Mt. Mitoku

By Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

At Mt. Mitoku, the relationship between man and nature through faith still remains, and the lifestyle and culture which protected the area lives on today. The cultural scenery of this relationship has transcended time and can be felt within the confines of a faith that focuses on "harmony between man and nature". The ascetic trail intertwining through steep terrain to lead to National Treasure Nageiredo uses a single path, which in turn has not affected the surrounding nature of the virgin forest with Japanese beeches. Manmade structures were also built to blend in and utilize the natural terrain. For over a millennium, led by both Shintoism and Buddhism, the unique natural environment and scenery of balance with nature continues to leave deep impressions to all who visit Mt. Mitoku today.

Large Torii (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Large Torii

Along the road to visit Mt. Mitoku from Misasa Hot Springs, this large torii used to indicate Mt. Mitoku's territory.

Picture of Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu-ji Temple Precincts (1734) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Picture of Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu-ji Temple Precincts

A drawing of Mt. Mitoku and its surroundings in 1734. The names of the different halls, including Nageiredo, and religious places are noted.

Rinkouin Temple (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Temple lodgings

Temple lodgings also available to the public. You can also eat a vegetarian meal (reservation only), or participate in zazen meditation and sutra copying.

Rhododendron (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Rhododendron

Rhododendrons bloom throughout the mountain in early May. This tree is known as the "Tree of Enno Gyoja" in Shugendo, and is considered to be sacred.

worn stone steps (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

worn stone steps

Stone steps worn down from hundreds of years of pilgrimages.

Hon-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (19th Century End of Edo Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Hon-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple

Prefectural Preservation of Cultural Property

It is said that the temple name "Sanbutsu-ji" (3 buddhas) of Mt. Mitoku was derived from the 3 revered buddhas enshrined in 849 by Jikaku Daishi Ennin. “Shaka Nyorai, Amida Nyorai and Dainichi Nyorai” were the 3 objects of worship enshrined. This hall marks the start of the ascetic trail to Nageiredo Hall.

The current building of the hall was constructed in 1839. The three main deities (Sansho Gongen) are enshrined inside the hall and “mikoshis” (portable shrines) used at Mt. Mitoku’s Miyuki Procession are also kept there.

Wooden Standing Statue of Amida Nyorai (12th Century Late Heian Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Wooden Standing Statue of Amida Nyorai

Prefectural Preservation of Cultural Property

One of the three principle objects of worship of Hon-do Hall of Sanbutsuji Temple (Shaka Nyorai, Amida Nyorai and Dainichi Nyorai), this statue was enshrined in the hall as a hidden buddha and repaired in 2004.

With a height of 147.5 cm, this statue has a slightly large head, a shallow body with extremely sloping shoulders, and shallow edges, which is typical of the style from the late Heian Period. It is believed to have been made slightly later than the main object of worship of Sanbutsu-ji Temple, Zao Gongen, in the late Heian Period (12th Century).

Its cultural and historical value is extremely high as one of the main objects of mountain worship at Hon-do Hall of Sanbutsuji Temple.

Wagesa Stole & Waraji Sandals (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Wagesa Stole & Waraji Sandals

In order to pay homage to National Treasure Nageiredo, one must purify their "five senses and mind". Donning a wagesa stole bestows understanding. Fore safety reasons, visitors to the mountain are not allowed to enter with footwear that has bad traction. Waraji sandals are available for sale for those who need it.

Yadoiribashi Bridge (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Yadoiribashi Bridge

Yadoiribashi Bridge serves as the entrance to the ascetic path.

Juichimen Kannon-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (18th Century Mid-Edo Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Juichimen Kannon-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple

Prefectural Preservation of Cultural Property This is one of the halls located along the ascetic trail from Sanbutsu-ji Temple’s Hon-do Hall to Nageiredo Hall.

It is the first hall you see on the ascetic trail from behind Hon-do Hall to Nageiredo. Cross the Yadoiri Bridge, walk for a while, and discover this hall standing right before the challenging Kazura Slope. According to temple legend, “Nogiwa’s Inari God” was inscribed on it and the architectural style indicates that it was made in mid-Edo Period.

Kazura Slope (Kazura-zaka) (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Kazura Slope (Kazura-zaka)

The Kazura Slope is the first obstacle on the "ascetic trail" that leads to the National Treasure Nageiredo. You must utilize your entire body and rely on tree roots to climb up. A training path.

Chain Slope (Kusari-zaka) (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Chain Slope (Kusari-zaka)

An obstacle along the ascetic trail found right before Monju-do Hall. One must use a single chain to climb the rock which leads to Monju-do Hall.

Ascetic to climb a chain slope (Kusari-zaka), Unknown, Unknown, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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Monju-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (16th Century Azuchi-Momoyama Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Monju-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple

Nationally Important Cultural Property

Monju-do is one of the halls located along the ascetic trail from Hon-do Hall of Sanbutsuji Temple to Nageiredo Hall. It is built on a cliff, the same way as Jizo-do Hall. Monju Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) is enshrined at this place and was also referred to as “Katsuté Gongen”. Having no handrails, the building is surrounded with greenery. One can freely walk all around the structure.

According to temple legend, the hall was founded in 849. However, judging from the writings found inside the current building, it is presumed that it was built in around 1567. The 1580 inscriptions in the interior metal fittings of the door and baluster finial reveal that the hall was protected by local influential people during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. In the same way as Nageiredo and Jizo-do, this hall protrudes from a steep cliff and was built in the style of “kakezukuri” architecture.

Monju-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (16th Century Azuchi-Momoyama Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Monju-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (16th Century Azuchi-Momoyama Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

View from Monju-do (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Equestrian Statue of Katsute Gongen (16th Century Muromachi Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Equestrian Statue of Katsute Gongen

Town Designated Tangible Cultural Property

Also known as "Katsute Daimyoujin". In 1541, an equestrian statue with a black horse was made and enshrined in Monju-do. This statue is not only the oldest signed piece (including statues and paintings) of Katsute Myoujin, but is also the second oldest equestrian statue after the one of Komori Gongen in Armor in Jizo-do.

Jizo-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (15th - 16th Century End of Muromachi Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Jizo-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple

Nationally Important Cultural Property

Jizo-do is one of the halls located along the ascetic trail from Hon-do Hall of Sanbutsuji Temple to Nageiredo Hall. It is built on a cliff, the same way as Monju-do Hall.

Jizo Bosatsu (bodhisattva), the deity for guarding and granting long life to children is enshrined here. Jizo Bosatsu was also referred to as Komori Gongen (Guardian Avator of Children) for his name. Having no handrails, the building is surrounded with greenery. One can freely walk all around the structure. The architectural style suggests that this hall was built in late Muromachi Period.

Inside the building, a Buddhist priest’s sumi ink writings of the temple being burnt down in wars are found. These writings reveal that the temple was repeatedly destroyed in wars and rebuilt. In the same way as Nageiredo and Monju-do, this hall protrudes from a steep cliff and was built in the style of “kakezukuri” architecture.

Jizo-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (15th - 16th Century End of Muromachi Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Jizo-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (15th - 16th Century End of Muromachi Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Equestrian Statue of Komori Gongen in Armor (16th Century Muromachi Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Equestrian Statue of Komori Gongen in Armor

Town Designated Tangible Cultural Property

Ksitigarbha is the true form of Komori Gongen, which points to Jizo-do at Mt. Mitoku. This equestrian statue of the armored Ksitigarbha on a white horse was enshrined in Jizo-do Hall in 1523 by a Buddhist craftsman from Kyoto. This is the oldest signed piece of Buddhist figures and paintings collected by war commanders who fought for the power to rule. It is also the oldest signed wooden equestrian statue with a white horse.

Shoro-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (Late 17th Century Early Edo Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Shoro-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple

Prefectural Preservation of Cultural Property

This is one of the halls located along the ascetic trail from Sanbutsu-ji Temple’s Hon-do Hall to Nageiredo Hall. It is found after Jizo-do Hall. Pilgrims calm their spirit by ringing the bell before continuing their journey to Nageiredo. Originally, the bell did not exist and it is said that it was recast in 1680.

Horseback & Cattleback (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Horseback & Cattleback

An obstacle along the ascetic trail. Past Shoro-do Hall is a slender ridge you must walk on. This ridge resembles a horseback and cattleback, hence the name.

Noukyo-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (12th Century Late Heian Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Noukyo-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple

Nationally Important Cultural Property

Noukyo-do is one of the halls located along the ascetic trail from Hon-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple to Nageiredo Hall. It is the hall where Shugendo practitioners kept "Sutras" (Okyo) and its architectural style is "kasuga-zukuri", a traditional form of Shinto shrine.

It was previously thought to be built in early Kamakura Period; however, scientific investigations revealed that it was constructed in late Heian Period.

Transcribed Sutras (Late 14th Century Northern and Southern Courts Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Town Designated Tangible Cultural Property

Transcribed sutras stored at Noukyo-do Hall, an Important Cultural Property. It was taken out during repairs in the Taisho Period. The years 1355 - 1384 are recorded in the sutras, and out of the one hundred and several dozens owned, eleven sutras have been designated by the town as Tangible Cultural Properties.

As Mt. Mitoku has kept transcribed sutras brought all the way from Kyushu and incorporated practices such as mixing sumi ink with blood, it displays an astounding level of faith.

Kannon-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (17th - 18th Century Early Edo Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Kannon-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple

Prefectural Preservation of Cultural Property

This is one of the halls located along the ascetic trail from Sanbutsu-ji Temple’s Hon-do Hall to Nageiredo Hall.

It was built on the trail and it is found right before Nageiredo. As people need to pass through a narrow pathway between the rock and the hall in order to reach Nageiredo, pilgrims call this place “tainai kuguri” (passing through the womb).

The cave is symbolically seen as a womb where one can attain a new life by entering and coming out of that womb.

“Standing Statue of Sho Kannon” is the principal object of worship.

Wooden Standing Statue of Sho Kannon (12th Century End of Heian Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Wooden Standing Statue of Sho Kannon

Nationally Important Cultural Property

This is the chief object of worship at Kannon-do Hall located along the ascetic trail from Hon-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple to Nageiredo Hall. It is 167cm tall and is made from one piece of hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood. It is not colored and both of its hands were replaced at a later date. According to folklore, this is an eleven-headed Kannon, however, the additional heads of the transformed Buddha are missing. Based on its intricate features, it is presumed that the statue was made at the end of Heian Period.

Motoyuikake-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (17th - 18th Century Early Edo Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Motoyuikake-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple

Prefectural Preservation of Cultural Property

This is one of the halls located along the ascetic trail from Sanbutsu-ji Temple’s Hon-do Hall to Nageiredo Hall. It was built in a cave, the same way as Kannon-do Hall. The architectural style suggests it was constructed in early Edo Period.

Since “Motoyui” means to harden the “string” with glue in order to tie the hair, the name implies that the hair of Sanbutsu-ji’s priest was shaved off, tied by a string and stored in this structure. “Siddhārtha” is the principal object of worship.

Fudou-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (18th - 19th Century Late Edo Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Fudou-do Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple

Prefectural Preservation of Cultural Property

This is one of the halls located along the ascetic trail from Sanbutsu-ji Temple’s Hon-do Hall to Nageiredo Hall. It is built on a cliff next to Nageiredo Hall. The architectural style suggests that it was built in late Edo Period. Its principal object of worship is Fudou Myo’ou (Acala-vidyaraja).

Aizen-do Hall (11th Century Late Heian Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Nageiredo Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple

Not only is Nageiredo Hall designated a national heritage but it is a leading architectural wooden masterpiece in Japan. It previously housed 7 wooden standing statues of Zao Gongen (Buddha Zao) which are Nationally Important Cultural Properties.

It is said that in 706, Enno Gyoja arrived at this mountain on a white cloud, formed a sacred crevice and threw (nagé iré) the hall into the cliff using his magical powers; hence the name “Nageiredo”.

This hall is a symbol of Buddhist mountain worship. The challenging sheer height of the cliff, the harmonious raised floor type (kakezukuri) structures in the crevice and the defying construction method of the stilts make it an exceptional architecture like no other.

Japanese ancient Shinto philosophies are deeply rooted here as the structures are said to represent “coexistence with nature”, giving a lasting impression on visitors. Officially, the closer structure is called “Zao Shrine” and the farther structure is called “Aizen-do Hall”. Looking at the architectural style and growth ring dating, it is clear that these are late Heian Period structures. They are a national treasure as late Heian Period wood is used to this day.

* Shugendo is mountain worship in Japan.

Nageiredo Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (11th Century Late Heian Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Nageiredo Hall of Sanbutsu-ji Temple (11th Century Late Heian Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Mt. Mitoku (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Seen from a distance , it can be seen well whether Nageire-do Hall has been built to how steep cliff .

Seen from a distance , it can be seen well whether Nageire-do Hall has been built to how steep cliff .

Wooden Standing Statues of Zao Gongen (6 Statues of Zao Avatar Enshrined at the Inner Sanctuary) (11th - 12th Century Heian Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Wooden Standing Statues of Zao Gongen (6 Statues of Zao Avatar Enshrined at the Inner Sanctuary)

Six Zao Gongen statues are enshrined together with the central figure at Nageiredo Hall. All are Important Cultural Properties and are made from one piece of hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood. A recent scientific investigation concluded that the timber of one of the statues was felled in 1025, making it the oldest Zao Gongen statue. Since it is likely that the statue was made when Nageiredo Hall was founded, it indicates the time of the hall's establishment.

Wooden Standing Statue of Zao Gongen (Enshrined at the Inner Sanctuary) (12th Century Late Heian Period) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Wooden Standing Statue of Zao Gongen (Enshrined at the Inner Sanctuary)

Nationally Important Cultural Property

This 116.4cm statue is Nageiredo Hall’s central figure. Using the yosegi-zukuri method, hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood was carved and gilded to form this statue.

Zao is believed to be the guardian deity that guides Shugendo practitioners and conquers evil. When the statue was previously being repaired, a document was found inside the statue and was examined. It was revealed that the statue was made by Kokei (Unkei’s master) in 1168. A scientific investigation reached the same findings.

* “Yosegi-zukuri” is a technique where several pieces of wood are carved separately before they are assembled together.

Wooden Standing Statue of Zao Gongen (Enshrined at the Inner Sanctuary), Unknown, 12th Century Late Heian Period, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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No.1 Wooden Standing Statue of Zao Gongen, Unknown, 11th - 12th Century Heian Period, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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No.2 Wooden Standing Statue of Zao Gongen, Unknown, 11th - 12th Century Heian Period, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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No.3 Wooden Standing Statue of Zao Gongen, Unknown, 11th - 12th Century Heian Period, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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No.4 Wooden Standing Statue of Zao Gongen, Unknown, 11th - 12th Century Heian Period, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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No.5 Wooden Standing Statue of Zao Gongen, Unknown, 11th - 12th Century Heian Period, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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No.6 Wooden Standing Statue of Zao Gongen, Unknown, 11th - 12th Century Heian Period, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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A pair of wooden Koma-inu (guardian dogs), Unknown, 12th - 14th Century Kamakura Period, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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A pair of wooden Koma-inu (guardian dogs), Unknown, 12th - 14th Century Kamakura Period, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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Wooden Koma-inu (guardian dog), Unknown, 11th - 12th Century Late Heian Period, From the collection of: Mt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple
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Mt. Mitoku Virgin Forest (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Mt. Mitoku Virgin Forest

The virgin forest at Mt. Mitoku has been preserved by religious belief.

Magaibutsu Shinzuzou (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Magaibutsu Shinzuzou

The first line drawing of buddhas on a rock face discovered in Tottori Prefecture in 2009.
Over a width of 32m, there are 8 images on the vertical rock face, including Fudou Myo’ou (Acala-vidyaraja) and Dainichi Nyorai.

Because these carvings are in a dangerous part of the steep ravines of Mt. Mitoku, its location is not made clear.

As the whole scale of Mt. Mitoku's Shugendo relics is yet to be discovered, excavations are still being carried out today.

Kanmuri Iwa (Crown Rock) (Unknown) by UnknownMt. Mitoku Sanbutsu ji Temple

Kanmuri Iwa (Crown Rock)

This large rock is on the south side of Mt. Mitoku and it is called Kanmuri Iwa (Crown Rock). It is named after the crown of Zao Gongen, Nageiredo Hall's principal object of worship. It was an important place to visit for Shugendo practitioners as a god was believed to reside there. Remains of rituals performed nearby are still visible to this day.

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