Yomotsu Hirasaka, Path to the Japanese Underworld 

If you will remember from our mythology series, Izanami died giving birth to the god of fire. Grief-stricken by the loss of his wife, Izanagi vowed to go to the Underworld (Yomi) and bring her back. To bring her back, he had to travel down the Yomotsu Hirasaka, the path to the Underworld. Perhaps what is truly exciting, is that the Yomotsu Hirasaka has a real location in Japan! 

Yomotsu Hirasaka

The Death of Izanami: An Abridged Myth

After Izanagi gave birth to the fire god, Kagutsuchi, Izanami had a serious burn on her body and died. However, missing her wife, Izanagi decided to see Izanami in the underworld, called Yomi.  To do this he had to travel down the Yomotsu Hirasaka, the road to the Underworld.

However, in the underworld, Izanami turned herself into something ugly. Even though Izanami begged Izanagi not to see herself, Izanagi took a peak of her. Izanami, embarrassed and furious, chased Izanagi. Izanagi ran away from Izanami and, grabbing a huge boulder, Izanagi closed the mouth of the Underworld once and for all.


Our Journey to Yomotsu Hirasaka

As strange as it might seem, Yomotsu Hirasaka has an actual location, and that is where we are heading off to!

From Matsue Station in Shimane Prefecture, take the Sanin Line for Yonago to a stop called Iya.  After you get out, finding the path to Yomotsu Hirasaka isn’t that hard.  However, you will not feel like you are going anywhere special at all.

Signs in the city of Iya for Yomotsu Hirasaka
There are several boards to help you find the Underworld. I cannot begin to explain how fitting it is that the city where you can find the entrance to the Japanese Underworld is named Iya.
To Yomotsu Hirasaka

When Izanagi ran away from Izanami, he took three peaches from nearby trees and tossed them into Yomi forcing what remained of his enemies to retreat.

Of course, while the peach is a powerful symbol of immorality in other East Asian cultures, this is the reason peaches are scared in Japan. 

Symbolic peach trees at Yomotsu Hirasaka
Peach trees on the right

Fittingly, the three peach trees planted here are a calling card for the three peach trees Izanagi used when he escaped the Underworld. It will take you a little time but, eventually, the signs will bring you to an unsuspecting lot. There you see two paths as you pass the peach trees. The small dark path is the infamous Yomotsu Hirasaka that led Izanagi to the kingdom of the dead, and the other path leads to the place where Izanagi sealed Yomi.

Torri at the entrance of Yomotsu Hirasaka
The gate to the underworld
Stonemarker for “Yomotsuhirasaka” and “Ibuyazaka”


The End of the Road

Just as Izanagi was about to seal the hole for good the disfigured face of Izanami appeared, hands clawing for him. Through screams and hisses, Izanami swore she would take the lives of a thousand mortals. 

In response to Izanami’s threat, Izanagi also made an oath: that here ever after, he would make sure that a thousand five hundred children are born every day.

Entrance to Yomi, the Japanese Underworld, at Yomotsu Hirasaka
Thankfully, the entrance is still shut.

All Japanese gods are repulsed by death and would never dare enter Yomi. This dark, cold, contaminated place, filled with rot and decay, is the opposite of what gods like Izanagi prefer. This is the reason why Japanese people will avoid Shinto shrines after the death of a family member or someone they are close to. Specifically, after a member of your family dies, you cannot walk under the torii at any shrine for roughly 90 days.

It is hard to believe that here, near a parking lot of all places, is the exact entrance to Yomi. I guess, this just proves that sometimes the most important things are in the most unexpected places.

Just as we started on the way back we saw a small if not somewhat foreboding trail through the woods. Well, what else were we to do? The only option was to see what lay in wait for us. What’s at the end? Go and see for yourself.  

To Ibuyazaka
It is a dense forest
Let’s go see what’s there!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *