You can feel a sudden change in the air as you pass through the Zuishin Gate at the entrance to Mt. Haguro. Descend the stone steps, and you’ll hear the murmuring of stream waters in the distance. The sando, or shrine approach, is lined with ancient cedar trees dating back 350 to 500 years. Continue along the path to enjoy a 1.7km walk in an invigorating environment that ends at the mountaintop. This shrine approach is said to be a path to rebirth because the Japanese word sando for “shrine approach” can also mean “birth canal.”
The entrance path was constructed over a 13-year period from 1648 by Tenyu Betto, the 50th chief priest. There are 33 figures carved into the steps, and it is said that if you find them all, your greatest wish will be granted. Searching for the figures makes the approximate 1-hour climb to the peak even more interesting.