THE MOUNTAIN OF THE MOON
Mount Gassan, the oldest and tallest mountain of the Dewa Sanzan, has always been the core of the Dewa Sanzan's mountain worshipping practices. Many people automatically think of Mt. Haguro when referencing the Dewa Sanzan; however, the oldest mention of the Dewa Sanzan in historical writings talks about a "Gassan Shrine.” Built between 712 and 773, this is proof that Mount Gassan was worshipped long before the two other mountains.
The Shinto deity worshipped on Mt. Gassan is Tsukiyomi 月読命, the incarnation of the moon.
Who is Tsukiyomi?
The founding god of Japan, Izanagi, was married, but his wife died giving birth to the Fire god. When Izanagi visited his beloved wife in the afterworld, his soul became stained by the impure view of his wife's rotten corpse. To cleanse his sins away, he bathed in holy water. Upon cleaning his left eye, the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, was born; when he cleaned his right eye, the Moon God, Tsukiyomi was born. Tsukiyomi was ordered to reign over the world of the night—and the world of the Dead.
Later, Tsukiyomi went on to kill the goddess of crops, Ukemochi no kami (保食神). The Sun Goddess (Amaterasu) became angry at her brother, and punished Tsukiyomi by ordering him to live apart from her. This was the beginning of day and night separation. In order to make amends, Tsukiyomi promised to help agriculture on Earth.
This solidified the link between the god of the moon and crops and food. Tsukiyomi is forever thought of as the god that rules over the night, the world of the Dead, and the one that protects agriculture.
JULY 1st - LATE OCTOBER
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 !
Even if it is hot in Tsuruoka City, at Mt. Gassan it can be very cold! Please bring warm jackets, raincoats, hiking boots and sunglasses with you.
Yamabushi guided tours
1 night 2 days plan (Transportation, lodging and meals included)
3 to 4.5 hours up
2 to 3.5 hours down
Get off at the Gassan Hachigome bus stop. We recommend to use the bathroom before beginning your climb (and remember to leave 100 yen in the donation box if you do—this helps with bathroom maintenance).
Follow the wooden boardwalk.
You will traverse the Midagahara marshes (弥陀ヶ原湿原).
Here the boardwalk stops. The stones can be unstable, so please watch your step.
Walk past the torii
Next, you will arrive at Gassan Sanrojo's pilgrim lodge and at the Midahara Shrine (御田原神社).
Next, you will arrive at Busshoike Goya pilgrim lodge. Here, you can buy drinks, lunch or snacks. If it’s getting late in the day, you have the option to stay for the night, too.
From here, continue your ascent.
You will get back on the boardwalk.
Finally, you will arrive at Mt. Gassan’s summit. Congratulations! While it usually takes less time to climb back down Mt. Gassan, don't attempt if it's too dark. Instead, you can opt to stay in Gassan Chojo Goya for the night and head back to the parking lot the next morning.
WHERE TO STAY?
You fear you'll miss the bus back to Tsuruoka? It's safer to stay in one of the hotels, ryokan, or guesthouses in the area.