Shugendō practitioners in the mountains of Kumano, Mie

Shugendō (修験道) is a highly [2]


  • History 1
  • Followers 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


With its origins in the solitary practitioners (hijiri) in the 7th century, Shugendō evolved as a sort of amalgamation between Vajrayana, Shinto and several other religious influences including Taoism. Buddhism and Shinto were amalgamated in shinbutsu-shūgō, and Kūkai's syncretic religion held wide sway up until the end of the Edo period, coexisting with indigenous elements within Shugendō.[3]

In 1613 during the Edo period, the Tokugawa shogunate issued a regulation obliging Shugendō temples to declare allegiance either to Shingon Buddhism or Tendai.

During the Meiji Restoration, when Shinto was declared an independent state religion separate from Buddhism, shugendō was banned as a superstition not fit for a new, enlightened Japan. Some Shugendō temples converted themselves into various officially approved Shintō denominations.

In modern times, shugendō is practiced mainly in Tendai and Shingon temples, retaining an influence on modern Japanese religion and culture. Some temples include Kimpusen-ji in Yoshino (Tendai), Ideha Shrine in the Three Mountains of Dewa and Daigo-ji in Kyoto (Shingon).


Those who practice shugendō are referred to in two ways. One term, shugenja (修験者), is derived from the term shugendō, literally meaning "a person of training and testing", i.e. "a person of shugen." The other term, yamabushi (山伏), means "one who lies in the mountains". Supernatural creatures often appeared as yamabushi in Japanese myths and folklore, as is evident in tales of the legendary warrior monk Saitō Musashibō Benkei and the deity Sōjōbō, king of the tengu (mountain spirits). Shugendō practitioners are the most direct lineage descendants of the ancient Kōya Hijiri monks of the eight and ninth centuries.[4]

Modern shugenja in Japan and throughout the world are known to self-actualize their spiritual power in experiential form through challenging and rigorous ritualistic tests of courage and devotion known as shugyō. Pilgrimages involving mountain treks are embarked upon by shugenja and, through the experience of each trek, as well as years of study, "rank" is earned within the sect. The rituals are kept secret from the neophyte shugenja and the world at large. This denju ensures the true faith of the neophytes and maintains the fear of the unknown as they embark upon the austere journey. This secrecy was also borne out of previous episodes of persecution and oppression of shugenja as a threat to the ruling military hegemony. Many modern shugenja maintain the practice of relative anonymity in their daily lives.

See also


  1. ^ P. F. Kornicki; I. J. McMullen (8 February 1996). Religion in Japan: Arrows to Heaven and Earth. Cambridge University Press. pp. 13–.  
  2. ^ Picken, Stuart D.B. (1994). Essentials of Shinto: An Analytical Guide to Principal Teachings. Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Press. p. 199.  
  3. ^ Miyake, Hitoshi. Shugendo in History. pp45–52.
  4. ^ Blacker, Carmen (1999). The Catalpa Bow. UK: Japan Library. pp. 165–167.  

Further reading

  • Faure, Bernard, Moerman, D. Max, Sekimori, Gaynor, eds. Shugendō: The History and Culture of a Japanese Religion. Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie, vol. 18, 2012. ISBN 978-2-8553-9123-6.
  • Gill, Andrea K. (2012). "Shugendō: Pilgrimage and Ritual in a Japanese Folk Religion", Pursuit – The Journal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Tennessee: Vol. 3: Iss. 2, 49–65.
  • McMullen, James P.; Kornicki, Peter F. (1996). Religion in Japan: arrows to heaven and earth. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 120–121.  
  • Miyake, Hitoshi. The Mandala of the Mountain: Shugendō and Folk Religion. Tokyo: Keio University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-4-7664-1128-7.
  • Miyake Hitoshi, Religious rituals in Shugendo: A summary, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 16 (2–3), 101–116, 1989. PDF

External links

  • Shugendo—Official Shugendo web site in English & French of "Shugendo France" association, member of "Union Bouddhiste de France" (French Buddhism Union) for French government (French)
  • A Look at Japanese Ascetic Practice
  • Christian Grübl, A Austrian Yamabushi Monk, Shugendo in Japan
  • Head Temple Takao-san Yakuo-in Central Shugendo Training Center in Kanto
  • 天台寺門宗|修験道
  • Shugen: The Autumn Peak of Haguro Shugendo
  • Mount Fuji and Shugendo