Ishi no Hoden; A Prehistoric megalith in Hyogo


The Ishi-no-Hoden (いしのほうでん)is a huge megalithic stone which is located in the town of Takasago in Hyogo prefecture (near Himeji).

The stone's creation is attributed to the Jomon civilization (the earliest known pre-historic human civilization, which is also connected to the oldest discovered pottery).

The stone is 5.6 meters high, 6.5 meters wide and 7.5 meters deep with a weight of 500 tons. This makes the stone larger than any of the stones used in the Great Pyramid of Giza; the largest of which was 80 tons while the typical large base stones of that pyramid were 6-10 tons.

The Hoden stone ("hoden", literally means "treasure mansion") was carved out of the surrounding mountainside (the mountain is called "Hodenyama"). The stone exists while the surroundings were quarried away, which is different from other famous megaliths (such as Stonehenge, the Easter Island Moai statues, or the Aswan granite of the Giza pyramid) which were are mysterious before of the logistical challenges of transporting the stones.

Later Japanese civilization developed in the Kansai area and a Shinto shrine, Ooshiki, was built to venerate the stone. Oshiki shrine has been built around the stone and honors the god Onamuchi-no-kami (better known as "Okuninushi"), the god of nation-building, farming, medicine and ruler of the unseen world of magic. According to the shrines Shinto mythology, the god Okuninushi set out on a challenge to build a castle but during the first night some local spirits used the distraction to rebel, so Okuninushi left the project unfinished as it is seen today.

The Ishi-no-hoden appears to float of a pond of water. The pond is a trench that is cut around the stone and narrows the base so that a ledge of stone is suspended above the water. This aspect of the stone casts a powerful image over the scene.
An interesting point of the pond is that, although it appears to be shallow, it has not dried up, even in times of severe drought. This seems to be due to the groundwater that exists as the stone is cut into the earth well below the peak of the mountain. Oshiki Shrine information claims that the water levels swells when the tide comes in (the sea is visible from the mountain). Because of this the water has been credited with magical properties; including being effective against any type of disease.

Ishi no Hoden is one of the three mystery stones of Japan. The other two are the Ama-no-sakahoko in Takaharu (a spear like monument jutting from a mountain-top) and the Yunoku-no-shinkama in Shiogama (strange stone vats). The Ishi no Hoden is the only mystery of the three which is located in Kansai.

Most JR stations in the Kansai area have this large stamps which are available to prove that you visited a place.
Most of them depict some part of local culture.
The stamp for Hoden station is Oshiki shrine's Hoden Stone.

Maruni Chigai Ya. An emblem consisted of two arrow fletchings. It is associated with the Asano and other clans.

An unidentified kamon with three arrow fletchings.

A nearby stone quarry. Mt. Tatsuyama has been a renown stone quarry for centuries. The fine, workable stone has been found in ancient burial mounds where it was used for stone coffins. 

An unusual rainbow appearing directly overhead.

The view from Mt. Hoden. A surprising number of houses in this area have solar panels.

Another shrine atop a neighboring mountain.

Children playing on Mt. Hoden.

A stone marker indicating where Emperor Taisho (who reigned from 1912-1926) once climbed Mt. Hoden.
Mt. Hoden rises up to 65 meters above sea level.

These shimanawa ropes are often seen in Japan, placed around "shintai" ("spirit bodies" / objects of worship),

The stone as it appears to hover over the water.

Moss and grass growing on the rope.

Tama-iwa; soul stone

The stone as seen from the hiking path that circles the shrine.

Because of the steep and narrow space with the vegetation it is hard to get a good view of the stone in one shot.

You can see some vegetation that has taken root in the ruble atop the stone.

A stone fence keeps people from stumbling into the cavity that was carved into the mountainside.

The stone here with a volume comparable to the main shrine building (honden).

Steep stairs lead to the shrine but you can also take a gently sloping road.

Oishi Shrine gate at the food of Mt. Hoden.
Note that the original stairs are split in the center by a road (be wary of this winding road as you hike up the stairs as the curve gives little notice of oncoming traffic).

A local guide map near the foot of Mt Hoden.

Ascending the mountain: The gate-house, shrine office and shrine of Oshiki Shrine.