Hey guys! Kyle here~
I’m back for part 2 of my trip to Aomori Prefecture! This time we set up camp at a town called Matsu in Shimokita, the northern most peninsula on Japan’s main island ( you can see Hokkaido from the tip of the peninsula!). Our plan for the day was to visit Osorezan 恐山, one of the three holiest sites of Japan. Founded in the 9th century by Buddhist Master Jikaku En’nin, the temple is centered around Jizo地蔵, the Bodhisattva of mother earth. More interesting are the legends that say it contains the souls of all the dead and one can hear the remnants of their voices in the wind. Standing on top of a pool of volcanic sulfur, the temple is a collection of 8 mountain peaks, a sulfur lake as well as a patch of volcanic soil. The end result gives it an eerie feeling similar to the mountains of Mordor from The Lord of the Rings; the impending typhoon that was making its way north directly over Japan only added to the ominous beauty of the landscape.
The statues of the various Buddhas and Bodhisattva’s were enormous and serene in stark contrast to the active backdrop.
Another thing that shocked me about this area was the array of color found in the sulfurous rock! I had never seen so much variation and vibrancy from stone before in my life. The shapes, ,patterns and palettes that the air and river of acidic water created in the landscape was inspiring!!
Lastly, the long walk through the temple grounds concluded with the sulfur lake. It was a beautiful shade of tiel and it stretched to reach the bases of all 8 mountain peaks surrounding the area. Crystal clear, probably from the toxicity of the sulfurous gas, one could see all of the stones and sands at the bottom of the lake. Walking along the banks I came across a purple lily placed by someone who had lost someone they loved; they left a wooden stick with their message to the deceased. It was a delicate splash of violet on the bleached sand. Next to it was a limestone statue of yet another Buddha, with its back to the lake. Someone had wrapped a blanket around its shoulders.
Osorezan, for me, was a reconnection with all the aspects of nature: life and death, fire and water, stone and foliage. It was truly a place like no other and I encourage anyone to visit it. Having visited MANY Buddhist temples, I thought this one wouldn’t be very different. I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong at the unique feeling and auspicious aura of Osorezan, its landscape and the areas of worship within it. I will never forget it! Stay tuned for more on Aomori Prefecture 😉
All the best,