Discover the ancient rituals of the Yamabushi
Tracing back to the 8th century, the Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa are the oldest site of mountain worship in Japan. Haguro Shugendo, a distinctive form of mountain asceticism was born here and for over a thousand years, practitioners of Shugendo have made pilgrimages from across Japan to these holy mountains to train their bodies, minds, and souls deep in the pristine nature of Yamagata.
Those who follow this ancient religion are known as Yamabushi, mountain monks who have continue to follow these ancient practices to this day.
Donning the same white robes that the dead are wrapped in, the Yamabushi monks begin their journey through the world of the present in the towering cedar forests of Mt. Haguro, death and the afterlife on the high peaks of Mt. Gassan, and rebirth at Mt. Yudono, the most holy site of the Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa.
A journey to all three of these mountains is known as the Journey of Rebirth and has continued ever since these mountains were first opened over 1,400 years ago.
The rituals of the Yamabushi have traditionally been shrouded in secrecy with chances to take part in their training only available during specific times of the year. These programs were also only open to Japanese people and only for men. Women were in fact forbidden from even entering many parts of these mountains as they were considered sacred and too dangerous prior to the Meiji Period.
However, as younger and younger generations began to inherit the pilgrim lodges and head the Yamabushi community, change eventually came to the Dewa Sanzan.
There are now programs available for female visitors and women are able to become Yamabushi and take part in their rituals just as their male counterparts are.
Within the last decade, international participants with Japanese ability have even started taking part in the annual Akinomine Peak Ritual, a massive event where over 150 yamabushi train deep in the forests of Mt. Haguro for a week. During this time they are isolated without internet access, the ability to bathe, and take part in a variety of rituals to purify their souls and come out of the mountains 'reborn.'
Short term training programs a few hours or days in length have also been developed here by the monks and now the Yamabushi of the Dewa Sanzan are actively welcoming outside visitors to come experience their teachings and rituals alongside them.
We are honored to have the opportunity to work with some of the Yamabushi families on the Dewa Sanzan to create special training programs that are specially guided with an english interpreter and Yamabushi monks.
These programs currently range from a few hours, to multiple day pilgrimages into the mountains with various levels of difficulty. Training is done under the careful supervision of yamabushi monks.
See below for some of the programs that are currently available.
These programs are made in collaboration with the monks of the Miyatabo lodge on Mt. Haguro as well as the Yamabushi of the Mt. Yudono Shrine.
Note that these programs take place in Tsuruoka City. This city can be reached by train by going to Tsuruoka Station.