There’s One Catch to Hiking the Japanese Mountain Promising Rebirth

Highly revered in the Shugendo tradition of asceticism, the arduous trek to the top of Mount Mitoku in Tottori has been followed by pilgrims for centuries. Rewarded by the sight of the stunning Nagereido temple, hewn into the rockface and perched on stilts, they also seek to purify the six roots of perception, a process known as Rokkon Shojo. Training the ears, eyes, nose, tongue, body, and mind, the journey rewards self-discipline with natural harmonization and deep spiritual power.

Strewn with temples, the trail is known for root-covered paths and steep climbs, with occasional chains to help climbers along the way. With monks as guides, slowly but surely you ascend the mountainside, conquering the root-strewn slope known as kazurazaka and pulling yourself up the rocky-incline known as kusarizaka with the help of rusty chain links. Feeling triumphant but exhausted, you will reach Monjudo—a temple offering haunting views across the valley from its sheer-drop veranda.

Centuries ago, the founder of Shugendo—En no Gyoja—had thrown three lotus petals into the sky to seek out new spiritual lands. As legend has it, they landed in Nara, Ehime, and here on Mt. Mitoku—claiming them as spiritual homes for the gods.

Next, you we come across Shorodo temple, home to a three-ton bell with mysterious origins. Rung to calm the spirit and purify your ears, how the bell was dragged up to its location remains unknown.

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