Through Hell to Heaven – Mandala Yuen in Tateyama
In the foothills of Tateyama there is an intriguing, modern, artistic interpretation of the ancient Oyama mountain worship. If you have some time after exploring the mountains, Oyama jinja and museum, why not experience this image of a journey from hell to heaven? This article is linked to the stories Path to Salvation, Reaching for Heaven, and A Journey Through History. All introducing the Tateyama foothills area, and its unique history as a major spiritual centre.
So, you’ve hiked Tateyama, maybe entered the cave where Ariyori found the bear, and looked over Hell Valley. Did you visit the three jinjas, the museum, and sipped tea while viewing the tranquil gardens in Ashikuraji…? You probably now have an image of the Heaven and Hell concepts surrounding this area, especially if you saw the mandaras in the museum. Well how about getting a hands-on, 3-D multi-sensory experience for yourself! Time to move on to Mandara Yuen for a modern and artistic representation of Tateyama’s Heaven and Hell! As it has indoor and outdoor experiences, going in fine weather is preferable.
This park is located not far from Ashikuraji Oyama Jinja, the museum, past Enma Hall and the Nunobashi and Yubo-kan. There is car parking but why not walk over from the museum? Great experience on a fine day, with beautiful views of the Tateyama Range, also the Tateyama ski area.
Enter the park through the front gates and - welcome to Hell! The first of four sections is Hell, or Chi-kai. The enclosed area is dark, with images of fire, sounds and even smells. You can sound special gongs, as you walk through maze-like corridors. You will be confronted by more strange sights, sounds and smells, before you cross a bridge and continue on to Ki-no-michi, the path to Tateyama. Walk across a large open meadow or wander around the adjacent woods, into the next area, Paradise, or Ten-kai, with a number of rooms to enter and view artworks. The final phase is dedicated to the Nunobashi and the women’s path to purification to enter Heaven, Yami-no-chichi.
The experience is fully tactile – things to touch, open, smell, find! There are small and detailed items hidden behind rocks, in bushes. Follow streams, walk through open fields, actually wander around artwork located inside the rooms of Ten-kai. Sound instruments, climb in giant nets, listen to interesting and strange echoes coming from weird objects, and enjoy beautiful lighting effects! And finally, be born again. The closing display represents a womb. Enter. Lie on the ground of this giant structure. Hear and feel the heartbeat around and under you; feel nurtured, and be calmed by the experience. Your final path is through the birth passage, a dark, twisting and pebbled tunnel, illuminated by a few colored lights; and the door opens and you will find yourself….
This experience needs a good half a day to take it all in at a reasonable pace. There is nothing to read, as in displays etc, just be there. Most of it does not have sealed or even paths so it is probably difficult for strollers or wheelchairs. You will be walking the whole time also. I would recommend it for older children to adults due to the access, and also nature of the displays. Also, there are no shops on the site – either eat before or after; bring your own or visit one of the local restaurants in the foothills. Note that many places are open for lunch but come dinner time, unless you are staying in accommodation, it is difficult to find a place to eat an evening meal. The park is not open in winter.
Finally, a special event is held in August – the Light-Up. For two nights every year the park is open at night, magically lit with candles and interesting lighting features.
After leaving this amazing place returning to your car, you can stop by to see some huts that give an idea of life in older time and of basic pilgrim lodgings.
This complex is part of The Tateyama Museum. You can purchase a ticket for the museum, Mandara Yuen and also the Yudo-kan, which you could stop at last to relax, and watch some of the beautiful time-lapse imagery of the area!
Mandara Yuen is adjacent the Yuba-kan (Ubado), just past Ashikuraji Oyama Jinja. Use the major road route 43 from Toyama JR station to Ashikuraji, roughly following the Dentetsu local train line. At Daisenji, the train stop before Iwakuraji, route 43 takes a turn to the left, over a level train crossing. Continue on straight ahead (don’t turn) over the Joganji River, past Iwakuraji Oyama Jinja, and follow the signs to Tateyama, turning onto road 67. It is another 15km further on from Iwakuraji, and is on your left as you go through the village of Ashikura-ji.
Catch the train to Chigaki on the Dentetsu private line for Tateyama, via Terada. The trip takes about 48 minutes with roughly one train every hour – check the Hyperdia Timetable and Route Search website for trips ANYWHERE in Japan! It will tell you a myriad of details including costs, transfers, distances…
From Chigaki there are two options. A local bus runs along the valley from right outside Chigaki station and there is a stop right across the road from Oyama Jinja.
Buses are only about one an hour. It is actually only about 2km and it is a very pleasant walk along the road number 67. It is slightly uphill but the gradient is low.
There are a number of hotels, guesthouses and B&B in the area, as well as throughout Toyama.