A two-hour journey bus journey brought all the participants of PSi 21 Fluid States Tohoku, on their first day, to one of the most sacred sites of Japan, inside the crater of a sacred mountain, Osore-zan (Mt. Osore). Mt. Osore is situated on the farthest northeastern peninsula, the Shimokita peninsula of the main island, Honshu, of Japan. The site is inside an ancient volcano’s crater, where a sulfurous lake, Usori, reflects the edges of the volcano and lies like a green-grey mirror of the sky in the midst of a pale silver to whitened rock-filled valley. The walls, paths, and walkways of several temples are the only structures in this lunar landscape.
But we cannot wander. We are herded into one beautiful building of the monastery-like complex. We take off our shoes. We leave our stuff somewhere. We go to the large dining hall, where we have incredible Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. We eat, we drink tea, and we hear a lecture on how to behave on the grounds. We understand that we will divide into two groups and follow special monks who will guide us and inform us about this special place.
We gathered at the temple but then took separate journeys out to the piled-stone sites and sulfur lake, in order to call on the spirits of the dead.
We are delirious to wander about the sulfurous landscape with its piles of stones, shrines, plastic pink windmills, and dressed-up stones, which are reminders that among the many dead souls that may be drifting about here, there are many children.
At one point we do get to roam about. Then we gather at a profound question and answer session where we hear from the monk about how relatives and friends of the dead leave material objects for the dead such as clothes, sweaters, food, and favorite toys. They only keep them for so long. There can be piles of stuff, so the monks have to get rid of it all. You can see these piles around the shelves of the temples and gathering places. There are stacks of clothes, objects, packages of food, which are left for the dead, just in case they may need them. Someone asks, “Do you recycle?”