Osorezan-bodaiji

Top choice in Aomori Prefecture

The Osorezan Temple in Aomori, JAPAN; Shutterstock ID 1092701174; Your name (First / Last): Evan Godt; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial; Full Product or Project name including edition: Northern Honshu destination page

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This holy shrine at Osore-zan's summit is a moving, mesmerisingly atmospheric and beautiful place honouring Jizō Bosatsu, protector of children and a much-loved deity in Japanese mythology. It's also said to be located at the entrance to hell: a small brook that flows into the beautiful crater lake, Usori, is said to represent the legendary Sanzu river, which souls must cross on their way to the afterlife. Fittingly people visit to mourn lost children or to commune with the dead.

Several stone statues of Jizō overlook hills of craggy, sulphur-strewn rocks and hissing vapour. Visitors are encouraged to help lost souls with their underworld penance by adding stones to the cairns. You can even bathe on hell's doorstep at the free onsen off to the side as you approach the main hall. Allow an hour or two to wander the landscape in deep contemplation.

Five daily buses run to and from JR Shimokita Station and Osore-zan (¥800, 45 minutes). If you'd like to spend more time on the mountain, it is possible to stay overnight at the temple (¥12,000 per person including two meals); reserve in advance.