The site is smelly. The attractions are morbid. And strangest of all, this cursed little slice of heaven is very popular with the locals.
Mount Osorezan (恐山) or Fear Mountain, is said to mark the entrance of hell. It is believed to be the gates to the afterlife because it features geographical elements similar to descriptions of the Buddhist afterlife, including eight surrounding peaks and a river, Sanzu no Kawa, which has to be crossed by all dead souls on their way to afterlife.
In reality, many of the visitors are not simple tourists, but rather grieving survivors who have come to this alleged bridge to the afterlife to mourn dead children. It’s common for the mourners to leave pinwheels and snacks for the children they honor.
Of course, tourists visit as well. Various monuments, mausoleums and statues mark the area, for better or worse, as a mystical location with various spiritual powers and insights. A nearby Buddhist temple also allows the very dedicated to worship at the gates of hell.
Not for the faint of heart, there is a festival at the temple, Bodaiji, every late July, that attracts mediums, known as Itako, that will communicate with the dead. The temple also accepts overnight guests and has an onsen available, if you want to bathe in Hell.
Know Before You Go
Four to five buses per day operate between Shimokita Station, Mutsu Bus Terminal and Osorezan. The one way trip from the station to Osorezan takes 45 minutes and costs 750 yen. No buses operate from November through April, when Bodaiji Temple is closed.