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Skull Mushroom, Mount Osore, Japan, 2011 | by Dr. Takeshi Yamada
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Skull Mushroom, Mount Osore, Japan, 2011

Skull Mushroom, Mount Osore, Japan


The Skull Mushroom is one of the most unique mushrooms only grows at the Mount Osore in Aomori Prefecture in Japan. It is called “skull” because the cap of this mushroom produces the pattern resembles a pair of human skulls in the back and front. This large species (12.5 inch) is called Oh-dokuro-dake (lit. Big Skull Mushroom) . Hime-dokuro-dake (lit. Princess Skull Mushroom) is smaller and Oni-dokuro-dake (lit. Devil Skull Mushroom) is orange red. This bizarre-looking mushroom has been used by Itako (female shamans who are also healer, and exorcist at Mount Osore) for many centuries for its magical hallucinogenic medicinal purposes and spiritual rituals. Mysteriously, unusually large numbers of skull mushrooms sprang out at Mount Osore after The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, officially named the Great East Japan Earthquake (東北地方太平洋沖地震, とうほくちほうたいへいようおきじしん, lit. North Eastern Japanese Earthquake, 9.0 magnitude, ) and tsunami of March 11, 2011, 14:46 Japan Standard Time, which caused over 15, 000 deaths in Japan.


Many faithful and spiritual locals consider this extremely rare paranormal phenomena as those people killed by this earthquake reincarnated into this special mushrooms for guarding the Gate of Hell at mount Osore, so that this earthquake’s victems would all go to Budddah’s land and the Heaven.


The last time when this many skull mushroom sprang out was happen in the fall of 1923, which was only a month after the Great Kantō Earthquake (関東大震災, Kantō daishinsai) struck the Kantō plain on the Japanese main island of Honshū at 11:58:44 am JST on September 1, 1923, which was the deadliest earthquake ever to strike Japan up until this year’s Tōhoku Earthquake. For this year’s Itako Taisai festival to be held at the Bodau-ji Buddhist Temple at Mount Osore on July 20, 2011, unlike previous years, extremely large number of skull mushrooms are scheduled to be used for the ritual called kuchiyose, which seasoned itako claim to summon the souls of the dead, and deliver messages in their voices for faithful followers.


Note1: Mount Osore (恐山, Osorezan) is a region in the center of remote Shimokita Peninsula of Aomori Prefecture, Japan. According to popular mythology, Mount Osore (literally "Mount Fear") marks the entrance to Hell, with a small brook running to the neighboring Lake Usorisan that is equated to the Sanzu River, the Japanese equivalent to Styx. The reputation is not surprising, given that the very volcanically-active site is a charred landscape of blasted rock filled with bubbling pits of unearthly hues and noxious fumes.


Note2: An itako is a traditional, blind, usually female shaman from northern Japan. Itako are said to have the ability to communicate with the dead, even to evil spirits due to their intense spiritual power. They also had the power to remove evil spirit from one's body mind. Usually, older Itakos are more powerful than the new Itakos.


Note3: The Bodai-ji ("Bodai Temple") presides over Mount Osore and organizes the area's main event, the twice-yearly Itako Taisai festival. The grand festival is held over a period of five days beginning on July 20. In a ritual called kuchiyose (口寄せ), blind mediums known as itako claim to summon the souls of the dead and deliver messages in their voices.


Note4: The 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake (関東大震災, Kantō daishinsai) struck the Kantō plain on the Japanese main island of Honshū at 11:58:44 am JST on September 1, 1923. Varied accounts hold that the duration of the earthquake was between 4 and 10 minutes. The Kantō quake killed between 100,000 and 140,000 people, making it the deadliest earthquake ever to strike Japan which was the deadliest earthquake ever to strike Japan up until 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake. The quake had a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale, with its focus deep beneath Izu Ōshima Island in Sagami Bay.




Reference: Dr. Takeshi Yamada as “Immortalizer” of the AMC cable television competitive fine art reality show, “Immortalized”, season 1, aired in 2013:,92526/


Reference (newspaper articles and reviews):


Reference (fine art websites):


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Reference (videos featuring sea rabbits and Dr. Takeshi Yamada):


Reference (sea rabbit artifacts)


(updated March 4, 2013)


For any questions, please contact Dr. Takeshi Yamada via his official art website and his email there. See the first page and/or the last page of this website for details.


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Taken on February 23, 2011