A bewitching natural underworld, hidden at the tip of Aomori.
Gas emitting poisonous lakes, pits wriggling with vipers, sulphuric air and a landscape so barren it’s hard to believe it sustains any type of life, Mount Osore is a living mystery. Located in the center Aomori’s Shimokita Peninsula is an imaginary hell on earth.
The site sits on the axe-shaped peninsula that juts out of one of the northernmost spots on Honshu. This eerily magnetic landscape is also home to Bodai-ji Temple, founded in 862 AD by the monk Ennin, this pilgrimage site is where you’ll meet itako, blind female mediums known to summon the souls of the dead.
If you’re in Aomori with a little spare time up your sleeve, make the journey to Shimokita Peninsula to explore this mystical side of Japan.
Also commonly referred to as “Fear Mountain,” the air of Mount Osore is thick with the distinct smell of sulfur, a byproduct of the fumaroles, or smoke holes, scattered around the site. The holes are a signifier that this mountain is still an active volcano, while the lakes surrounding Bodai-ji Temple (Map) are dyed luminescent shades of blue thanks to their high sulfur content.
Also commonly referred to as ‘Fear Mountain,’ the air of Mount Osore is thick with the distinct smell of sulphur.
The mountain’s most iconic lake, Sanzu no Kawa, is said to be the boundary between earth and the underworld, a thoroughfare for those that have passed, a concept more familiarly referred to in Greek mythology as the River Styx.
Mount Osore sounds like the least welcoming place on earth, but its fascinating landscape and spiritual legacy draws countless visitors throughout its more inhabitable months.
It’s particularly popular from July 22-24, when the temple hosts its summer festival. During these three days bereaved family members make their way to the area to consult with itako. Don’t expect too much small talk, though, after undergoing three months of strict purification rituals prior to the event, the women are in a trance-like state.
If you’re feeling brave enough to visit, the temple has a shukubo (lodging facility) which features open-air onsen and Buddhist shojin ryori meals.