Called by a divine certain something
Mountain worship has flourished in Japan since ancient times. The country is dotted with mountains revered as sacred, the most notable being Mt. Fuji, and among the Japan Alps, Ontake mountains and Tateyama mountains. These mountains became a place for believers of Shugendo to practice their faith, and in the Edo period, faith climbing became a popular practice among the common people.
The Ontake faith, which is still practiced today, is based on the idea that Ontake mountains are a resting place for the soul after one dies. In the Tateyama faith, climbing the mountain symbolizes death and coming down from the mountain means rebirth. Although the numbers of followers have declined, these religious values have been passed down as a part of history in the foothills of these mountains.
As you can see, each faith brings different ideas, but the one thing they have in common is their belief that there is something to be gained from climbing the mountain. Within the natural and beautiful, yet austere, environment of a mountain, a certain something may exist that evokes thoughts of the divine. It was something that our ancestors felt firsthand and used it as a tool for self-reflection.
Those of us living in the modern age can take that extra step beyond the normal mountain climbing we enjoy as an athletic activity and embark on a journey of the heart that simulates the Shinko Tozan, or faith climbing, of the past. Learn about the mountain’s religious background while feeling new emotions emerge with each step you take using all five of your senses. Everyone is sure to feel their own unique certain something.
Ontake mountains are the object of worship in the Ontake Shinko religion.
We followed the Ontake Kodo ancient pilgrimage path that remains in the foothills of Ontake mountains today and purified ourselves at the Kiyotaki waterfall before making our way to the summit.
The Tateyama Shinko religion begins with crossing Nunobashi bridge in Ashikuraji Village, which stands at the foot of the mountain.
Crossing the bridge symbolizes death and crossing into the nether world, while reaching the summit of Tateyama mountains and descending unharmed represents rebirth.