This is a part of our Mutsu area trip, scroll to the bottom to check out my links & recommendations for the entire weekend trip.
Here are the basics:
• NOT stroller friendly • NOT pet friendly • Good for kids • Entry fee (yen only) •
Only open May 1-October 31
The above pin will take you directly to the parking area.
We had NO idea what to expect when we arrived here. We had heard mixed reviews on this temple from various individuals who have visited before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. We knew there would be some walking, and we knew the place would STINK.
Here’s what I gathered from our own trip:
- It smells like eggs.
- It is VERY quiet.
- It is VERY beautiful.
- It is FULL of amazing Japanese culture.
Seriously, read my little history excerpt before you go, or research the history for yourself. Knowing the background of the area makes it that much more incredible, and it also gives you a newfound respect for the Japanese that are actively worshipping or praying here.
Let me preface ALL of this by saying, this is one of the three most holy places in Japan. If you read the history on the temple, you will appreciate the entire area culturally so much more. Do not bring dogs, in my opinion If you have loud or rambunctious kiddos, I would make this a date-day trip and leave the kids with a sitter. The area is NOT stroller friendly, though I wore my daughter in our LilleBaby carrier without any trouble whatsoever.
Drew and I are pretty active, and we weren’t bothered by the stairs here- but I can definitely see how that many stairs would pose an issue to those with kids. There is only one part of the loop with lots of stairs- the rest of the walk is pretty flat, unpaved walkways.
The area is open May 1st to October 31st, and for good reason. The roads to this area will be 100% snowed in if for some reason the snowy season starts before the closing date of the temple, so do keep this in mind if you go in the late fall.
They will provide you a brochure that is written in English- be sure to look at the map before entering. It shows you the flow of traffic through the shrines.Okay, now that all of the basics are out of the way, I 100% think this is a place that everyone should visit before leaving Japan. I was unaware of the cultural significance of this location prior to entering and exploring (read the brochure, Emily… come on, right?) and so I did not realize that a few places within the shrine area are completely off limits for photos. In addition, both your shoes AND any hats should be removed before entering any of these buildings. I will explain the significance of this area to the Japanese in just a bit.
Actually, lots of shrines are supposed to be photo-free in Japan, particularly those that are enclosed by a building, like the above- something I had NO idea about. This is something I learned from a quick Google search after being given the big “X” from a worker while trying to photograph Henry within a shrine building here. Oops. Lots of “gomen-nasai”s spoken from me this trip.
Here is a little history, from what I learned from the brochure and a few sources online:
Around 1200 years ago, a Buddhist priest had a dream in which a holy monk appeared to him, stating that he was to embark on a 30-day walk in search of a sacred mountain, where he would propagate Buddhism from. Eventually, the priest stumbled upon this volcanic area, realizing quickly that it met all of the requirements told about in his dream, including many geographic numerical markers, matching very specific Buddhist symbols. The priest knew this was the area spoken about in his dream.
With his own hands, he carved a statue of bodhisattva Jizô, and subsequently added a building to house it.
Here is the except directly from the pamphlet that they handed us. This was the most impactful and interesting part to me personally.
As you can imagine, this is a pretty historically important and heavily important place to the Japanese, especially those actively practicing Buddhism, and it gives you a deeper respect for the quiet nature of the area once you know what the worship taking place is all about. Many Japanese come here to pray for their deceased loved ones, and while every Japanese individual we saw met us with “konnichiwa” and smiles at our babies, we absolutely remained quiet unless spoken to, in respect to the natives around us.
We happened to go on a cloudy, misty day, and while we were worried about the dreariness when we woke up, it turns out… it was PERFECT. Some of the reviews I have read since visiting actually state that the entire area blossoms with color under the dreary conditions, and that sunny days are much less saturated with the deep blues, greens, and yellows.
Because the entire area is already somewhat ominous due to the bubbling sulfur pits and burning areas, the dark and dreary day with a mist over the mountains made it that much more dramatic.I HIGHLY recommend this being a place that you take your family/friends if they are visiting. It definitely IS kid-friendly, but as mentioned above, just please teach your kiddos that this is a place of reverence for the Japanese, and do your best to abide by that fact as a family while you are inside of the area. As a Christ-following family, we personally choose not to participate in any of the rituals, but we are 100% all about respecting those who do. The Japanese are actively worshipping/ praying- consider how you might have your kids act if they were in a church service.Here are some fun superstitions too that I gathered from a few posts online and on Misawa Asks, if you like that kind of thing.
- If you pick up a rock in your shoes from the ground within the temple area, and take it home with you, you are said to be taking home a spirit with you
- Odd numbers are considered good luck within this shrine, with even numbers being considered ominous/bad. You are supposed to visit in odd numbers, and if you visit the area once, do not return, or you will have to visit it again to make it an odd three times. Already messed that one up with our family of four… oops.
Make sure you check out my other two posts about our whole trip up to the Mutsu area, too! This has been one of my favorite trips so far, and I hope y’all love it as much too!