Discover Yamabushi, The Mountains Monks Of Dewa Sanzan In Yamagata

Dewa Sanzan Shrine Yamagata - Yamabushi 7 Mt Haguro

Yamabushi (literally one who prostrates himself on the mountain) are mountain monks whose life philosophy is based on their close relationship with nature. They can be found in the mountains of Dewa Sanzan, in Yamagata prefecture.

Let’s find out more about these mysterious mountain hermits!

History of Yamabushi and Shugendo

Shintoism had been the main religion in Japan until the 6th century when Buddhism was introduced in the country from the Korean peninsula. At that time, religion was a useful tool to maintain a strong central power and the advent of Buddhism had the potential to challenge that balance of power. The emperor of Japan was Shintoist and believed to be a direct descendant of the Shinto goddess Amaterasu.

Buddhism was finally allowed and the two spiritualities lived in harmony in Japan. In the 8th century, Shugendo was born from a fusion between Shinto and esoteric Buddhism. The main pillar of this life philosophy is the strong relationship between man and nature.

Shugendo practitioners are called Yamabushi. At the beginning, they practiced their religion in solitude but then they started to gather around mountainous areas, the most famous of which is Dewa Sanzan in Yamagata.

Dewa Sanzan – The 3 Sacred Mountains of Dewa

Dewa Sanzan Shrine Yamagata - Yamabushi 12 Mt Haguro

Dewa Sanzan means “the 3 mountains of Dewa”. It is a sacred place composed of 3 mountains:

  • Mount Haguro or Haguro-san,
  • Mount Gassan,
  • Mount Yudono or Yudono-san.

It was Prince Hachiko, the son of Emperor Sushun, who first made the Dewa Sanzan mountains a religious site back in 593.

Over the years, these mountains have become a popular pilgrimage site and the …continue reading