avalanches or landslides in the region, so check the weather conditions beforehand.
The temple itself is not accessible and bear in mind that visitors cannot hike from December to March when it is extremely dangerous because of slippery cliffs. However, you can enjoy visiting Nageire Hall and other halls of Sanbutsuji as well as nearby temples and shrines on the mountain during the rest of the months, especially in the daytime. Night hikes are not encouraged.
If you’re the adventurous type of hiker and you’re looking for a challenge as well as the chance to see some beautiful sights, try this exciting route on Mt. Mitoku! Grab a friend, pack some essentials, and go on a Japanese adventure to find ancient religious temples and breathtaking scenery!
Mt. Mitoku website *Japanese only