|Function||Religious site/Tourist spot|
|Game||Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water|
Mount Hikami (Also known as Hikamiyama, or "Mountain crowned with the sun") is the central location of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water. Once a thriving mountain and religious area teeming with abundant resources, it is now devoid of all life and bears an infamous reputation as a popular suicide spot.
- 1 Geographic Features
- 2 Real Life Inspiration
- 3 Ties to the Underworld
- 4 Religion
- 5 History
Mount Hikami is famed for its exceptional sunset views, which inspired its name. The mountain is around 2,300 feet in elevation, and is heavily forested throughout the base of the mountain, though the upper elevations are sparse and rocky. It has an extensive lava cave aquafer system underneath the mountain. The summit consist of a caldera lake of clean water, with an island atoll at the center of the lake, containing a separate spring. The mountain is noted for its streams, rivers, hot springs, and waterfalls, which flow from the caldera at the summit, feeding into the aquafer system underground. Several other mountains surround Mt. Hikami.
Mt. Hikami has frequent earthquakes and landslides.
Real Life Inspiration
Mt. Hikami is likely inspired by the real-life Mt. Osore in the Aomori Prefecture of Northern Japan, which shares many of Mt. Hikami's geographical features, such as the caldera lake, and reputation for being connected to the land of the dead.
The forests at the base of Mt. Hikami were based on the infamous Aokigahara "Forest of Trees", which is known as a popular suicide spot rumored to be haunted by spirits.
Ties to the Underworld
Mt. Hikami has long been associated as a place where the human world meets the hidden world, and a place where one can easily enter death.
The atoll spring at the summit of the mountain is known as the Shadow Spring, is a place where the land of the dead is physically present in the land of the living. From this direct link, the black water flows into the living world, which is also considered part of the land of the dead.
At sunset, the veil between the two worlds weakens and the Dark Sun, which shines on the land of the dead, and therefore over the Shadow Spring, becomes visible over the mountain, appearing like the normal sun. Dying or weak willed people looking at the Dark Sun sunset will feel irresistibly drawn to travel to the mountain, climb the summit, and enter death through the Shadow Spring. Healthy people find the sunset ominous.
In order to contain and manage all of this death contamination and prevent the mountain from becoming polluted, the mountain systems function as a means of purification and containment. The shadow spring is walled in by the atoll, functioning like a dam, and surrounded by clean, purifying water, to keep it contained. Any black water overflow is diluted into the pure water, and flows down the mountain rivers, into the underground aquafers for holding, preventing death contamination from spreading.
The primary focuses of the mountain religions center around the purification and worship of water, creating 'bridges' between the land of the living and the dead to ease the passage of the dying, and child-centric ceremonies and temples dedicated to lost or deceased children.
Mt. Hikami was considered ominous and a place to enter death. Superstitions at the time forbade looking at the mountain, especially at sunset, sleeping with your feet towards the mountain, speaking of the mountain, or entering the mountain grounds. All of these acts were considered to risk becoming enthralled by the setting sun and being drawn in to death. The mountain had a reputation for enticing dying people and children (whether lost, abandoned, or orphaned) to climb its summit and never return.
Mikomori Sect (Ancient times - Unknown)
The Mikomori priestess sect took control of Mt. Hikami for hundreds/ thousands of years and established rituals and practices surrounding the purification and worship of water, as well as building the main shrines and temples which dot the mountain. Their primary purpose was to manage and enhance the existing natural systems and prevent high volumes of death from overwhelming the mountain and leading to disaster.
The Mikomori banned casual visitors from setting foot on the mountain, and strictly regulated who could enter. Dying and suicidal persons could formally request entry, and if permitted, a mikomori priestess would escort them up the mountain in a sort of assisted ubasute suicide service. The priestesses practiced human sacrifice, both of their dying visitors and of themselves, and their primary roles were "returning the dead to the water" to keep the surface of the mountain clean, and creating "pillars" to act as bridges between this world and the next, in order to send death back into the land of the dead easily.
The Mikomori sect was abruptly wiped out during a massacre. Kyozo Kururugi, acting as a lone agent, slaughtered all of the residents of the mountain, then committed suicide, ending their presence on the mountain.
Post-Mikomori (Unknown - late 1800's)
In the absence of the Mikomori, visitors to the mountain increased. Locals began to establish new practices, and the rituals associated with the mountain evolved and became more child-centric, focusing on memorializing lost or deceased children. New festivals involving dolls representing deceased children thrown into the rivers arose, and the Shrine of Dolls was built and filled with memorial dolls.
Surviving Mikomori who had fled the massacre and supporting temples from surrounding mountains attempted to carry on certain of the Mikomori rituals, mainly those of human sacrifice and ghost marriage. Priestesses from nearby mountain temples would be sent to Mt. Hikami to become "Pillars" and maintain the purity of the mountain water.
This second era was brought to an end by the sacrifice of Ose Kurosawa. Ose was selected from a nearby temple to become a main pillar on Mt. Hikami, to be sunk directly into the Shadow Spring, which was a rare and vital honor. Ose's ritual failed, resulting in the Shadow Spring overflowing its bounds and contaminating the mountain. Without the means or manpower to reverse this, the now polluted mountain was fully abandoned by the surrounding temples.
Renewed Interest (Early/Mid 1900's)
Scholars and locals renewed interest in Mt. Hikami. Folklorist Keiji Watarai built a house on the mountain and began investigating the historic stories and rituals, and several of the temples and shrines were renovated or repurposed. The Shrine Grove, for example, was rebuilt as an inn. The Shrine of the Dolls was likewise renovated, and evolved from holding memorial dolls representing deceased children, to retired childhood toys.
Attempted Tourist Development ( ~ 20 years before the start of the game)
Local government sought to develop the mountain towards tourism to keep the area alive. Massive projects were started to get the tourism industry started, including a hot spring resort, Cable Cars to the summit, restoration of the remaining shrine buildings, and new roads through the Unfathomable Forest.
Despite their best efforts, however, the projects were halted after two disastrous incidents: a tunnel collapse and a series of landslides.
The second and unrelated incident was a massive landslide through the mountain destroyed much of the work that had been done to restore the area, and all efforts ceased. This was the true 'death' of Mt. Hikami, as it was abandoned for good, its religion dead, and no living soul within.
Current Day (start of game)
The mountain is known as an infamous suicide spot, attracting dozens of suicides a year. These troubling claims, coupled with the high death rate the mountain has, prompted a shut down of all traffic through the mountain. Roads were closed, and a massive fence was erected around the area- although a large hole in the fence exists that can be used to access it.
The forests are rumored to be haunted by the malicious spirits of those who have killed themselves, who entice weak visitors to reenact their deaths. Legends speak of encountering ghostly priestesses, who, if you meet their eyes, cause you to kill yourself. The ghost Mikomori attendants continue to carry out their duties, attempting to find and lure women with spiritual powers into becoming new "pillars" and restore the mountain.