Points of Interest around Shimokita Peninsula of Mutsu City – Osore-zan (Mt. Fear), Mutsu City (Mutsu-shi)

One of Japan’s Three Great Holy Place, Mt.Osore/“Osore-zan” (Mt. Fear) was founded as a holy site in 862 by the great Buddhist monk Jikaku Dishi. Encircled by a crater often cited as resembling an eight-patalled lotus flower, the waters of Lake Usori silently flow down towards the River Styx. Those who visit Mt.Osore will enter a realm where this world and the next meet.

Next to the sacred Mt.Osore lies Lake Usore, its waters displaying the brilliant blue color characteristic of crater lakes. The strong, sulfureous odor that perpetually hangs in the air lends to the otherworldly atmosphere that permeates Mt.Osore. Local lore attributes the name “Usori” as deriving from the Ainu name for the lake, “Ushoro”.

With an elevation of 879 meters(2,884 feet),Mt.kamafuse doesn’t exactly qualify as a high mountain, but as there are no other mountains of that height in the region, it affords an unparalleled view. In the past only road to the top of Mt.Kamafuse was a restricted access road maintained by the self-defense forces, but a new road for tourists will open 1998.

Lying on the outskirts of Mutsu is GHayakaenuma Municipal Park. While Hyakaenuma Pond forms the centerpiece of the park, it is famous locally as a spot for viewing cherry blossoms. Within the park, a type of cherry with green blossoms can also be found. Characteristic of the general mood on the Shimokita Penninsula, the park excludes tranquility and escape from the noise and congestion of city life.

Tge arch dam in Suigenchi Park has the distinction of beeing Japan’s oldest arch dam. Costructed in 1910, the dam was in use until 1976. Built of stone, the dam’s impressive form has become a symbol for the park, where the beauty of the four seasons can also be enjoyed.

The pine-covered sandbar Ashizaki stretches itself out into the large, blue expanse that is Mutsu Bay. This is one of the many stunning panoramic views of the area to be discovered from the top of Mt.Kamafuse. From the lookout, one can see the Tsugaru Strait, the Pacific Ocean, the city of Hakodate on the northern island of Hokkaido, the Hakodate Mountains to the south, and even as far as Mt.Iwaki and Aomori City.

The building in Ominato, built in 1901, that now houses the Hokuyokan Museum originally housed in Torpedo Division of the former Japanese Navy. The museum now contains over 700 artifacts of Japanese military history. In addition, the building itself, unusual in that it is built of stone in the Western style, has been recognized by the Japanese Architectural Society as an outstanding example of Taisho-Showa Era architecture.

The name of the Mutsu-Shimokita Tourism and Local Products Hall,”Masakari Plaza” originated from an old nickname for the peninsula, “Masakari”. The shape of the peninsula was said to resemble a masakari, a broadaxe used for felling trees. Inside Masakari Plaza is a tourist information office offering free pamphlets, a gift shop selling various souvenirs and local specialty products, a restaurant, and a lounge which regularly shows a video depicting points of interest around the Shimokita Peninsula.

In the summertime, a drive out to Cape Shiriya to see the famous light house and the wild Kandachime houses will reveal one of Shimokita’s most romantic settings. However, in recent years the number of wild horses has been declining at a rate that has prompted measures to protect them. Year after year, these hardy creatures continue to brave the freezing temperatures and raging blizzards that strike Shiriya in the wintertime, and if one dares to venture out there during that time of year, one may even catch a glimpse of their ghostly forms in the midst of a storm.

In a quiet place off the beaten track, surrounded by virgin forests and beside a mountain stream, is Yagen Hot Springs. 10km up the Ohata river from the Tsugaru Strait and within the Shimokita Peninsula National Park lays this Yagen Hot Spring and Promenade, and another 2km upriver is the Okuyagen Hot Spring. Surrounded by a forest of beech and cedar trees the Yagen hot spring area is a great place to watch and enjoy the changing of the seasons.

According to legend, Yagen is named after the spot from which the hot water of the springs emerges from the earth, the shape of which is said to resemble a druggit’s mortar used for making Chinese medicines, called yagen. Each season brings its own spectacular beauty to Yagen and can be enjoyed while soaking in one of the famous outdoor baths. There is also 7.2 hectare Camping Area (Kokusetsu Yagen Yaeijo) at Yagen including restrooms with running water, cooking area, fire circle, and coin laundry services.

Hotokegaura, near the village of Sai, along with Mt.Osore, is Shimokita’s most famous tourist attraction. The towering cliffs, which appear like Buddhas soaring up toward the heavens, are a stunning and unusual natural formation that graces the western coast of the peninsula. “Hotokegaura” can be taken to mean “the beach where the Budhas reside.”

In Isaribi Park are the Futami Rocks, two rocks bound together by a sacred rope. The village of Kazamaura is home to Shimofuro Hot Springs, one of the main island of Honshu’s northernmost hot springs. This small, sleepy village was suddenly thrown into the spotlight when it was immortalized in Yasushi Inoue’s novel “Kaikyo.” As a memorial, one of Inoue’s poems is enscribed on a stone monument in Isaribi Park. This isaribi – the lights from the nighttime fishing boats-twinkle brightly in the night sea off the coast of the village, beckoning to weary travelers of the northern country.

At Cape Oma is a stone monument testifying to the fact that one has indeed reached the very northernmost point of the main island of Honshu. Off the coast, with Hokkaido as a backdrop, is the famous black-and-white striped lighthouse on tiny Bentenjima Island. Separating Oma from Hokkaido is a mere 17 kilometers(10.6 miles). From Oma, the southeastern mountains of Hokkaido is are distinctly visible, just a step across the Tsugaru Strait.

Shaped like a fish is the tiny island of Taijima, located one kilometer off the coast of the village of Wakinosawa on the westernmost point of Shimokita Peninsula. The island is divided into a distinct body and a tail; perched at the “head” of the island is a picturesque lighthouse. The waters around the island have been disignated as a sea park, and during the summer one can see the wonders of the sea from one of the many glass-bottomed boats that tour the sea.

Located in the Kawauchi River Valley near the Kawauchi Yunokawa Hot Spring area is Kawauchi Falls. Although the falls themselves are somewhat modest, the mountain surroundings are breathtaking. Stroll through the lush beech and evergreen forests, and afterwards relax in the outdoor baths.

Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi) is a common forest resident in the forests of the Shimokita Peninsula. These amazing rock formations located on the far western coast of the Shimokita Peninsula. Called the Hotokegaura, they are splended examples of karst topography and also home to some amazing tide pools with a wealth of biodiversity!

There are still great forests of Japan’s national tree, the “Sugi” (Cryptomeria japonica) on the Shimokita Peninsula. In these forests there are still healthy populations of Japanese Serow, Japanese Black Bear, Sika Deer, Japanese Squirrels and many other fascinating species.

Osorezan’s (Mt. Fear) summer festival

Worshippers visit Osorezan throughout the year as the last of the thirty-three sacred places on the pilgrimage to Tanabu.

Osorezan has a great Shukubo, or pilgrim hostel for 12,000 yen per person including two shojin ryori (vegetarian) meals. The facility was recently remodeled and is actually quite impressive. You can expect a hotel-level comfort here. Osorezan’s (Mt. Fear) summer festival is a popular time to visit.

Taisai Festival: July 20th – 24th

Fall Festival: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of the 3 day weekend ending in the Japanese holiday “Health and Sports Day” (2011 will be Oct. 8th-10th)

Hours: Open from 6am to 6pm (Closed from Novemeber to April)

Getting there: 30min by car from JR Ominato station. 43min by direct bus from Shimokita Station.

Location and Contact: Osore-zan Tourist Office Usoriyama-3-2 Tanabu, Mutsu City (Mutsu-shi), Aomori Prefecture, Japan [Geo Coordinate: 41.327126,141.09103199999998] Tourist Office – Tel: 0175-22-3825, Fax: 0175-22-3402 Staying in the Temple: Tel. 0175−22−3825, 0175-22-3826 (Japanese only) Ohata River Branch Office: Tel. 0175-34-2111 Kawauchi River Valley Branch Office: Tel. 0175-42-2111 Mutsu CitySightseeing Division: Tel. 0175-22-1111(ext: 2645 or 2647)

Website: http://www.city.mutsu.lg.jp/index.cfm/14,17008,29,220,html