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Mount Osorezan 恐山

Prayers for deceased children, Osore-zan
Osore-zan
Vapour over a river, Osore-zan

Mount Osorezan (lit. "Fear Mountain") is a 879m-high volcano in the center of the Shimokita Peninsula Quasi-National Park, in north-eastern Aomori prefecture.

It has long been considered one of Japan's most sacred place and is notorious for its itako, a kind of oracle or medium said to be able to communicated with the spirits of the departed. Thousands of Japanese come and visit the itako during the Osore-zan Taisai from 20 to 24 July.

The mountain stinks with sulfur and vapour emission due to the volcanic activity. It is on this barren landscape, where the only sign of life are black ravens perched on leafless trees, that Entsu-ji Temple (円通寺) was founded in the 9th century. The temple is dedicated to souls of unborn babies and dead children that the Mizukojizo Buddha images are supposed to soothe.

The nearby Lake Usoriyama also has connection with the world of the deads, a bit like the river Styx in Western mythology.

How to get there

Getting to Osore-zan can be tricky. The main hub is the town of Mutsu, which station is called Tanabu, on the privately owned Shimokita-Kotsu line. Once in Mutsu, there are hourly buses to Osore-zan (1hour, abour ¥750).

To reach Mutsu/Tanabu, you must first get to Noheji (野辺地), then change to the JR Ominato line to Shimokita (1hour), then again to the Shimokita-Kotsu line till Tanabu (7min).

From Tokyo, take the shinkansen to last stop at Hachinohe (3hours), then continue on the Limited Express train to Noheji (30min). The total journey from Tokyo to Mutsu/Tanabu takes about 6 hours 30 minutes and cost a bit over ¥10,000.

From Aomori, there are 4 direct trains a day to Shimokita station (90min, ¥1,890).

The nearest airport is Misawa. From there take a bus to Misawa train station (13min), then a train to Noheji (18min), then to Shimokita and finally Tanabu as described above.

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