Mount Osore (恐山, Osorezan) is a region in the center of the remote Shimokita Peninsula of Aomori Prefecture, Japan.
I heard about Osorezan on my first few days here in Aomori. Some people say it is a must on the ‘Aomori to do’ list. It’s bizare location meant it took me 9 months to eventually visit or maybe it was a little bit of the fact that its known as ‘The Gate Way to Hell’… but it was worth the wait (and ignoring the name) , this place is incredibly beautiful and mysteriously creepy all at the same time.
Wikipedia says…’According to popular mythology, Mount Osore (literally “Mount Fear”) marks the entrance to Hell, with a small brook running to the neighboring Lake Usorisan that is equated to the Sanzu River, the Japanese equivalent to Styx. The reputation is not surprising, given that the very volcanically-active site is a charred landscape of blasted rock filled with bubbling pits of unearthly hues and noxious fumes.’
It sounds first off pretty horrible when you read the above, the Japanese equivalent to the Styx especially is not an attractive thought. But this place is really not so horrible and haunted at all. It’s smells pretty strong from the sulphur but your nose adjusts surprisingly quickly and I found myself not even noticing it after the initial blast. The sound of the sulphur bubbling in some open earth pits is freaky alright but quite exciting too and the steam that billows from the cracks in the earth intensifies these feelings of fear matched with excitement. The stream and lake seem like normal, sitting perfectly still between the surrounding mountain hills, but then you see areas of blubbling water, yellow sulphur deposits at the edges and then of course the strong eggy smell hits you with a force. Either way these bubbles and stuff cannot take away from the natural beauty of this perfect lake.
The peaceful silence of this place is captivating.
The landscape is charred and chipped yes but has a back drop of lush green which gives it a nice balance of good and evil. The ground below you may contain the devils brew but up above it is comfortably warm and cozy, it was just like walking around on under floor heating.
There is in fact an onsen (natural bathing house) on site but I could not bring myself to climb into the yellow steaming pit after hearing the boiling noises only meters away and there was also the fact that the image of the bodies in the ‘Dantes Peak’ film kept flashing in my mind.
Would it be weird if I said this was one of my top favorite places in Japan? It is more beautiful than any other place I’ve been and although it smells bad and the name describes it as something very much un-desirable I would wonder if this is hell, what is heaven’s equivalent?