Visiting Osorezan(Mt.Osore) and Bodai-ji Temple
For the fans of Japan’s mystical sites and spectacular nature, Osorezan is a place that provides this and more. This is one of Japan’s top ranked sacred places, discovered by a buddhist priest over 1000 years ago while in search of a sacred mountain and therefore holds significant importance for buddhist pilgrims. It is the home of the Bodai-ji Temple which is visited by families mourning the souls of their lost children, and thanks to all the symbols involved in this tradition, Osorezan is an enigmatic experience that will keep you in awe from start to finish.
To get to Osorezan you will need to drive up a mountain road about 14 km from Mutsu City. Once at the top, you will be greeted by the strong smell of sulphur and the dry landscape around the lake. Before arriving at Bodai-ji, stop at the edge of Lake Usoriyama to check out the traditional red bridge arching over the small river known as “Sanzu no Kawa”. As picturesque as it is, it is also known as the river to be crossed by lost souls on the way to the afterlife.
After Sanzu no Kawa, a short drive will get you to the entrance of Bodai-ji Temple. Bodai-ji is located next to the highly sulphuric waters of Lake Usoriyama and is the main attraction here. This is no ordinary temple. From July 20 to 24, a festival is held here for pilgrims to communicate with lost relatives (especially children) through mediums known as Itako. Outside of the festival days you will not be able to witness this activity, although other elements related to this tradition are present all throughout the place.
Past the temple buildings, you will walk along an unpaved path and through a vast dry valley. This area is adorned with Jizo statues, common in other temples throughout Japan, but even more outstanding here. The most impressive jizo is located at the edge of the lake, flanked by two bells that are rung in form of prayer. Together with the jizo, you will stumble upon countless piles of pebbles stones, stacked up by parents of deceased children to help the jizo guide their souls to the afterlife. It is also common for these piles to have a bright-coloured pinwheel on top. The scene of these pinwheels spinning both by the wind and the gas coming out of some of the stone piles is quite captivating and at times a bit chilling. You can walk through this area on your own, or with an official tour guide who (although only in Japanese) will explain in more detail the significance of all these symbols and the history of the site.
Besides the tour around the temple grounds, at Osorezan, there is also an onsen bath filled with the sacred hot spring waters of the area and is free for both for day and overnight visitors. If you wish to extend the experience and spend the night here, you can do so for 10,000 to 15,000 yen a night. Do keep in mind that the temple is closed from November to April. Besides driving, Bodai-ji can also be reached via a 45-minute bus ride (800 yen) connecting Shimokita Station and Mustu Bus Terminal with Osorezan.