The Tateyama Mountains: An Alpine Pilgrimage *RERUN
The Tateyama Mountain Range in eastern Toyama Prefecture is comprised of many mountains rising more than 2,500 meters high. The treacherous peaks are home to Tateyama Shinko, a unique system of local religious beliefs. It is said that climbing the mountains is like a journey around heaven and hell. Welcome to the Tateyama Mountains, home to a close-knit community and alpine scenery dotted with sacred places.

A Journey through Hell

At the foot of the mountains is the small village of Ashikuraji that climbers in years past always used to visit. It was once home to 33 separate lodgings for travelers reaching the mountains. During the winter, the inn owners would travel around the country with Buddhist artwork, known as Tateyama Mandala, promoting Tateyama as a destination of pilgrimage. The relationship between the mountain and the afterlife is at the heart of local religious beliefs.

Guiding People to Buddhist Paradise

When entering the mountains, pilgrims would require a guide known as a chugo, who serves as a mediator between the human and other worlds. Pilgrims to Tateyama would progress around 136 religious sites on the mountain. Today, most visitors only take a day trip, but in samurai times, people would spend two days on the mountain. After walking through the hellish landscapes, emerging onto one of the peaks feels truly like reaching paradise.

Nuno Bridge: Connecting this World and the Afterlife

Long ago, all pilgrims coming to Tateyama crossed the Nuno bridge. The side of the bridge by the village belongs to this world. On the other side of the bridge is the mountainous realm of the gods. In those days, women, who were forbidden from entering the mountains, instead ceremonially crossed the bridge as a prayer to reach paradise in the afterlife.