Two wells said to be able to go to and from hell

Hell is where deceased sinners are said to go. Did you know that there is a well that was supposedly used by people who went to and from hell every day?



The Legend of Ono no Takamura
During the Heian period when noble people ruled Japan, a man named Takamura Ono worked as a bureaucrat during the day and apparently worked in hell at night. I don’t know which one was his side job, but the tale of why he decided to go and work in hell begins with his deceased mother.

It seems that there was a well that led to hell since that time, and Takamura, who had passed through it, found his mother suffering in one of the hells called “Gakido” (Sanskrit: Preta – the path of hungry ghosts). In order to save his mother, he went to appeal directly to King Enma, the judge of hell, who favored his appeal and decided to let him work in hell.

The well that led to hell

There seems to be two separate wells, one for going into hell, and the other for leaving it. The well leading to hell is called the “well to the underworld”. It is located at Rokudo Chinnoji Temple in Higashiyama district, Kyoto. This temple is located in an area known as “Toribeyama” (Lit: bird area mountain). The name comes from the fact that during this period, the bodies of common people were left out in the open here, and birds would feed on and dispose of them.

That legend is hell in itself. It is said that you can go to hell from the well here, but you cannot return from the same place.

The way back is a different well

The well for the way back is called “黄泉帰りの井戸:which is read “yomigaeri no ido” (“yomi” means the land of the dead, where the deceased go in the afterlife and “gaeri/kaeri” means come back). The word “蘇る”: read “yomigaeru” is used to describe the resurrection of a person from the dead, so that’s apparently how the Japanese word for resurrect originated.

It was not clear where this well for the return from the underworld was located, but in recent years something was found that signifies that it was probably this particular well.

The discovery was made in 2011. However, historical research has not caught up yet, so it will be some time before it is known if this is the true way back!

It seems a bit like science fiction to have different exits on the way there and on the way back, but if the entrances and exits on the worldly side are different, the ones on the hell side may also be different. If you go to hell by mistake, you may not be able to find your way back, so be careful if you are going there to check it out!



And do you know what a red seal is? When you visit a temple and make a request, you can have a “goshuin” (red seal) written as proof of your visit to the temple.

This temple has a special red seal that depicts King Enma, so why not drop by when you are in Kyoto?




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