There are three most sacred places in Japan: Mount Osore (Osorezan), Koyasan and Hieizan. Among the three, Osorezan, translated to “Fear Mountain,” is considered as the “gateway to hell.”
The place has a peculiar and strange feeling making tourists uneasy and wanting to leave the place as soon as they get there. This is based on a mythology which is popular in Japan.
Mount Osore is a caldera of a volcano located at the center of Aomori Prefecture. It is about 879 meters high and has last erupted in 1787. Apart from being called the “Fear Mountain,” Mount Osore is also known as “Yake-yama” or “Burning Mountain” due to minimal activity throughout the past century. This was established as a sacred place for reverence by a Buddhist monk, Jikakutaishi almost 1,000 years ago.
Mount Osore being called Fear Mountain comes in part from the mountain’s exceptional landscape. The place has a strong smell of sulfur permeates and the ground looks gray and barren with small openings bubbling with steam and hot water. There are various signs warning of poisonous pit vipers in the area making it even more eerie. A popular Japanese mythology states that Mount Osore also marks the entrance to hell with a small brook running towards Lake Usori, which is equated as Sanzu River or The River of Three Crossings. This is believed to be the boundary between the living and the dead.
The place is also guarded by Jizo, a popular budhisattva of Hell and guardian of children. It is believed to protect souls from evil demons, which constantly try to destroy the piles of pebbles. There are many statues of Jizo with piles of stones around Osorezan. It is even a common sighting. The stones are offerings by parents of dead children in an attempt for their children to gain access into the world beyond. Some also offer toys and clothes, which are called nuigurumi in Japanese.
Visiting the place can be a very creepy yet exciting experience for people around the world. It surely is a departure from the usual temples and shrines. What are you waiting for? Be spiritually-charged and head to Osorezan!