[Otayama Shrine in Setana] Most Dangerous Shrine in Japan
March 1st, 2016
Otayama Shrine (太田山神社) is one of historical shrines in Hokkaido in Taisei, Setana town located in the northwestern part of Hakodate city, and has been established since 1440s. A enshrined deity is Sarutahiko-no-mikoto (猿田彦命). The real name is Ota Shrine (太田神社). This shrine have some kind of connection to Mr. Enku Shonin (円空上人), a famous sculptor of Buddhist images, and is famous as the most dangerous shrine in Japan. In the old days, Japanese famous morning show "Zoom-in, Asa" (ズームイン朝) broadcasted this shrine on television, and these days, Japanese comedy tv program "Nogizaka under Construction" (乃木坂工事中) introduced the subject of this shrine. Because a large torii gate and a parking space are along Hokkaido Road 740, it is easy to find here. Ota Shrine (太田神社) and Enku Buddhist Temple (円空仏堂) are built near the large torii gate, and there are a public restroom and a parking lot beside the Enku Buddhist Temple. Restraunts, cafes, souvenir shops and convenience stores are not built around here. Usubetsu Onsen, a famous secret onsen, and Kaitorima Onsen are relatively near here. Admission free. The parking lot is free of charge.
Originally Ainu God called Ohotamokai (オホタカモイ) lived in the Mt. Ota (太田山), and it seems to be the origin of Ota shrine that Mr. Nobuhiro Takeda (武田信広), an original forefather of Matsumae Domain (松前藩), gave a title such as Ota Daigongen (太田大権現 * a title given to Shinto gods by believers) to the Mt. Ota in 1454. Then, the Enku Shonin worked on the carving of Buddhist statues at a cave from 1661 to 1666, and Mr. Mokujiki Shonin (木喰上人) and Mokujiki Byakudo (木食白道) that were impressed by the Enku Shonin's Buddhist statues worked on the carving of the Buddhist statues at the cave in 1778, too. I think they are great to come to this far place because roads were not built at that time. By the way, this shrine is the most far shrine from Macdonald Shop in the Japan mainland because it is said that Cape Obana (尾花岬) near here is the most far place from the Macdonald Shop.
Usubetsu Onsen (臼別温泉) is a hot spring place in Taisei, Setana town located in the northwest part of Hakodate city. A signboard is a mark along Raiden National Route (雷電国道 * National Route 229), and visitors turn and go straight for around 3 km, and the end of the road is the Usubetsu Onsen. Only Utopia Usubetsu (湯とぴあ臼別) is built. This onsen has an atmosphere such as a secret onsen in the heart of a mountain. But it is easy to access by car. Drive carefully because a gravel road sometimes is landslides. Except the Utopia Usubetsu, restraunts, cafes, souvenir shops and convenience stores are not built. Article is here
Kaitorima Onsen (貝取澗温泉) is a hot spring hotel in Taisei ward, Setana town located in the northwestern part of Hakodate city. Visitors turn along Oiwake Soran Line (National Route 229), and go straight for around 600 m along kaitorima River, and only Awabisan-so (あわび山荘) is built adjacent to Taisei Campsite (大成野営場), and campers pay camp fee at the Awabisan-so. Unfortunately, restraunts, cafes, cafes, souvenir shops and convenience stores are not built around there. There are Otayama Shrine (太田山神社), Parent and Child Bears Shaped Rocks (親子熊岩) and Usubetsu Onsen (臼別温泉) near here. Kaitorima means "Place between Rocks" in Ainu language. I suppose that there are not rocks only at the mouth of the Kaitomari River in rocky cliff seashore. The Kaitorima Onsen passed a rigorous screening in 1976, and has been appointed by Minister for the Environment, and is one of 15 nation insurance hot spring resorts in Hokkaido. Article is here
Mt. Ota Hiking
Mt. Ota has an altitude of 485 m. A cave is located at around 430 m above sea level in the vicinity of the mountaintop, and the Enku Shonin stayed here, and worked on the carving of Buddhist statues once. The Otasan shrine building is enshrined at this cave at present. A trail with about 700 m in total length from the start point to the goal point, but visitors must get over a lot of trials to go and worship there. It will take about 3 hours to get there and back. The visitors should bring water of 500 ML-1 L. I regretted not to drink the water. You had better bring an insect repellent because a lot of gnats or horseflies try to bite your skin in a summer. In addition, bears seem to appear, so you had better bring bear-avoiding bells, too. You should prepare extra underwears and work gloves, and I sweated gallons. You may be tired because of a difference of elevation, so you should wear comfortable shoes.
The Japan's most dangerous reason is because the front approach to the shrine is a rough trail, and some stairways and the rough trail are steeper than the common approach to a shrine. Furthermore, the visitors may meet with a wild brown bear or falling rocks, and may be attacked by mamushi and insects. The risks are varied depending on seasons. One thing I can say is that there is a risk in any case.
Beside the torii gate, a signboard, stating "Otayama Shrine does not take responsibility for accidents that visitors go to worship on this site", is built. Please be careful not to cause the accident.
At first I felt steep stone steps with about 45 degrees were in danger. Ropes are provided as a safety equipment, the visitors must go up the steep stone steps with using the ropes. It was like games such as Tv programs, Takeshi's Castle (風雲たけし城) and SASUKE (サスケ), but I became strained because I was in danger of my life.
After going up the stairway, I went ahead through a trail made of roots of trees and soil along ropes. A iron ladder is set in the air on the way, too, and I felt it was dangerous. But, this dangerous was better than other dangerous with hindsight in retrospect.
Some stone Buddha images came into my eyes when I went up the trail. I thought that I might be close the goal at that time, but about two third of the distance remained. I had a long way to go. A signboard, stating "Warning: Falling or fallen rocks", is built, too. Rocks were falling actually, the visitors had better really careful.
A torii gate and a shrine building came into my eyes when I went up for a while. I thought whether I reached the goal finally, but I got excited over nothing. This building is the shrine building named Nyonindo (女人堂 * a shrine for women), and women used to be be kept away from the mountaintop because the Ainu God used to live in this mountain once. Therefore the Nyonindo was built because women were able to worship only here. It is the same as Cape Kamui (神威岬), too. Of course, women can go up till the last at present, too.
A torii gate came into my eyes when I went up steep rough trail. This is an entrance of an iron bridge to the cave. I could give myself a break, but true risks lie ahead. While I was careful the slippery floor of the iron bridge, I reached under the cave. Iron rings linked togheter are hanged on the rocky wall with around 7 m in height to the cave. The rocky wall is the hardest part named Kitajinbo (北尋坊). The visitors must climb up the cliff with using those iron rings. A lot of the visitors seem to go back here. I understand how that feels, too. A view from here is comfortable, too. However, I decided to climb it to reach the goal because I came here all the way. I absolutely looked at only my hands without looking at the bottom. I was scared, but I could climb the rocky wall for about 5 minutes.
A shrine building is built at the cave that the Enku Shonin and the Mokujiki Shonin stayed at, and the visitors dedicated their wishes. The cave is small, and is the size that about 4 people can enter. But beautiful Okushiri Island (奥尻島) can be seen from here. As for paying a visit to the shrine, this is the Japan's most dangerous shrine, but it is the shrine that visitors may gain most satisfaction from the experience in Japan. Everyone, please take care of yourself, and enjoy the paying a visit to the shrine. Ota shrine Festival (太田神社例大祭) is held in late June, and Oyamagake (御山掛け) is held, too.
Atmosphere of Otayama Shrine Can Be Watched on Youtube
|Admission fee||Free of charge|
|Parking lot||A free parking is provided (5 cars).|
|Business hour||Open 24 hours|
|Regular closing day||Open all year round|
|Home page||Home page is here|
|Mapcode||943 364 229*01|
List of Accommodations
Refer to following websites for the accommodations around Otayama Shrine. You can get information regarding online reviews and photos.
|Onsen Hotel Kitahiyama(温泉ホテル きたひやま)||
|Minshuku Mathunoya(民宿 松乃屋)||
|Minshuku Nagaiso(民宿 ながいそ)||