Climbing Mt. Omine, the Mecca of Shugendo



The Ikigai Diet and Bio-Hacking

On Saturday, I finally climbed Mt. Omine, the mecca of Shugendo. I have written about Shugendo in my book Ikigai Bio-Hacking. It is a Japanese spiritual practice that influenced Ninjas.

Ninja-Yamabushi Connection

Shugendo is especially developed in the Kinki Region and the mountains stretching from Mt. Yoshino in Nara Prefecture all the way to Kumano in Wakayama Prefecture are the central raining ground for Shugendo practitioners. Mt. Omine, whose actual name is Sanjogatake is located in the middle of this mountain range and is considered to be the mecca.


   Sanjogatake is the only mountain in Japan where women are not allowed to enter. It is Shugendo’s tradition partly because it was dangerous for women to train there and it allowed the training men to focus on the training.

So, at the entrance gate, it states that women can’t enter here.

The first half of the climbing was relatively easy. It was like a regular mountain climbing. By the way, I use the word mountain climbing but for you maybe it is like hiking.  In Japan, the landscape is very different and we don’t have the type of hiking trails where you don’t necessarily aim to climb to the summit so much, when we go mountain climbing we always aim to the top. There are a lot of low mountains up to 1000 meters(3281 feet)high, and they are pyramid-shaped with the top in the center. We always climb to the top but it isn’t so hard and we can mostly hike up the mountain without using our arms. In that sense, it is more like hiking, but in Japan, we distinguish between walking on flat land or hill and walking up to the mountain top. Hiking in Japan represents the former and the latter is usually called mountain climbing.


Then I came to the point where the trail meets Omine Okugake Trail. Omine Okugake Trail is 100 kilometers long Shugendo training trail from Mt. Yoshino to Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine.

From here the trail was not so uphill, but some parts were ragged and rocky. The weather got worse, too. It got foggy and windy.


There was still some snow left.


Then, I arrived at a hard area. From here it gets very rocky.

You see the man walking down. Just above him, there is a big rock called Kanekakeiwa, and that is considered to be the toughest section of this climb. Anyway, I climbed up there.


My goodness! It is a cliff. It isn’t trail walking, it is rock climbing.

It was foggy and I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t see what was below and what was above the cliff. It was getting quite windy, too.

I decided to take the alternative route. There was a trail for people who didn’t want to climb this rock. There was no point in dying here if I am doing all this to live long.  Even though this kind of thing is a part of Shugendo’s training, I don’t recommend this part. There are safer ways of training, and you don’t need to risk your life.

In the book, I wrote,

Since Shugendo practices austerities, many of Ymabushi’s training methods are too strenuous and dangerous for ordinary people to apply. They are designed for trained monks to gain supernatural powers and conducted under the guidance of senior practitioners. I wouldn’t recommend them. However, if you simplify them and adjust them to a doable level, some can be incorporated into Ikigai Bio-Hacking.

This kind of rock climbing is a type of thing you can avoid in Shugendo, but you can do regular trail walking or trail running as part of Ikigai Bio-Hacking.


Then, I came to Nisho no Nozoki. This is a place where Shugendo practitioners do Zange, repentenance.


You can’t see anything now with the fog, but it is a big cliff. Usually, you are hung there with a rope, and you repent your negative actions.

I sat in front of it and conducted my own way of Zange.


After Nishi no Nozoki, the rocky trail continued, and finally, I reached the entrance gate of Mt.Omine Temple. It is said that here is the division between the human realm and the heavenly realm. By walking through the gate, you enter the heavenly realm.


This is the temple. It was closed now. It is open from May 3rd to September 23rd.


And a little above the temple, there was the summit.


As I started descending the mountain, the fog got cleared and there was a great view.


That kind of rock is everywhere. It is a rocky mountain.

Anyway, I am happy that I finally visited Mt. Omine to greet. I reported to the mountain that I wrote about Shugendo in Ikigai Bio-Hacking.