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Mountains and Their Importance for the Idea of the Other World in Japanese Folk Religion Author(s): Ichiro

Hori Reviewed work(s): Source: History of Religions, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Aug., 1966), pp. 1-23 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 27/10/2012 00:56
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Ichiro Hori





Japan presents to the observer a very complicated mountain worship which has developed along diverse lines and become quite widespread. Edward Morse, a pioneer of Japanese archeology and natural history, wrote that he was much impressed upon observing that almost every high mountain top has its own shrine and that some of them are piously worshiped by thousands of people who climb there in summer after many miles of arduous travel.l Mountain worship is intricately involved with Japanese history. On the one hand, there still survive some elements of ancient naturalistic beliefs. On the other, the syncretistic Shugen-do sects were institutionalized under the strong influence of Mantrayana Buddhism of the Tendai (T'ien-t'ai in Chinese) and Shingon (Esoteric Buddhism, Chen-yen in Chinese) schools in the Middle Ages.
This article comprised the fourth of six Haskell Lectures, "Folk Religion in Japan: Continuity and Change," and was delivered at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, November 9, 1965. I wish to thank Professor Joseph M. Kitagawa, Professor H. Byron Earhart, Mr. Alan Miller and others for reading the first draft and making a number of helpful suggestions and corrections. 1 Edward Morse, Japan Day By Day (Boston, 1917), I, 95. 1

Some of them chose to become priests of Shingon or Tendai schools of Buddhism. Hokuriku-chih6 ni okeru Shugen Chakusai" (" On the Coloration or Influence of Shugen-d6 in Northeastern and Mid-northern Honshu"). "Tohoku. No. while others became engaged in secular professions. Many of the Shugendo priests were returned to secular life. Only since the end of World War II has Shugen-do been allowed to enjoy independent 2 Komazo Mizoguchi. 4. called jingui-ji or betto-ji.Mountains and Their Importance Before the Meiji Restoration almost every Shinto shrine had its own Buddhist temple. Mount Hiko in Kyuishfi. where services were conducted according to Buddhist usage by Buddhist priests. while Japanese Shinto was influenced by Shugen-do. meaning literally "the seal of the law"). Parenthetically it might be added in this connection that in 1868 the Japanese government adopted the policy of dissolving the historic pattern of Shinto-Buddhist amalgamation and elevated Shinto as the de facto state religion. Confucian ethics. Gassan. Shugen-d6 has incorporated within itself many of the significant characteristics of Japanese religion. or hoin (honorary title for a Buddhist exorciser. whether called shugen-ja ("exorciser"). and in northern Honshu the group of Haguro. or to offer prayers for peace and prosperity. Under these circumstances. Accordingly. and above all from Mantrayana Buddhism. amulets. yamabushi (literally. Shugen-d6 itself borrowed many elements from ancient shamanism. They were also in charge of sacred mountains and hills near villages and guided parishioners to such centers of the order as Mount Kimpu (Yoshino). Mount Omine. Mount Ishizuchi in Shikoku. 192-98. Mount Kumano in Kinki Province (middle Honshf). frequently by those of Mantrayanistic Tendai and Shingon schools. IV. From these religious centers priests went once or twice a year to their parishioners' villages and visited from house to house to distribute charms. and Yudono. to hold purification ceremonies. Mount Haku in midnorthern Honshu. both the settled village yamabushi and the itinerant yamabushi exerted deep and lasting influence upon the spiritual life of the common people. suffered a great deal. According to Mizoguchi's study. which had had precarious relationships both with Shinto and Buddhism. Yin-Yang and Taoistic magic. or talismans. "a priest who lies down on the mountain"). including mountain ascetics. Shikyo Kenkyf. 2 .2 more than 90 per cent of the village shrines in mid-northern and northeastern Japan were served by Shugen-do priests. Mount Taisen in western Honshu. In this situation Shugen-d6. In other words.

J. 1267). Mount Alburz or Hara Berezaiti in ancient Persia. 49.) Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (hereinafter cited as "ERE") (Edinburgh." Lo-shi-o-phi-thdn-lun (Skt.. Willibald Kirfel. London. trans. MacCulloch.6 Mount Sumeru or Meru is supposed to be the cosmic mountain at the center of the world and the 3 See. i. and Mount Olympus in Greece. Vol.5 In Hindu and more particularly Buddhist traditions. as in the case of Mount Sumeru representing the stability of Buddha's body. and North and South America. Africa." with the elements of mysterium tremendum and fascinosum. some of the sacred mountains were believed to possess such divine qualities as eternity. 1946). pp. 1930). probably "Lokasthiti(?)abhidharma-6astra" (Nanj6 Catalogue. "Mountains. Hor. in the sense in which Rudolf Otto defined the term "holy. or the residence of a god or gods. the cosmic mountain.. A. VIII. 1351). 6 the Buddhist typical Concerning cosmology centering around Sumeru. 1920)." in J. 1277). the mountains were believed to be the center of the world. In each case. No.. No. Idea of the Holy. Der Kosmographie der Inder (Berlin.. They were the sites of religious services in which sacrifices and prayers were offered and divine revelations and oracles received. "Abhidharma-kosasastra" (Nanj5 Catalogue.status as a minor religious group. 3 . No.g. Nebo. Nevertheless. Harvey (rev." "Dirghagama-sutra" (Nanjo Catalogue. e. W. The five sacred mountains (Wu-chen or Wu-yoh) in China. J. XI. Cf. their vastness. we find numerous examples of sacred mountains among non-literate peoples in Oceania. 5 See "Fo-su-khin-tsan-kin" (Skt.3 We might say that mountains in their very nature have some measure of holiness. Mount Sumeru or Meru in ancient India. ed. "Buddhakarita-karya-sitra") (Nanj5 Catalogue. 5-40. Vol. see "Jambu-dvipa. Their height. XVIII. Also. the pillar supporting and linking heaven and earth. are only a few examples. No. There ascetics practiced their religious austerities in order to acquire magical. 545). SACRED MOUNTAINS AND COSMOLOGY It is generally agreed that mountains have been the object of worship among many peoples. 4 Rudolf Otto. Arctic Asia. II. the historic importance of Shugen-d5 in the religious life of the Japanese people cannot be overlooked. Vol. superhuman power or to attain enlightenment. the strangeness of their terrain often inspire in the human mind an attitude of reverence and adoration. Mountain Gods. Mounts Sinai. I. 863. Taking on metaphysical significance. Mount Kanchinjunga in Tibet." or "numinous. or stability.4 There are many significant evidences of mountain worship and mountain gods in the ancient civilized peoples. and Zion from the Old Testament. power. "Numbers and Quantities. Hastings (ed.

worshiping at each statue of Buddha and chanting the sutras. 1949). or nine stages according to the traditions of various tribes) in order to give offerings to Bai Ulgen. 1954). the supreme god of India. Ziggurate als Tour de Babel (Paris. It is the chief of mountains. When they reach the top level of the tower. 125 [Helsinki. Part I: "Zikkurat". even though it was built between the seventh and the ninth centuries A. A. Trask (New York. Between these and the eighth and outermost ring are the four worlds. successively conquering each stage of the seven heavens (three.D. trans. as Mircea Eliade has pointed out. 10 Eliade. in which the future shamans in Northern Asia have had strange but characteristic experiences during their maladies et reves initiatiques. under the strong influence of Indian Buddhism. 4 . 8 Mircea Eliade. Uno Harva (Holmberg). pp. E. pp.000 miles high. according to which sevenstoried temple-towers (ziggurats) were built symbolizing the seven heavens. R. the world where we are now living. where. 1920). Seven concentric rings of large mountains surround it. Myth of the Eternal Return.10 The souls of the novices are thought to ascend to heaven through a high and pre7 Cf. 181ff. 18. At the very top of this cosmic mountain is the palace of Sakra Devanam Indra. It consists of nine levels which pilgrims ascend step by step. seven. These shamans believe that they must ascend this mountain. the "Golden Mountain" which is 84. 9 Cf. 1938]). with intervening seas. Shamanism. 15.7 The famous temple-tower of Borobudur in Java also has the form of a ziggurat. including Jambudvipa in the south. and planets are believed to revolve around Mount Sumeru. 1964). pp. 33-66. whose upper part is divided into thirty-three heavens. who governs the whole cosmos. Theodor Dombart.9 There are also several instances. from the human world full of ignorance and suffering to the Buddha's world of enlightenment and salvation.Mountains and Their Importance abode of the gods. Der Sakraltum (Munich. Parrot. especially in Central Asia and Mongolia. Mircea Eliade. for example. Shamanism (New York.8 We should note in this connection that cosmic mountains are also utilized in shamanism. Die Religiosen Vorstellungen der altaischen V6lker (FF Communication No. Cosmological significance of mountains is also recognized by the Babylonian and Assyrian traditions. they are believed to be able to pass from the profane world to the sacred world. the shamans of the Altaic Tatar tribes believe that their supreme god Bai Ulgen presides over the whole world at his palace on the top of a golden mountain that emerges from the earth and stands at the center of heaven. and then descend to the earth to transmit his oracles to the people. moon. The sun.

195. 206. XXV (1924). cf. 1901). Mythology and Legend. 13 MacCulloch. op. See also N. cf. Shamanism. 695-96. 14 Ibid." Especially in northern European villages. 297-308. Mironov and S. III. 257-87. Dellenbaugh. D. 123." History of Religions. 15 F. I (1961). a special tree was cut from a mountain to guard against fire or lightning. ERE. De Groot. Shirokogoroff. the people construct a mound exclusively for the purpose of celebrating a festival. iii.14 In Mexico." in J. cit. Especially interesting among these religious observances held on mountaintops is the rite held for the benefit of the dead (gsrddha). the mountain is an important site of religious festivals.l2 In parts of Europe. J. Or. ed. 765ff. Native Races of the Pacific. 6. ii. Hastings (ed. III. MacCulloch. John's Eve. cit. 5 . II. 1949). J.17 Parenthetically it might be added that during the forty-nine 11 The number of heavens mentioned above is supposed to be influenced by Lamaism and Buddhism from the south or by Mithraism or Zoroastrianism from the southwest. op. 495-507. or through a symbolic birch tree with seven to nine notches manifesting the number of heavens they must pass through in order to receive the divine gift of shamanizing as the reward for long and excruciating ordeals. the first fruits of the harvest are taken to a mountaintop and offered to the mountain gods. Bancroft. cf. See Eliade. 723." Journal of the North-China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Standard Dictionary of Folklore. p. pp. "Recent Works on Shamanism. 14-16. 12 Funk and Wagnalls. among some American Indians. In ancient China kings regularly performed rituals facing a particular mountain or built two special mounds called "heaven altar" (t'ien-tan) and "earth altar" (titan). 16 Li-chi ("The Book of Rites"). 110-30. 452-54. 867.11 RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES IN THE MOUNTAINS In many parts of the world religious ceremonies in the mountains are performed not only by institutionalized religions but also by folk religious groups in various popular festivals. 866. Mircea Eliade.15 and where there are no mountains. etc. North Americans of Yesterday (New York. 17 "Ancestor-worship (India).16 In India many tribes held festivals upon or oriented toward sacred mountains and sacred hills.cipitous mountain.13 A similar custom is also reported in some tribes of Africa. IV. 1912). "Bonfires" or "Midsummer fires" were kindled on mountaintops or hilltops at night to purify both men and cattle in the smoke of the fire. I. and the people gathered herbs and bathed in streams to avoid sickness. p.. May Day and Midsummer Day in Europe are examples of festivals connected with mountains.). pp. "Sramana-Shaman. the old pre-Christian festival of Midsummer Eve was taken over by Christianity and renamed "St. Religion in China (New York.. S. Maria Leech (New York.. M.

and Mount Kaimon in the southernmost part of Kyushu. are typical examples. the soul of the dead is destined to wander about in this world. There are many instances where large mounds have accumulated from the offering of small stones. Should the relatives of the deceased fail to perform this rite. 194-216. "to offer". and mountain pass in Korea and Japan. In this respect the beautiful and awe-inspiring Mount Fuji is well known. and Tibet. many conically shaped mountains in the Ryuikyu and Amami archipelagoes are called a-mori or a-furi ("descent from heaven"). 1948). and the peaks of the mountains were venerated by these islanders. this custom is observed in Japan under the name of bon. Sailors and fishermen traditionally have believed that the deity who controls navigation resides at the summit of these mountains. that represent Mount Fuji as a divine mountain or a sacred mountain which is a symbol of Japan. The purpose of the srdddha is to conduct the soul of the dead safely and easily to the next world. originating from the word tamuke. as well as works of art. Mongolia. It is also interesting to note that in Japan the word for mountain pass is toge. Similarly.Mountains and Their Importance days following death a person is said to be wandering between this world and the next. Jusan-zuka Ko ("Study of the Thirteen Mounds") (Tokyo. such as Miwa-jinja ("shrine") in Nara 18 Kunio Yanagita. This custom is not unique in Japan but can be seen also in the far eastern countries of Korea. mountaintop. and is held every seventh day up to the forty-ninth day after death. Such a rite is usually performed in the mountains. all of which rise above the seashore.19 In addition there are other famous mountains. Mount Taisen in western Honshu. The first is beliefs connected with conically shaped dormant volcanoes. such as Mount Chokai in northeastern Honshu. 19 Since the Manyo-shui we can find many poems and other literary works. Even today there are some Shinto shrines. pp. The annual festival for the ancestors' spirits connected with the srdddha is called pindapitryajna in India. and the obo in Mongolia and Manchuria.18 THREE CATEGORIES OF JAPANESE MOUNTAIN WORSHIP At the expense of oversimplification. which to them seemed to be the link between heaven and earth. in Japan we can classify mountain beliefs into three categories. esp. The stone mounds of the hilltop. 6 . causing calamities and misfortune to the living. This rite was taken over by Buddhism and became the formal service for the souls of the dead. and Ichiro Hori. because travelers always had to offer something to the god of the pass as a prayer for safe journey.

XIII. they believed they saw gods running across the water holding torches to assist in the divine re-creation of the island. Even today many Japanese farmers believe that the mountain god comes down from the mountain in early spring to guard the rice field and returns to the mountain in 20 Kunio Yanagita. and Nara. 1964]). Yuko Shiso (the idea of migrating gods. Kainan Shoki (some folkloristic sketches on the southern islands of Japan) (Tokyo.20 Parenthetically we might add that the eruption of a volcano is looked upon in many ancient documents as a divine creative act. and Ichiro Hori.D. 7 . 1925) and Imo no Chikara ("Magical Power of the Female") (Tokyo. 865 at night they thought they saw a magnificent divine palace newly built on the mountaintop in the midst of the flames and smoke. Vol. III [Tokyo. As agriculture formed the foundation of ancient Japan. Yozei.D." Vol. 840 a volcanic eruption on Kozu Island of the Izu Archipelago so impressed the people that. in A. Engi Shiki ("Code of Engi"-the official code of laws and ordinances as well as governmental institutions composed by Emperor Daigo's edict in A.21 Similarly." Vol. in which eleven shrines in Yamashiro-no-kuni (present Kyoto Prefecture). from A. there were fifty-three such shrines (and in the plain of the ancient metropolitan area of Nara alone. IV [Tokyo. 927 ("Kokushi Taikei. when the people viewed the major eruption of Mount Fuji in A. 858 to 887) ("Kokushi Taikei. 22 Shoku Nihon Koki (official record from A." Vol. twenty-nine). Tokyo.D. In fact. "inner sanctuary." Historically in Japan it was common practice for people to erect iwasaka ("sacred enclosures made of stones") on mountaintops for religious purposes. and priests) (Tokyo. 21 Sandai Jitsuroku (official record of the reigns of three emperors: Seiwa. there are many Shinto shrines dedicated to the gods of surrounding mountains who brought the rains and protected the water source. and Kok6. 833 to 950) ("Kokushi Taikei. and nine in Settsu-no-kuni (now a part of Hyogo Prefecture) were institutionalized and authorized. 1944). Osaka.. twenty-nine shrines in Yamato-no-kuni (present Nara Prefecture). IX. This fact seems to show that the mountain was integrally related to agriculture in the eyes of the ancient Japanese. Vol. 1934]). that is. for example. that regard the mountains as the object of worship. Therefore in these shrines there is no shinden. heroes. the god of the mountain (yama-no-kami) and the god of the rice field (ta-nokami) were interchangeable.D.D. 794-1185) in the Kinki Area centering around Kyoto. three in Kawachi and Izumi-no-kuni (present Osaka Prefecture).23 In the Heian Period (A. XXIV [new ed.D.22 The second category of beliefs is concerned with mountains as watersheds or sources of streams. 1940). 23 See "Kiu Shin-sai" (praying for rain at official Shinto shrines). 1934]). in addition to the divine palace.Prefecture and Hiragiki-jinja at Mount Kaimon. For example.

1927].24 The third category of beliefs is concerned with the relationship between the mountain and the souls of the dead. in a rock. "Manyo-shf ni arawareta Sosei to Takai-kan. several instances in which it is believed to rest in islands.). These beliefs are illustrated in a poem written by Princess Oku lamenting the death of her brother Prince Otsu (d. A. Nihon Shfkyo-shi Kenkyu ("Studies of the History of Japanese Religions") (Tokyo. 1945-46]). ed. living in this world. Tokyo. 686): I. Reikon-kan ni tsuite" ("On the Funeral Customs. 49-93. K6taro Hayakawa. 1944). The belief that mountains are the abode of the dead reflects the ancient custom of actual burial on the mountain. but nevertheless they indicate the notion that was widely held among the people in the seventh and eighth centuries regarding the future life. or the wilderness. N6 to Matsuri ("Agriculture and the Festivals and Rites") (Tokyo. while the belief that mountains are merely the meeting ground between this world and the next is predicated upon the tradition that heaven or the other world exists some place beyond the mountains. these Manyo poems dealt only with the life of the nobility. 26 Ichiro Hori. No.D.)25 Here the mountain where Prince Otsu was buried became the means for recalling his memory. 165 (in the "Iwanami Bunko" series [Tokyo. From tomorrow look on Mount Futakami as my brother.26 It is significant that 24 Cf. there are fifty-one instances in which the soul of the dead is believed to rest on a mountain. 1937 [rev. which beliefs have played an important role in the development of ancestor worship in Japan. this belief was influenced by the Buddhist conception of the netherworld. II." "funeral song. To be sure. (For today he was buried there. Conceptions of the Other World and the Soul of the Dead Which Appeared in the IManyo5-shf"). There are two basic but contradictory beliefs in this connection. Bunrui Noson Goi ("Classified Folk Vocabularies of Farming-Village Life") (2 vols. 1942). Vol.. Of ninety-four such poems of bereavement (ban-ka-"dirge.Mountains and Their Importance the fall. No to Minzoku-gaku ("Agriculture and Folklore Studies") (Tokyo. 25 Manyo-shu. II. p." or "lament") in the Manyo-shi (the oldest official anthology of Japanese poems. Kunio Yanagita. Thus the villagers observe the rituals of welcoming and sending off the deity. 8 . or a mountain valley.. Nagano. or the Chinese conception of huang-chian ("underworld").D. Ichiro Kurata. 1963). 64). compiled in the eighth century A. twenty-three instances in which it is believed to rest in the sky or the clouds. But there are only three instances in which the soul of the dead is believed to rest in the underworld. the sea.

Choosing the site of burial within a graveyard is called yama-gime ("choosing [or selecting] the mountain"). II." Vols. Part I. Digging the grave for burial is called yama-shigoto ("mountain work"). especially to the traditions of Mantrayana and Shugen-do. 145. 1938]). "Nanto Komin no S6gi" (funeral ceremonies and customs in the southern islands of Japan).D. were erected on natural hills.27 These ideas have been handed down to our time.. an annual event performed jointly by the members of hereditary priestly families of the Grand Shrine of Isethe Arakida and Watarai families-a tradition that has continued for more than a thousand years. Ichir5 Hori. 216-217. Many tombs. is the prototype of the ancestor worship of Japan. 1938-39]). A. See Fuyf Ifa. 9 . 1007). where the corpse is sometimes exposed in the bush. 6 [Tokyo. 117-19. Even in Heian times.29 Almost all sacred mountains in Japan have two sites of religious services. See Yanagita. the leader calls out "Yama-yuki! Yama-yuki!" ("We go to the mountain!") See Kunio Yanagita. 1937). Fujiwara-no-Yukinari (d. Yama-miya K6 ("A Study of the Mountain Shrine") (Tokyo. but sometimes large mounds were artificially created on the plain for the purpose of burying the dead. the yama-miya ("shrine on the top of the mountain") and the sato-miya ("shrine at the foot of the mountain"). so that in rural Japan the term yama often is used in connection with funerary rites. This custom reminds us of the ancient records of "Wo-jen chuan" in Wei-chih as well as of the legends of the Kojiki and Nihongi. "The Eighth Day of the Seventh Month of 1007 A. singing and dancing around the corpse for three to seven days." 28 The coffin itself is called yama-oke ("mountain box"). especially those of the emperors.D. 29 The relatives and friends of the dead person would come to this place and offer food and a bottle of sake.D. pp. 131ff. 30 The most significant example of this dual system is the festival that celebrates the Yama-miya and Uji-gami simultaneously. This system of having two shrines. for both of these later became sacred mountains of Buddhism. Bunrui S6os Shzizoku Goi ("Classified Folk Vocabularies of Funeral Ceremonies and Customs") (Tokyo. etc. Mido-kanpaku Ki (Michinaga's diary) ("Dai Nihon Kokiroku" [Tokyo. 966-1027). 132-35. And when the funeral procession begins. according to Kunio Yanagita. No. 161. 1887). Kototsugu Tanikawa (A. and the official in charge of erecting the mausoleum was called yama-tsukuri-no-tsukasa ("the official who erects the mountain"). "The 25th Day of the Sixth Month of the Eighth Year of Kanko" (A.30 Yanagita further states that 27 Cf. Minzoku. 1951).D. In this connection we might also observe the close interrelationship between the mountain and the kofun ("burial mound"). Wakun no Shiori (dictionary of Japanese words and their origin and history) (Tokyo. pp. Gon Ki (Yukinari's Diary) ("Shiry5 Taisei. 1709-76). Minkan Shinko ("Japanese Folk Beliefs") (Tokyo. 1926].among these poems the names of Mount Hatsuse and Mount Yoshino very often appear. which significantly is called goshoyama ("the mountain of future birth"). XXXV-XXXVI [Tokyo.D. Fujiwara-noMichinaga (A. 1947). 1027). when kofun were no longer in use. the emperor's mausoleum was still called yama ("mountain").28 A similar belief is found in the Amami and Ryfkyfi archipelagoes.

practiced austerities within the mountains to obtain supernatural powers or to communicate with supernatural beings. . 1959). 1953). It is readily understandable. And pushing aside the mists of the high mountains And the mists of the low mountains. Will hear and receive [these words]. 47. See Ichiro Hori. p. Norito. 10 31 "Norito" ("Ritual Prayers").Mountains and Their Importance the earthly deities of ancient Japan were held to be the ancestral deities who ascend the mountain in order to observe the activities of their descendants. Yanagita interpreted this term as "hermitage" or "ritual hut. therefore. Will hear and receive [these words]. Part II: "Sangaku Bukkyo no Tenkai to Shugen-ja Yamabushi no Yugyoteki Kin5 to Keitai" ("Development of Mountain-Buddhism and the Social Functions of Shugen-do Priests"). it is noteworthy that in the Norito (ancient Japanese Shinto ritual prayers) of the 6-harae ("great exorcism" or "purification") in the Engishiki3l we can see clearly the ancient Japanese concept of heavenly and earthly deities. Philippi translated the term ihori as "mists"." 33 Even today in some places in Japan. Vol. which came to be portrayed under Buddhist influence as a state of loneliness and painfulness characterized by the 32 Donald Philippi. however. that Mantrayanistic ascetics in Japan. 58-248. They were believed to come down from the mountains at the time of harvest and new year to receive the homage of their descendants. Wagakuni Minkan-shinko-shi no Kenkyu ("A Study of the History of Japanese Folk Religion") (Tokyo.32 The above discussion may indicate how important the mountain was to the religious life of the Japanese people both as the connecting link between this world and the life to come and as the link between the profane and the sacred dimensions of life. And pushing with an awesome pushing through the myriad layers of heavenly clouds. For example:When he [chief priest of the Nakatomi] thus pronounces them [solemn ritual words] The heavenly deities (Ama-tsu-kami)will push open the heavenly rock door. pp. Engi-shiki. From this viewpoint. A New Translation of the Ancient Japanese Ritual Prayers (Tokyo: Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics. Kokugakuin University. II. puberty rites are conducted by yamabushi within the mountains. as much as the shamans of Central and Northern Asia. Then the earthly deities will climb up To the summits of the high mountains and to the Summits of the low mountains.33 Related to this is the notion of shide-no-yama ("the mountain leading to the other world").

11 . crying: "Grandpa! hilltops. 1439). for instance. were not merely literary fancies but were important ingredients of the religious life of the Japanese. (Tokyo. big bonfires (bon-bi)36are kindled on mountaintops or hilltops to welcome the spirits of the dead ancestors who are thought to return to their places of birth and receive offerings from their descendants. 996). Vol. which is usually held from the thirteenth to the sixteenth of the seventh month of the lunar calendar (July or August). Oh! cuckoo Because over you must have passed The shide-no-yama from the Other World. Vol. or "Lament"). See "Aisho" Shui VWaka-shu (anthology com("Dirge" supposedly Kazan or Kinto about A.existence of demons who torture the souls of the dead. 517ff. Tortured and crying all the while. 1903). 35 The famous poetess. 987-1036).37 There are also two widespread customs in rural areas which mark the beginning of the bon festival. Ise-no tayuf (ca. The relationship between the soul of the dead and the mountain is also seen in the bon festival. in the "Kokka Taikan" series (Tokyo.D. pp. in which she lamented her departed son who had died the year before. VIII. Please tell me all of How my Beloved Son fares In the Other World. Festivals and Customs") laries on the Annual 1939). a woman is depicted as barely able to walk because she is constantly beaten by demons. according to which weeds from a mountain or hilltop are cleared away in order to make passage for the spirits of the ancestors. A. on their nearby See Grandma! this and come visit fire. 36 The "bonfire" to the European known and American readers is different and etymologically from Japanese bon-bi (transalated here as bon fire). passes over the shide-no-yama alone. See the Shin Zoku Kokin Waka-shu (anthology compiled by Masayo Fujiwara in A. (Tokyo.35 These notions-the mountains leading to the other world and the cuckoo bird as the messenger-so often cited in Japanese classical literature. XX. historically 37 One of the best known fires is the bon in Kyoto in which dai-monji-yaki in the shape of the character thousands of torches are kindled dai (ta in Chinese) on the midslope of a peak of the Easter Mountain chain of Kyoto City. composed a poem upon hearing the song of the cuckoo.D. who took mountains very seriously.D. In some places. The other custom is bon-bana-mukae ("flower-gathering for the bon festival"). In some a kindled straw rope separately boys and girls make a big fire or brandish places. Emperor Fujiwara piled by the Retired series (1774-75) in the "Iwanami Bunko" 1938). according to which special kinds of flowers. The first is bon-michi-tsukuri ("the making of the bon road"). Only accompanied by his former life's sins.34 Another belief which came to be widely held in Japan was the cuckoo bird as the messenger between this world and the next. On this scroll the retired Emperor Nijo (reigned 1158-65) wrote a poem: One Without any relative or acquaintance. Bunrui us!" See Kunio Goi ("Classified Shuzoku Folk VocabuSaiji Yanagita. 34 In the Jigoku-byobu ("Scroll of Hell").

40 In these mountains certain areas around the temple are designated as representing jigoku ("hell") and gokuraku ("pure land" or "paradise"). See Hiromasa Ikegami. Wagakuni Minkan-shinko-shi no Kenkyi (Tokyo.Mountains and Their Importance called bon flowers (such as the broad bell flower. such as Mount Koya. and underworld has been reinterpreted to fit into the indigenous religious view of the Japanese. which are usually practiced on the mountain. a center of the Shingon sect. as well as by shamanistic cosmology and practices. garbha-kukshi. Kshitigarbha. 107ff. p. 1 (1937). kong6-kai)-and the "womb store" (in Sanskrit.. 39 These dragonflies are sometimes called shoryo-yamma ("dragonfly of the spirits of the dead"). the bush clover. in Japanese. are picked from mountain or hilltops. Many wooden stupas dedicated to the spirits of the dead are erected on these mountaintops. XIV. Inevitably. Shikyo Kenkyu. "realm of the indestructibles" or "diamond" (in Sanskrit. 38 If there is no mountain or hill near the village. taizo-kai). 12 . the gold-banded lily. and on the spring and autumn equinoxes many people ascend these mountains to hold memorial services for the spirits of their dead relatives. the petrinia scabiosaefolia. No. Nihon Shiikyo-shi Kenkyu (Tokyo. 1953). I.39 It is to be noted that there are several sacred mountains where parts of the remains of the deceased are buried. on those for other buddhas or bodhisattvas. The people believe that the spirits of the dead ancestors enter into these bon flowers in order to visit their homes. In this manner the historic Buddhist notion of perpendicular cosmology consisting of the three levels of heaven. and the wild pink). from the Middle Ages on. There worshipers invoke buddhas or bodhisattvas for the easy passage of the dead into Buddha's Pure Land. as evidenced by the dhuta austerities. these theologies were greatly influenced by the pre-Buddhist Japanese beliefs concerning mountains.38 In many areas of Japan catching certain kinds of dragonflies is strictly prohibited during the bon festivals because it is thought that they actually incarnate the spirits of the dead. worshipers are expected to go through the former before entering the latter. TI. See Yanagita. earth. 1962). Hori. Significantly. and Mount Osore in Aomori Prefecture. Mount Risshaku-ji in Yamagata Prefecture. "Bon-bana Ko" ("A Study of the Bon Flowers"). Furthermore. Mount Asama in Mie Prefecture. the villagers must go to the bon-ichi ("the market for bon") at a nearby town to buy the bon flowers. 173-75. almost all the important mountains of Japan have been occupied by Buddhist priests and the shugen-ja ("mountain ascetics") of Shugen-do. vajra-dhdtu. theologies of mountain religion developed in the two Mantrayanistic sects of Tendai and Shingon based on the twofold principle of the Esoteric mandala-that is. 40 On the feast days for Bodhisattva Jizo (Skt. in Japanese. See Ichiro Hori. a Buddhist savior from hell). 450. 229. Bunrui Saiji Shuzoku Goi.

Constantly as falls the snow. was involved in succession rivalry with another prince following the death of Emperor Tenchi in 671 and left the imperial palace in Omi (near present Otsu City) for Mount Yoshino. Mount Yoshino appears prominently in both accounts. much as the legendary Emperor Jimmu had done before him. Missing not one turning Of that mountain-path!43 During the civil war which ensued. Temmu. p. W. 157-74. it was at Mount 41 Kojiki. At that time he composed the following poem: On the peak of Mimiga of fair Yoshinu42 The Snow is falling constantly. the first Emperor Jimmu had crossed over Mount Yoshino during his campaign from Kyishf to Yamato. pp. Foremost among them is Mount Yoshino. significantly. around which many myths and legends have arisen. 1896). This event also took place at Mount Yoshino. G. 301-20. the present Nara Prefecture. 1940). We are told that Jimmu had encountered the mountain tribes in this region. 42 Mount Yoshino was called Yoshinu in the Period.41 More pertinent for our purpose is the historical account of the Emperor Temmu (A. 43 Emperor Temmu. Ever thinking I have come.D. See The Manyoshu. One Thousand Poems Selected and Translated from the Japanese (hereinafter cited as "The Manyoshfi") (Tokyo: Nippon Gakujitsu Shink5kai. 44 Nihongi.44 It is apparent that the legend of Emperor Jimmu and the account of Emperor Temmu follow the same pattern.We will illustrate some of the important motifs of mountain beliefs in the following sections. Furthermore. In 672 he defeated the Omi dynasty and founded his Asuka dynasty in Nara Prefecture. trans. trans. SACRED MOUNTAINAND SACRED WATER: EXAMPLEOF MOUNT YOSHINO In the history of Japanese mountain religion there are a number of sacred mountains. I. 17. II. According to the ancient legends. op.D. cit. 13 . and with the aid of the cross sword and a gigantic crow he was able to pacify these mountain tribes. Chamberlain ("Records of Ancient Matters") (Tokyo.. who at one time retired to Mount Yoshino and underwent austere Buddhist training on the mountain. Ashton (London. One night while Jimmu was sleeping by the river Nifu in this area he was given magicoreligious power by the sun goddess (Amaterasu). 1906). The Rain is falling ceaselessly. Ceaselessly as beats the rain. and. prayed to Amaterasu for victory and received a favorable oracle in his dream. 697. 112-30. Nihongi. Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A. 622-686). then known as CrownManyo-shu Prince Oama.

after the civil war. She loves.. 6th day. 1133. 'If we contravene this oath. the Imperial Prince Kawashima. Mount Yoshino was frequently praised with the Chinese Taoistic expressions as "the abode of holy wizards" or "the palace of divine genii. bear witness! We.' Accordingly.Mountains and Their Importance Yoshino that Emperor Temmu. The Provinces are many.46 We must bear in mind once again that this mountain was noted not only for its beauty but also for its sacredness. This palace by the stream! 47 It should not be considered mere rhetorical flourish that in the Kaiffso (a Chinese-style anthology compiled about the same time as the Manyo-shu). Will it stand for aye. If. saying. VIII. saying. The six Imperial Princes together paid their respects to the Emperor before the Great Hall. 'We wish today to unite with you in making a vow in the Court. Endless as this river flows." 46 The following poem in the Manyo-shi. so that after a thousand years there may be no trouble. 10th day. and thereupon the Emperor said. who succeeded Temmu in 687. the Imperial Prince Takechi. the Imperial Prince Kusakabe. may our body perish instantly!' The Empress-consort's oath was like that of the Emperor. Vol. 5th day: The Emperor proceeded to the palace of Yoshino. Temmu: 8th year (A. though each born of different mothers.45 It is also interesting to note that the Empress Jito. Vol.' Accordingly. he took the six Imperial Princes to his bosom." Cf. my sons. in the Land where rules our Sovereign. any of us should not keep this vow. The Emperor's car returned to the palace. "7th day.' "The [other] five Imperial Princes took oath together in the above terms in order one after another. 679): "5th month. demanded and received oaths of loyalty from the imperial princes. together comply with the Emperor's behest. And there she has reared herself A mighty-pillared palace. 36 (English translation from The Manyoshu. without respect of birth from the same or different mothers. the field of Akitsu. and ye Emperors. Here the courtiers row their barges Side by side across the morning waters And race upon the evening stream. was greatly impressed by the beauty and numinous atmosphere of Mount Yoshino and paid thirty-two visits to it in the course of her life. 20). The Imperial Prince Ohotsu. His Highness the Imperial Prince Kusakabe stood forward first and made oath. I. the Imperial Prince Osakabe. 'The reasonableness of this is manifest. Encircled by clear streams and towering mountains. loosening out his collar. 341-42. from this time forward. 14 . What think ye?' The Imperial Princes answered together. Manyo-shu. saying. saying. 'Ye gods of Heaven and Earth.D. and the Imperial Prince Shiki. No. are now in affection as if born of one mother. and made oath. The Emperor addressed the Empress Consort. p. elder and younger brothers. 'Ye. Lofty as those mountains. may he himself perish and may his line become extinct! There will be no forgetfulness or failure. was composed by Kakinomoto-no-Hitomaro on the occasion of one of her visits to Mount Yoshino: Though. thus recognizing the special sacredness of this mountain. in Yoshinu.47 Some scholars assert that the 45 Ibid. born each of different mothers. And never tire my eyes. and will give each other mutual support and avoid contention. young or of mature age. No. Where cherry-flowers fall. more than ten Princes in all. so that a number of shrines came to be built there in honor of the mountain deities.

And how beautiful it stands. 50 The Manyo-shu. With its shapely peaks. The Mountain will not leave our memory. Thanks to its divinity! Unfailing as the limpid water On Katakai's shallows. 15 . 182-83). Unlike the mists that form and lift Each morning and evening Over the limpid shallows Of the engirdling Katakai. Nos. Will I come and gaze upon the mountain.49 Among them. 4000-4002. "rivers of divine girdle". pp. 175. Many are the mountains And countless rivers run.frequent visits by Jito and later royalty were motivated by their search for the sacred water with which the heavenly deities might best be served and worshiped and in which they. records another poem composed in 747 by Yakamochi entitled "In Praise of Mount Futagami." Mount Futagami. 276. round which flow The waters of Imizu.48 This seems to be a sound interpretation of the magicoreligious function of sacred mountains implied in these visits. Snow lies throughout summer. 1963). No. nowadays they write the characters of mitarashi as "holy washing of one's hands"). pp. But on Mount Tachi of Niikawa Because of its divinity. and many Shinto shrines and Shugen-do temples were built near them. 49 These sacred waters are usually called harae-gawa ("rivers of purification") or mitarashi-gawa (literally. Mount Tachi and Mount Futagami became the centers of Shugen-do in the medieval period. XVII." was composed in 747 by Otomo-noYakamochi: In the land of Koshi Famous among the distant regions. XVII. (Many6-shu. "In Praise of Mount Tachi. as the heads of the imperial court. An early poem which celebrates mountains is important for our purposes. English translation from The Many6shfi. Vol. Vol. might bathe and purify the court and the nation. Or in the glorious leaf of autumnHow sublime it soars Because of its divinity. Envoys The snows on Mount Tachi Refresh me all through summer. Manyo Hyakka ("One Hundred Poems from the Manyo-shi") (Tokyo.50 The streams invariably girdling the sacred mountains of Japan 48 Yasaburo Ikeda and Kenkichi Yamamoto. The following poem from the Manyo-shu. In fact. When I come out and gaze upon it In the rich and blossomed spring. 3985. the sacred mountains in Japan without exception have sacred waters which proceed from them.

The godlike skirting ridge. sacred waters. the "soul box" of the new emperor at the time of his enthronement." in Studies in Japanese Folklore.Mountains and Their Importance may be explained as symbolic of the boundaries between the profane and sacred worlds.51 In the popular belief of Ceaselessly as the white waves break As morning calm. All who gaze upon it Give admiration to this mountain From old times to this day! The Many6shi. 96-97. See also my paper. from translation (English 51 In the Heian Period. "Mysterious Visitors from the Harvest to the New Year. a symbolic drama was performed at this rite in which the priestess brought a mysterious box in her hand and wore a special wig made of creepers from the sacred mountain recess named Mi-yama-katsura. whoever wants to possess the divine power of the mountains or to communicate with the mountain deities must undergo some initiatory mysteries by these sacred waters." which has to be given to the new emperor when he ascends the throne. presumably from the sacred mountain. the human and divine worlds.D. We have no documents to explain the purposes of these frequent imperial visits.. For example. 144-45). 593 to 770. ed. pp. 37. pp. And increasing as the flood-tide swells At evening lull. About the rocky cape of Shibutani. the ancestral deity of the imperial family). 1931]). 1963). THE MOUNTAIN AS THE DIVINE MOTHER One of the significant characteristics of mountain religion in Japan is its belief that the mountain itself has a mystical power to cause the birth or rebirth of human beings and animals. Six empresses reigned in Japan from A. however. More often than not. a period in which the Kojiki and Nihongi were compiled and in which Buddhism was introduced. which is a manuscript of unknown authorship written in the latter years of the Heian Period in the twelfth century (Kojitsu Sosho [Tokyo. and n. These empresses frequently visited the sacred mountains. Therefore. See the "Songs of the Chinkon Ritual" cited in the "Nenju-gyoji-hish5" ("Memorandum of Annual Rites"). it was a female deity. 16 . who is believed to have brought down. According to this belief the imperial charisma is embodied in the "imperial soul. in ancient Japanese myths mountain deities are portrayed as female. and sacred hot springs. 0-hirume (the Great August Sun Goddess. probably in the memories of the Japanese people legends of the ancient shamanic queen Pi-mi-ko of the Yamatai Kingdom have remained and have been enhanced by the activities of shamanistic Buddhists throughout the ages. which is another name of Amaterasu-0mikami. Richard Dorson (Bloomington. or this world and the other world. Ind.

pp. 15-65. 1934). According to the legend he met a young hunter who was accompanied by two dogs. X. "Nanzan niwa Yama-no-kami" ("Mountain God for Difficult Delivery"). Kukai built a shrine in honor of the mountain goddess and her son Kariba-myojin (literally. "Kami wo tasuketa Hanashi" ("Legends of Persons Who Helped Deities"). Yaichir6 Yamaguchi. the mountain goddess and her son play dominant roles in guiding the people and granting them permission to build houses or temples and in guarding the mountain. and secured her permission to build monasteries at Koya. she is believed to assure easy child delivery. and more particularly of the Kongobu-ji temple on Mount Koya. the goddess of the mountain rewards certain hunters for their meritorious deeds with the right of hunting within her domain. pp. Kunio Yanagita (Tokyo. ed. The meaning of the name of the mountain goddess. 414ff. or some magical symbol. the mountain deity is believed to be a goddess who once a year gives birth to twelve children.54 This legend. should a woman be having a difficult delivery. Nibu-tsu-hime. two hunting brothers). We are again indebted to Yanagita53 for depicting three major types of these mountain beliefs.. established his monastic center. in Sanson Seikatsu no Kenkyu (studies of the modes of life in Japanese mountain villages). Yanagita. 544.52 Most likely these beliefs in mountain deities originated in ancient Japan among the hunting tribes who believe in the existence of the Divine Mother of the Mountain." op.. "Yama-no-kami" ("Mountain God"). came to be widely circulated in various parts of Japan. 38ff. Nibu-tsu-hime. "Yamatachi to Yamabushi" ("Hunters and the Yamabushi"). which undoubtedly was influenced by the legends of hunting tribes. Kunio Yanagita (Tokyo. X. 1960). "Yamatachi to Yamabushi. "Deity of the Hunting Field") as the guardians of Shingon Buddhism. Twelve (Jfini-sama). and her twelve children symbolize the twelve months of the year. Yanagita. 12 [Tokyo. No. 538-47. See Yanagita. Minkan Densho. called the Koya-type. 1926). According to the second. 54 Consequently. According to the first." No. Yama no Jinsei ("Life in the Mountain") (Tokyo. 14ff. 1937]). Yanagita Kunio Chosakushu (2d ed. Akita Matagi Shiryo (folklore of hunters in Akita Prefecture named Matagi) ("Attic Museum Note. 17 . Banzaburo no Hanashi" (legend of Banji and Banzaburo. Too Ibun (legends in northeast Honshu) (Tokyo.. pp. 1926). We are told that the 52 Also. in Sanson Seikatsu no Kenkyu.rural areas. ed. her husband or a relative usually will lead a horse in the direction of the mountain in order to receive the mountain deity. Vol. She is therefore called Mrs. "Banji. cit. the ninth-century patriarch of the Shingon sect. The name Koya is taken from the mountain where Kukai. 1950). San'iku Shizoku Goi ("Folk Vocabularies of the Customs of Childbirth and Nursing") (Tokyo. will be discussed later. Futara-jinga Bunkabu: Nikko Karikotoba Ki (hunting traditions in Mount Nikko) (Tokyo. 1934). called the Nikko-type. See Ichiro Kurata. Sometimes a scroll depicting the mountain deity.. Kizen Sasaki. is hung at a pregnant woman's bedside. Tokyo. such as a rice spoon or pillow. and through him Kukai met the hunter's mother. 2. In many districts. 53 Kunio Yanagita. especially among the hunters in northeast Honshu. p. The rice spoon is a symbol of the phallus and is held in the right hand of the mountain deity. pp. Vol. 1936). the goddess of the mountain. Buntaro Takahashi.

typified by the legend transmitted in the village of Shiiba in southern Kyfshu. 1926). Banzaburo shot out the eyes of the deity of Mount Akagi. being afraid of the impurity of blood.. 66 Kunio Yanagita. 57 Sasaki.56 There is a wide variety of legends based on this motif which has been handed down among the hunters in northeast Honshu. 1951). "Mount Moon") is wor55 Yanagita." op. 86-90. and in some cases he is celebrated as the son of the Mountain Maiden (Yama-hime) and the monkey-king. whereupon the goddess of Mount Nikko asked the help of a young hunter. Koma. which is called the Shiiba-type. where the mountain ascetics of both the Haguro and Yudono sects practice religious austerities. p.. Kunio Yanagita (ed. who was heartless. Banzaburo. 1908. pp. op. Mount Gassan (literally. Minzokugaku Jiten ("Dictionary of Japanese Folklore") (Tokyo. Nochi no Kari-kotoba no Ki (on hunting traditions) (Tokyo. pp. "Kami wo tasuketa Hanashi.). 18 . whereupon the maiden. who was disguised as a giant centipede. cit. Banzaburo himself came to be regarded either as the ancestor or the guardian deity of the hunting tribes. Moreover.55 According to the third. The goddess of Mount Nikko therefore rewarded Banzaburo by giving him the right of hunting in every mountain and forest of Japan. It is said that there were two brothers. 1951). the older. promised success and happiness to the younger brother. pp.Mountains and Their Importance goddess of Mount Nikko (situated in Tochigi Prefecture) was at one time attacked by the deity of nearby Mount Akagi. many of the mountains in Japan became centers of the activities of Shugen-d6. cit. also his "Yomego-nezumi no Hanashi" ("Stories of Rats and Brides"). This type of legend came to be associated with the mountain ascetics of the Tendai Buddhist tradition and is widely circulated among the hunters in east and northeast Honshfi. Oma. and the younger brother. 36-38. 56-58. who in reality was the Divine Mother of the Mountain (Yama-no-Shinbo). Chief among them is Mount Gassan. noted for his compassion. The older brother. One day when these brothers had gone hunting in the mountain they met a maiden who had just given birth to a child and who asked for food. whereas the younger brother out of compassion offered his own lunch basket. Too Ibun (Tokyo.57 EXAMPLE OF A MOUNTAIN AS DIVINE MOTHER: MOUNT GASSAN As noted earlier. the mountain goddess appears in the form of a helpless maiden who tests the character of hunters. the most prominent among the three sacred mountains in Dewa or present Yamagata Prefecture (Dewa-San-zan). 484. ignored her request. who was known for his skill in archery.

However. This custom seems to illustrate that the ancestor spirits arrive first at the top of Mount Gassan and then gradually come down to each family. Therefore. from the Tokugawa Period. 131 (1952). pp. and the dhuta (zuda in Japanese) practices on the mountain are assigned to the novices by steps. symbolized by the special hat and sacred wooden box (oi) on the back of the leading mountain ascetic (dai-sendatsu-"great [or chief] leader") and by the ritual act of throwing down the symbolic and decorative pillar (bonden) in front of the main Buddha hall of Shugen-do seminaries in Toge-mura at midslope of Mount Haguro. "Mori no Shinko" (belief and practice of the Mori or sacred bush). The autumn peak is of special interest to us because it features rituals that include the initiatory austerities for the novices of Shugen-do. "Uzen Haguro-san no Bon-gyoji" ("On the Bon festivals in Mount Haguro in Yamagata Prefecture"). Shukyo Kenkyu. the Realm of Beasts (Chikusho). Dai-nichi-nyorai ("Great Sun Buddha Mahavairocana") or enter the underworld. Then similar welcoming bon fires are lit in order from higher to lower at each place for ascetic exercises on the mountain. speech and sleeping. Inferno of Starvation (Gaki). symbolically die and enter the womb of the Great Mother. Sendai Kyodo Kenkyii.58 There are special Shugen-d6 annual rites performed on Mount Gassan for the four seasons: Entering the Spring Peak (Haru-no-mine). The series of rituals and austerities are divided into three periods. 158 (1948). during which time they are celebrated in memorial services at particular places named Mori-no-yama ("Wood Mountain") near the villages.shiped by the farmers of the vicinity as an agricultural deity (No-gami) and as the resting place of ancestors or spirits of the dead. together with the leading mountain ascetic. the World of Humans 58 On the first day of the bon festival. Severe ordeals. It means symbolically that the novices pass through the six stages of Buddhist Hell (Jigoku). "Honpo ni okeru Shi-rei-shinko no Jissho-teki Kenkyu" ("Report of Field Research on Belief in Spirits of the Dead in Japan"). each family in the villages at the foot lights a bon fire at the front door in order to welcome that family's ancestors. 19 . See Yoshio Toda. it is believed that several years after death the spirits of the dead climb up Mount Gassan. 5-7. Entering the Autumn Peak (Aki-no-mine). Entering the Summer Peak (Natsu-no-mine). a big welcoming fire (mukae-bi) is kindled by the chief abbot of the Haguro sect of Shugen-do at a special place called Saitomori near the top of Mount Gassan. 127 (1951). These symbols and rituals are explained by the fact that all the novices. taboos of food. the World of Asuras (Shura). and Entering the Winter Peak (Fuyu-no-mine). The religious austerities and rituals continue for about ten days at the end of August. though they are now extremely shortened and simplified from their original forms. The main rites of the autumn peak begin with the mystery of entering the "womb store" (garbha-kukshi or taizo-kai). No. Mount Gassan has been considered the sacred mountain of Shugen-do. When the last in the sequence of bon fires has been lit in the mountain. Yoshio Toda. Ansh6 Togawa. Shukyo Kenkyo. No. No.

mountains are regarded not only as the divine mother but also as the symbol of the cosmic mountain. In the shamanic cosmology. The white robe corresponds to the robe of the deceased and the mourner. It may be noteworthy that the main hall of the Kotaku-ji temple on top of Mount Haguro in which the novices lead a secluded life is decorated with symbols of the Great Mother's womb. the novices must jump over the sacred fire in front of the main seminary and the main Buddha hall where the first mystery was performed. novices go to the top of Mount Haguro and crouch together in front of the main shrine of Hagurogongen. At the end of the series of initiatory rituals. Shfkyo Kenkyu. This was also observed in the author's field research on the Fall Peak (Aki-no-mine) in Haguro in 1963. At each step of the three periods. At the signal of a loud cry by the leader. These red and white pieces of cloth are said to symbolize the Great Mother's blood vessels. streams.59 THE MOUNTAIN AS AXIS MUNDI Frequently." or of pilgrimages into the Great Mother's womb. 1950). pp. cry loudly "Woo-oo. Finally. Moto-haguro ("Original Haguro"). the dhuta practices are usually performed at the rapids. After this. and secret knowledge of Shugen-do. For example. He makes his final confession here and purifies himself by the sacred waterfall. which is the axis mundi according to cosmologies in various parts of the world. different from the normal mountain ascetic's robes of yellowish-brown color. 37-56. which was probably influenced by Tibetan Lamaism and the ancient Babylonian world view. degrees. the axis 59 Ansh5 Togawa. After this. Haguro Yamabushi to Minkan-shinko ("Mountain Ascetics of the Haguro Shugen-do Sect and Folk Beliefs") (Tsuruoka. or waterfalls which flow down from the mountaintop. each novice is led to the most sacred valley. The novices as well as the leader wear white robes.Mountains and Their Importance (Ningen). 136 (1953). "Haguro Shugen no Nyubu ShugyS" (on religious austerities in the mountains of Haguro Shugen-dS). Togawa. and Heaven (Tenjo) into the Great Womb Store. the novices are believed to be reborn as new mountain ascetics from the womb store and have conferred upon them certificates giving the mountain ascetics new names. and the twisted hemp threads symbolize her bones. This shout is called the first cry of a child at birth (ubu-goe). Because the religious austerities of the autumn peak are those of the "womb store." and run downhill to the main seminary in Toge-mura at midslope. No. 20 . in the center of the hall red and white pieces of cloth about one meter long hang from the ceiling about which twisted hemp yarns are wrapped. the novices spring up suddenly. several mysteries and dhita practices are performed.

. In Japan. pp. After a moment he was choked. where Monjushiri manifested himself for our benefit" (see Ennin [Jikaku Daishi]." Shiden-bu [part of History and Biographies]. Harva.mundi is the mountain of gold which contains from seven to nine stages of heaven. 1963].D. op. 75-79. cit. Eliade. "Nihon RySi-ki. more poetically. 1950).D. the highest stage being the throne of the Supreme Deity of the universe. Mironov and Shirokogoroff." in Nihon Koten Zensho. he suddenly felt an extreme inner heat. cit. Nitto Guho Junrei-ko-ki (record of a pilgrimage to China in search of the law). XXV [rev. He wrote: "This then is the region of Monjushiri (Bodhisattva Manjusri). Shirokogoroff.. 62 In the "Nihon RySi-ki. 1955]. In China. On looking at them from afar. our tears flowed involuntarily. "Mount Clear and Cool"]. translation with annotations. Mount Yoshino was significantly called Kinpu-sen ("Mount Golden Peak") or. We are more certain.. 259-419. The trees and strange flowers are unlike those anywhere else. and they look like overturned bronze bowls. 61 According to Ennin's diary. op. M. His throat and tongue were parched with thirst.. Ennin (Jikaku Daishi. Wu-tai-shan. Vol.. Reischauer. The author of the "Nihon-Ryoi-ki" commented that the Paradise of the Golden Mountain might be Wu-tai-shan. Tokyo. however. A. and it is a most unusual region. in "Kokuyaku Issai Kyo.63 60 S." compiled by a Buddhist monk in the early Heian Period (early ninth century). Kane-no-mitake or Mikane-no-take ("Divine Peak of Gold"). 1935). Ch'ing-liang [Shoryo in Japanese. Psychomental Complex of the Tungus (London. ed. monk said that he sacred was Vajradhara [Shucup kongo-jin in Japanese] and permanently resided in the cave in order to guard the From the summit was Law. pp. his breathing almost stopped. that from ancient times Mount Yoshino has been considered the symbol of the cosmic mountain.. literally. 63 We can read a very interesting description in the Doken Sh6nin Meido-ki (record of the pilgrimage into the other world by the Buddhist monk Doken) which was quoted in the Fuso Ryakki compiled in the latter Heian Period. Nitto Guho Junrei Koki. and his soul left his body to roam about.61 It so happened that during the Heian Period a belief developed among Japanese Buddhists that Wu-tai-shan in China was really the paradise of the Golden Mountain of Buddhist cosmology.. 214).. he climbed up the Paradise of the Golden Mountain and met there the late Prince Shotoku and the Buddhist saint GySgi.. His soul then met a Buddhist monk who came out of a cave and gave D6ken's soul a The Buddhist of water. This then is the gold-colored world of Mt. under the influence of Buddhism. 840. There are no trees to be seen on the rounded heights of the five summits.D.. came to be regarded as the abode of Monjushiri. p..62 There is not sufficient evidence as yet to trace a causal relationship between the belief in Mount Yoshino as the peak of gold and Wu-tai-shan as the golden world of Monjushiri. Ennin's Diary. Shamanism. he able to observe the whole universe ~akya-muni 21 . Doken wrote: "At noon on the second day of the eighth month [of A. Otomo-no-Yasuko tells of his mysterious pilgrimages to the Other World after his sudden fainting. See Ky6kai. annotated by Yfkichi Takeda (Tokyo: Asahi Press. The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law [New York.60 A similar view has been held by the Buddhist tradition which regards the sacred mountain of Meru or Sumeru as the center of the universe. 941] when Doken had practiced religious austerities. 794-864) arrived at the foot of Wu-tai-shan on the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month in A. Edwin O.

or a passageway from this world to the next. ascension to heaven. Sogo Nihon Minzoku Goi ("Synthetic Vocabularies of Japanese Folklore") (Tokyo.. In this connection we should note the existence of the Nibu. buddhas. Doken powerful magic. a Tendai monk and the teacher of Genku (Honen Shonin) of the Pure Land School.. pp. 1932]. such as the cause of the disasters in this world. or the meeting place of the living and the dead. "Kokushi Taikei. the incarnation of Sakya-muni and the main deity of Mount Yoshino. from the profane to the sacred and from earth to heaven. 66 Kunio Yanagita. and new knowledge. In Japan it is significant that these motifs are integrally related to sacred mountains. 85-87. See Fuso-ryakki. or mountain asceticism.. Mircea Eliade." Vol. 1958). had been regarded in the ancient Yamato dynasty as both the cosmic mountain and the divine mother. Shugen-d6. pp. which was located originally at the source of the river Yoshino. mysteries. Zao-bosatsu gave Doken the new name Hozo and Zao-bosatsu also taught made him take a pilgrimage into Hell in the mountain.64 Thus we see that the mountain is believed to be the world of the dead. and a golden light shown over it. 219-22." The second virtuous monk sat on this altar and said to Doken that he was Zao-bosatsu. and that this world was the Pure Land of Mount Golden Peak [Kinpu]. later the mountain was worshiped at this shrine as a provider of rain. This mountain was the highest. below. 1952). which now mean a stack of rice straw. I.Mountains and Their Importance SOME PRELIMINARY CONCLUSIONS The mountain beliefs in Japan as illustrated above show a typological similarity to shamanic beliefs of the archaic period in other parts of the world. and the mysteries were performed on this mountain to gain possession of magical power. 65 The terms nibu or nifu in Japanese folk vocabulary mean childbirth or pregnancy. 64 Cf. The mountain is also believed to be the world of the spirits and the world of the deities. in his Niiname no Kenkyu ("Studies on the Harvest Festivals") (Tokyo.D. It had been an important holy site for magicoreligious initiation. "Ine no Ubuya" ("Delivery Hut of the Rice-plant"). XII [Tokyo. Fuso-ryakki was originally thirty volumes of chronological records from the earliest times to the reign of Emperor Horikawa (reigned 10861106) which was compiled by K6en (d. Kunio Yanagita (ed. 22 . nifu. or nyi. III. which are both the object of religious worship and the arena of religious practices. 1941).65 According to Yanagita. and the ground was pure and completely flat.or Nifu-Kawakami Shrine.). In the north there is a mountain of gold which has an altar made of seven treasures. Mount Yoshino. was built on just these primitive but fundamental common beliefs in mountains. 1148. or bodhisattvas.66 niho. 1169). where shamans and ascetics must undergo the austerities of hell to receive the powers and blessings of paradise and where souls of the dead also must undergo initiation in order to enter paradise or Buddha's Pure Land. and descent to the netherworld are prominent. A. in which such motifs as magical heat. rejuvenator and guardian of the mysteries of life. for example. 22. Birth and Rebirth (Chicago.

Therefore. These mountain goddesses were first worshiped by the hunting tribes.had the original meaning of the delivery hut of the rice plant or rice child. I have already mentioned the mountain goddess of Mount K6ya. Kariba-myojin. The hunting rituals on the mountains performed by the professional hunters were clearly formed under the influence of Shugen-do. There is some evidence that the sacred mountains occupied by mountain ascetics were exploited at first by leaders or magicians among the hunters. and her divine son. Nibu-tsu-hime. 23 . has preserved many features of ancient shamanism which can be traced to the prehistoric period of Japan. Japanese mountain worship. it seems that the mountain goddess was originally the goddess of reproduction both of plants and animals. Also we can find many places named Nibu or Nifu or Niu in Japan which without exception are located at river sources or watersheds. And there is an intimate connection between mountain ascetics and the hunters. then by the farmers. as well as of human beings. though historically colored by Shugen-d5 and Tantric Buddhism.