THE MOUNTAIN OF REBIRTH
According to legend—as it is told in the manuscript Haguro's Origins (羽黒山縁起), written in 1644—Mt. Haguro was discovered by a mysterious prince named Nojo Taishi 能除太子 (also known as Prince Hachiko) in 593.
What do we know about Prince Hachiko?
Prince Hachiko 蜂子皇子 was born in 542. His father, the Emperor Sushun 崇峻天皇, was assassinated by a jealous rival by the name of Soga no Umako 蘇我馬子, in 592. Following his cousin's advice, Prince Shotoku Taishi, Hachiko decided to flee the capital in search of a sacred Buddhist mountain where he could pray for despair in the world to end. This mountain was to be found in what was called the "Land of Dewa."
He embarked on his long journey and along the way he met many people who were suffering. Hachiko "absorbed" their pain with his magical powers, delivering them from their illnesses. In doing so, his physical appearance became distorted and atrocious, warping his facial features into something monstrous. But despite his scary features, Prince Hachiko was reputed to be a loving and compassionate man—almost a saint.
Guided by a three-legged crow known to be a messenger from the gods, the prince found Mt. Haguro, designating it a holy place of Buddhism in 593.
The Shinto god worshipped at Mt. Haguro is called Ukanomitama ウカノミタマ, goddess of cereal and crops.
Need a boost to reach the top of Mt. Haguro? Treat yourself to refreshment at Ninosaka-chaya, 25 minutes below the top of Mt. Haguro. Their specialty? Mochi and green tea. In exchange for your business, you will receive a "climbing certificate" that will prove you ascended Mt. Haguro.
Legend has it that Kagami pond is connected to a cave near Yura Onsen where the avatar of Haguro's goddess's dragon was born. Therefore, Kagami pond is regarded as a divine "womb." In 1931, excavations there revealed 190 ancient bronze mirrors, dating from the Heian to the Edo Periods (8th-17th centuries). The pond was then listed as a "National Important Cultural Property."
This annex to Shozen'in Temple contains many Buddhist icons that once belonged to Mt. Haguro; they were removed following the official separation between Shinto and Buddhism in 1868. Make sure to find the Nio gods statues that were once guarding the Zuishinmon gate, as well as statues of all the bodhisattvas related to Mt. Haguro.
Dewa Sanzan Shrine
This rather “new” building was constructed in 1818 and is connected to Saikan through a wooden corridor. It is dedicated to the worship of Dewa Sanzan's three mountain gods. This shrine allows pilgrims a place to worship in their chosen faith even during the cold winter months, when access to Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono is prevented by heavy snowfall.
This museum contains hundreds of Buddhist statues—dating back to the Nara Era (8th century)—that were brought to Mt. Haguro a few years ago in restitution. Despite the fact that those statues had always belonged to Mt. Haguro, they were kept away from the mountain when the government forbade Buddhism here in 1868. To visit the museum, enter Sanshuden's rest house, remove your shoes, and take the corridor to your right, by the shoe rack.
MAY - EARLY DECEMBER
DON'T MISS THE BUS!
If you want to climb the stone stairway, you must get off the bus at Hagurosan Zuishinmon 羽黒山随神門. For those that wish to go straight to the summit, you will get off at Hagurosan Sancho 羽黒山山頂.
IT'S A RELIGIOUS PLACE...
We welcome all kinds of hikers! However, we would like you to remember this is sacred ground. Therefore, please be respectful and considerate of the people around you by remaining quiet and making sure trash ends up in waste bins. Thank you!
COME WITH THE APPROPRIATE GEAR !
Chose function over appearance! In other words, you will need quality footwear (sneakers, hiking boots) in order to ascend the 2,446 stone steps of Haguro's stairway. Leave your high heels or pumps in your luggage for another day—many visitors have suffered ankle injuries while exploring Haguro in the wrong footwear.
GOING TO THE PAGODA
All year round
Get off the bus at Hagurosan Zuishinmon 羽黒山随神門
In front of the torii, bow gently. Choose one side to walk through the torii. Do not walk in the middle, unless you are a god (this area is reserved only for the gods to walk).
Walk through the Zuishinmon gate.
Cross the bridge. On your right, there is the Suga Falls. Pray for the purification of your soul here.
You will then arrive at Haraikawa's shrines.
Walk down the first part of the stone stairway (it is called Mamako-zaka 継子坂). Here start the 2446 stone steps. You are currently walking through the Shugendo conception of "hell"
Next you will arrive at Grandpa Cedar. He is over 1,000 years old— go congratulate him for his old age!
Go another 80 meters and you will arrive at Haguro's Five-Storied Pagoda (National Treasure).
You can decide whether to climb the rest of the stone steps, or instead go back to Zuishinmon to take the bus bound for the summit of Mt. Haguro.
FROM THE PAGODA TO THE TOP
May to Early December
20 min. to 50 min. from the pagoda
Follow the Ichi no Saka path.
You arrive at the Ni no Saka path. Be careful—it’s harsh.
On the way, you will bypass the Ni no Saka Teahouse. For sound 600 yens, you can enjoy mochi and green tea and receive something a "climbing certificate.”
You will arrive at Gohonbo-ato, the remains of the region's political chief's residence at the time. Continue from there.
On your left, you will find the Haniyama-hime shrine, a shrine dedicated to the goddess of fertility, farmland, and pottery. Praying at this shrine is supposed to bring you a successful marriage.
You spot Saikan on your left. You're very close to the end.
Cross the torii, to arrive at the top of Mt. Haguro! Otsukaresama deshita お疲れ様でした! ("Congratulations for your efforts")
WHERE TO STAY?
If you’ve missed the bus back to Tsuruoka, or if you simply want to fully enjoy Mt. Haguro's beauty, you’re in luck! Stay in one of the hotels, ryokan, or guesthouses in the area.