I was sent to Tottori on assignment for a travel magazine to photograph what is meant to be the most dangerous temple visit in Japan.
There I had the extraordinary experience of climbing the Mouniatin with Sanbutsu-ji Temple’s assistant head priest, Ryōjun Yoneda. He told us that having a respect for mountains is an important aspect of Sangaku Shinkō, Japan’s ascetic ‘mountain creed’. As we climbed we all had to chant in unison the words, ‘rokkon-shōjō’, a chant of purification to cleanse the mind and the senses. It was also to keep us going on the arduous climb.
Mt Mitoku was sanctified as a place of worship in 706 by En no Gyōja, the priest and mystic who is said to have founded the ascetic Shūgendō faith. Later, in 849, Ennin, head of the Tendai Buddhist order, founded Sanbutsu-ji Temple on Mt Mitoku, dedicating the temple to the Buddhist deities Amitabha,Mahavairocana and Sakyamuni.
It is a beautiful place and well worth a visit.