Climbers Damage Sacred Rock Gojoiwa On Renowned Japanese Peak, Leaving Shrine At Its Wits’ End

The Japan Alpine Clubs mention that there are a total of 16.667 mountains in the country of Japan. Out of those, Mount Kinpu has been a hotspot for trekkers in recent years specially a special rock tower “Gojoiwa” which has unfortunately attracted a lot of tourists that aren’t there for the religious significance of the peak.

A lot of climbers are drawn to the 15-meter-tall Gojoiwa, even though it appears to be constructed of soaring strata of enormous rocks and rises starkly against the sky. In some cases, graffiti has been scratched into the 15-meter-tall Gojoiwa.

Sacred Rock Gojoiwa On Renowned Japanese Peak

Gojoiwa rock, sacred to Kanazakura Shrine in the Yamanashi prefectural capital of Kofu, is seen atop Mount Kinpu on Aug. 27, 2022. (Mainichi/Yusuke Tanabe)

The highest point of the Okuchichibu range, Mount Kinpu, is located in Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park on the border of the prefectures of Yamanashi and Nagano. At the base of the sacred rock, where Shinto rituals are performed, the Gojoiwa rock has been revered as the shrine’s deity. Officially, the area around the rock totals about 2,000 square meters and is included in the shrine’s grounds.

And then there are the mountain climbers, who were scaling Gojoiwa so frequently that Kanazakura Shrine put up a notice in July 2021 asking them to stop. The site’s users have unsuccessfully attempted to spread the same message via the internet and other platforms.

People climb Gojoiwa rock on Mount Kinpu in Japan’s Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park on Aug. 27, 2022. (Mainichi/Yusuke Tanabe)

For many years, climbers have attempted to reach the summit of Gojoiwa, but the shrine has so far refrained from attempting to warn them off, claiming that the mountain where the gods reside is a place of respect and is therefore an improper setting for conflicts. However, over the past few years, graffiti that has been carved into the rock with climbing pitons or stones have also grown more and more problematic.

Finally, this led to the creation of the sign, which stood at the base of Gojoiwa and was made of a copper plate measuring 90 centimeters broad by 40 centimeters tall. No works are allowed without permission, and climbing the cliff is forbidden, according to the sign.

Graffiti is seen scratched into Gojoiwa rock, a sacred Shinto site on Mount Kinpu in Japan’s Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, on Aug. 27, 2022. (Mainichi/Yusuke Tanabe)

Hiromi Matsui, a 42-year-old resident of Kai in Yamanashi Prefecture who is involved in an organization that works on a historical trail from Mitake up Mount Kinpu research and preservation, published a piece on the blog of the climbing shop in July of this year. It outlined the spiritual significance of Gojoiwa and requested that people refrain from climbing it. The copper sign’s language stating that “climbing the (Gojoiwa) rock is prohibited” was also posted on Twitter by the Yamanashi Prefectural Police Mountain unit the following month. Some mountaineering experts were able to receive the signals.

However, there are still tons of videos online that demonstrate how to ascend Gojoiwa, some of which show climbers posing atop the revered rock. “I had no idea it was prohibited,” a mountaineer in his 40s from Kanagawa Prefecture who made it halfway up Gojoiwa in late August told the Mainichi Shimbun. “I read the sign, but I thought it to indicate that we aren’t permitted to utilize equipment like pitons,” a man in his 30s from Gunma Prefecture remarked.

A copper sign warns people not to climb Gojoiwa rock, a sacred Shinto site on Mount Kinpu in Japan’s Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, on Aug. 27, 2022. (Mainichi/Yusuke Tanabe)

The chief priest of the Kanazakura Shrine, Mikito Shimura said, “The rock is a revered location. Climbing it or inserting a steel piton into it is disrespectful.” The 78-year-old chairman of the parishioners’ organization for the shrine said, “We feel as though someone is trampling on our sacred ground. We placed up signs, yet it seems like more and more people are climbing the cliff.”

More climbers appear to desire to violate the restriction on climbing Gojoiwa as more individuals are advised online not to do so. While Mount Kinpu is located in a national park and is a popular location for hiking and mountain climbing, it has also long been a site of worship.

Shimura of Kanazakura Shrine remarked, “I want people to understand that we love the mountain as an object of religion.”¬†


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