Mt. Fuji and the Izu Peninsula's Mt. Omuro
The Izu Peninsula’s Mt. Omuro is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Japan’s Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Mt. Omuro is a dormant volcano with a classic dome shape and well defined caldera. Every week, thousands of people walk around the top of this volcano without being aware of its relationship to Japan’s most famous mountain: Mt. Fuji.
The basic Facts of Mt. Omuro
Let’s start with the basics:
Mt. Omuro is also a popular tourist destination because of a chairlift that takes you to the top. From there you have a 360 degree view that includes Mt. Fuji to the north, the Sagami Bay to the east, the interior mountains of Izu and Pacific Ocean to the south and the Suruga Bay to the west.
It’s also a virtually treeless mountain because of the annual yamayaki where the mountain is set afire to burn off the old grass. This creates a beautiful green bowl shaped mountain from spring to winter.
Many people are aware of these basic facts about Mt. Omuro. Look a little closer, and you’ll also discover many things people don’t know. One is the story behind the Shinto shrine found in the caldera.
What is that shrine at the top of Mt. Omuro?
Sengen Jinja, is one of only three shrines in Japan exclusively dedicated to the goddess Iwanagahime. Who is Iwanagahime? No less than the older sister of Konohana Sakuyahime, goddess of Mt. Fuji.
Perhaps the reason people don’t that Mt. Omuro is the older sister of Mt. Fuji is because Japanese mythology is pretty confusing. Let me give you the condensed version.
According to Japanese mythology, Amaterasu is the sun goddess. She is considered the origin of Japanese people.
Amaterasu sent her grandson, Ninigi, to earth to establish the Imperial line of emperors.
Ninigi was enamored with his distant cousin, Konohana Sakuyahime, daughter of Ohyamazumi-no-kami, the god of mountains, and the older brother of Amaterasu (Ninigi’s grandmother).
Ninigi asked Ohyamazumi-no-kami if he could marry his daughter. Ohyamazumi-no-kami was so happy he said, “Of course you can, and I’ll throw in her sister Iwanagahime for good measure.”
This is where the trouble started. Konohana Sakuyahime was young and beautiful, but her sister Iwanagahime was rather homely. Ninigi, not caring to observe the important protocol of accepting an important gift, rejected Iwanagahime and sent her back.
A Woman Scorned and Her Angry Father
The father, mountain god Ohyamazumi-no-kami was furious. He admonished Ninigi and told him that, “I gave you Iwanagahime because she is the goddess of rocks and longevity. She would have brought you long life and stability. Now you and your descendants will suffer from a short life span!”
Iwanagahime, shamed by her rejection and embarrassed by becoming an old maid to her younger sister, went into hiding. Eventually she got over it and married, having children too. She decided to grant favor to those requesting fertility and good marriage. However, she never got over her humiliation and anger at her younger sister.
When you visit the Izu Peninsula’s Mt. Omuro, you can pray for childbirth and a good marriage. You should also remember that Mt. Fuji, as majestic and beautiful as it may be, is the sister of Mt. Omuro. When you look at Mt. Fuji from the top of Mt. Omuro, be careful not to praise its beauty outloud. The dormant volcano might get angry!