- The mountain where the deceased are gathered
- Crossing the Styx River and going for a tour of hell
- The place where people’s hopes dwell
The mountain where the deceased are gathered
Shimokita Peninsula is located in the Northeast part of Aomori Prefecture. Osorezan/ Mt. Osore is located in the middle of it along with Mt. Hieizan and Mt. Koyasan, and is one of the three most holy grounds in Japan.
In 862, Jikaku Daishi Ennin founded the temple on the mountain and it was used as a training hall for the Tendai sect.
At that time, people in that area believed that the deceased would go to the mountain, so people from all over Japan still visit Osorezan/ Mt. Osore to remember them. The place is famous for a festival held twice a year where you can see a necromancer transmitting words from the dead through a haunting.
Crossing the Styx River and going for a tour of hell
I’d like to introduce Osorezan/ Mt. Osore and Japanese people’s view of life and death rooted in Buddhism.
Osorezan/ Mt. Osore’s graveyard is located on the side of Lake Usoriko. Just before the main gate, there’s an impressive red arched bridge built beside the lake, over a river.
The name of this river is called Sanzu-no-kawa, or “Styx River,” which means in between this world and the next world. It is said that the dead cross the bridge and go to the next world. However, ‘good’ people can only pass over the river. The bridge looks like full of needles to those who have done wrong in the world and therefore they cannot cross it. You can actually walk on this bridge. I was intimidated at first, but eventually made it across! (Please be careful, the bridge is very steep.)
After passing the main gate, the smell of the sulfur spring will hit your nose. There are many hot springs scattered around Osorezan/ Mt. Osore and people used to bathe in them to purify themselves. These people would also pray at the temple.
Currently, there are four hot springs you can use. Under the retro wooden house, you can enjoy the nutritious hot springs. (There is a guesthouse kept by the temple, so you can enjoy the hot spring if you want to relax.)
After passing the mountain gate, you’ll see the main hall, Jizo-den, where the Jizo-Bosatsu is enshrined.
Buddhism teaches people that, mankind repeats the cycle of reincarnation in the six realms, and suffers from it. Jizo-Bosatsu is a Buddhist God that helps people from the suffering by getting close to them. It is also called “Ojizo-sama” or “Ojizo-san”, and is the most well known Buddhist God among Japanese people.
A typical scene of people joining their hands and praying for happiness and relief for the after life has traditionally been practiced and still remains the same.
Proceeding to the left hand side of the Jizo-den, there is a desolated rocky area where volcanic gas is blown out with the strong smell of sulfur. People used to think of this as hell, the lowest world of the six realms.
It is said that there are many varieties of hell and the destination is decided according to what you have done wrong in this world. In this area, you will see many types of hell called “XXX hell.” (There might be some rocky areas, so I recommend wearing good shoes.)
The place where people’s hopes dwell
While touring around hell, you’ll notice many statues of Jizo-Bosatsu. These statues enable people to pray to the dead for not suffering in hell. You’ll also see many small rocks piled up around an area called “Sainokawara” (Limbo for Children). It is based on a tale that states that, parents who have lost their children must make a stone tower by piling up small rocks they picked up from the Styx. The stone towers were made by people who lost someone and represent their soul, so please don’t touch them.
After passing the Children’s Limbo, you’ll see an emerald green lake called Gokuraku-hama. Contrary, Usoriko Lake is extremely acidic, but clear, because it contains volcanic gas, and is not inhabited by much aquatic life.
“Gokuraku” means the land of perfect bliss where the Buddhist God, Amidah lives. Generally, Gokuraku is the opposite word for hell, and can be imagined as a place where no suffering exists. I can understand why it’s called Gokuraku, because there is a desolated rocky area behind the beautiful lake in front of me. It feels as if pure hope for dead souls living in peace silently dwells here. I felt it to be very mysterious and spiritual at the same time.
Osorezan/ Mt. Osore is where you can experience the Japanese people’s view of life and death, and their hope and beliefs. If you are interested in a spiritual experience, touring the world of the afterlife, please visit and I’m sure that you will find something very interesting.
3-2, Usoriyama, Tanabu, Mutsu-shi, Aomori Pref.