On Thursday, July 10th, mountain opening ceremonies were held both at Ontake's true summit, or ken-ga-mine 剣ケ峰 (3,067 m), and at Otaki's summit (outaki-choujyou 王滝頂上 2937 m). I had planned on staying in the Otaki mountian hut the night before, but ended up not being able to. So, I set out from Ta-no-hara at about 6 on Thursday morning. It had been overcast and a bit drizzly in the village, but soon after I began my ascent up Ontake's south-eastern slope I left the clouds and rain below me.
Visibility was poor, but I was able to see the first two of Ontake's five ponds resting just below the summit. The first pond, ichi-no-ike 一ノ池, no longer holds any water, but the second, ni-no-ike 二ノ池, shown blue, like a flake of turqoise, as sunlight poured in intermittently through gaps in increasingly cloud-filled sky.
By the time the ceremony at the summit began (around 10 am,) a small group of believers, clothed in white, began to gather. Two Shinto priests emerged from a small mountain hut next to the summit shrine and worked their way through a series of chants, offerings, and cleansing activities. I watched for a bit, but had to duck out early to scramble back down to the Otaki Summit, where the ceremony was set to begin at 10:30 am.
I rushed down from the summit, letting my mind to drift off a bit while my feet found their way, almost effortlessly, from rock to rock. The smell of sulfur was strong in the air, flowing up from a vent some yards away that was spitting yellowish steam up into the clouds with a loud hissing sound. As I arrived at the Otaki Summit I found friends and acquantainces who marvelled at my eager early morning ascent. Greetings said, we all moved into the main shrine area for the ceremony.
Okuwa performed several songs. After the horn group had finished, a young ascetic from Ibaraki Prefecture stood before the shrine and began chanting; he then blew a large conch to conclude his prayers to Ontake-san.
After the ceremonies had concluded everyone moved into the Otaki mountain hut for a quick bite to eat and a small taste of omiki お神酒, which means literally "shrine sake".
I made a quick decent--sliding on remaining patches of snow when I could--and stopped only to take photos of flowers and mushrooms that I found interesting.