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Dewa sanzan (Yamagata-ken) [E]
 
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Alessandro
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Sat Aug 12, 2006 3:24 am Back to top

Dewa sanzan are three sacred mountains, and one of the most beautiful places in Japan. They are situated in Yamagata prefecture, and if you want to climb them all, summer is the season to go: I went there in October 2005 and it was already impossible to climb Gassan.








G WHITE

Gassan (月山)



Y WHITE

Yunodo-san (湯殿山)



H WHITE

Haguro-san (羽黒山)



M RED

Miyashita shukubo





Image 234



I went there after reading on another website : "Some places are so wonderful that they are almost impossible to write about"; and I think that's right about this place.

I will post several parts concerning the different places I visited: Yodon-san, Gassan, Haguro-san and also a final part dedicated to shukubo. Shukubo, or temple lodging, is a good way to sleep at low cost in places like Nara or Kyoto (or Dewa sanzan), while having a really traditional experience. For example, I stayed in a shinto shukubo and had a fire ceremony at 6:00 in the morning.


Hope to get you interested with those few introduction lines. The first part will be Yodono-san.

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Alessandro
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:32 pm Back to top

As promised, the first part will be dedicated to Yodono-san, but first a small comment: as I said in the introduction, the climbing season for some of the mountains was already over, so we could not go to the top of Yodona-san. We planned to sleep later that day in a shukubo (which will be the last part of the post), and they organize everything for us because it was a low season period: they came to Yamagata station, picked up us there and drove us to Yodono-san. I will try to find information on how to get there by bus and complete my message later.

So we arrived there by car driven by one member of the shukubo, and saw this impressive gate just in front of us. There you can find the usual souvenir shop with the usual food (soba mainly), and also a little bus to drive you a little bit up the road. We choose to walk and really weren’t prepare at all for what came.

Image 235 Image 236



I unfortunately have no picture of the temple: it was strictly forbidden to take any, and the guy from shukubo gently asked me to put my camera back in my bag; so you will have to trust my words. There, understanding nearly nothing, our guide asked us to take off our shoes, and a monk put on our head a stick with some white paper to purify us; after that only were we allowed entering the temple.

I said temple, but it was not exactly a temple, rather a very strange hot spring. It looks like - sorry for the term - a nipple out of the soil made by a kind of light brown clay with hot water bubbling out of its top. It was a little cold in the temple without shoes, but we could put our feet inside the hot water and watch this very strange phenomenon, which is a holy representation of the power of nature. We finally received a cup of sake from the monk, and quietly climb down to the main gate again.


Next post will be Gassan.

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Alessandro
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Thu Aug 24, 2006 12:44 pm Back to top

After visiting Yodono-san, we went in direction of Gassan. As I said before, the season was already close for the mountain, but as you will read, there are also interesting things to see around. So here I will speak about Japanese mummy, and just forget everything you know about Egyptian mummy, it's totally different.

Of course no picture inside the temple, so for you just the front gate

Image 237


There are three mummies, but only one can be seen; they are not prepare like in old Egypt after the death of the person, but here in Japan, one decides to become a mummy and during about 15 years, follows a special diet eating nuts and vegetable, and lives alone in the surrounding mountains. When the person gets thin enough with that diet, eating and drinking less and less, and when he feels the death is very close, he drinks a special beverage. I don't know exactly what that beverage is made of, but over there the monk explain me it's the same compound used to make the red color inside the japanese bowl, if you know what I mean.
After the drink, the person dies and they don't need anymore to make some body preparation like in Egypt as with this regime, he is already like a mummy. Here the main point - I think - is to understand why a person decides to spend about 15 years alone with such a diet awaiting death. It seems that when he will die and become a mummy, his body with be empowered so he can help other people, protect them, heal them...

Interesting no? Next will be Haguro-san.

And just for you, because I feel you very interested, a picture from another web site on this subject...


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Alessandro
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Sun Sep 03, 2006 9:08 am Back to top

Thanks very much for the information about the mummies Sanji, and I'm very happy that even with my bad Japanese, I understood quite well the explanation of the monk over there.

Image 238So, now the third part concerning Haguro-san. After staying at the Shukubo (temple lodging, don’t miss my next mail about that), we began the way up to Haguro-san consisting of a beautiful trek (2446 steps) up the mountain through a forest covered by gorgeous old cedar trees. It is also said that you can find 33 carvings in the steps up the mountain which are said to bring good luck to anyone who finds them. Must be unlucky, because I didn’t fine any, or perhaps was to concentrate on keeping my rhythm and some air in my lungs. As soon as you begin the walk, you’ll find a waterfall and one of the oldest pagoda in Japan




At the beginning it’s quite flat and very refreshing to walk

Image 239 Image 244 Image 240



After about 1 hours, 1 hours and a half, we arrived at the top where you can find the temple. This place is quite famous for one reason, it was a kind of secret place where the emperor can hide in case of danger, or send his family over there to be protected, for example during a war. I think also that some mummies can be found in the temple, but we didn’t had access to them. Anyway, when we arrive at the top, I felt something like quietness and happiness at the same time and for me it is one of the few place in the world where you can have this kind of feeling.

Image 241 Image 242 Image 243



That’s all for today, but next part will also be interesting I hope, speaking about fire ceremony in the Shukubo.

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Savannah
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Sat Oct 21, 2006 11:44 pm Back to top

Dear Alessandro,
thank you for your extremely interesting description of your trip to the three sacred mountains. Now I am awaiting impatiently your mail on the Shukubo - with lots of detail, I hope, that would be great. Or have you already written it? (I am new, so maybe I just have not found it).
Best regards Savannah

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Alessandro
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Sat Nov 04, 2006 11:12 am Back to top

Welcome Savannah, here it comes, the last part about temple lodging...


Image 245If you want to learn about Japanese religion, observe a Buddhist or Shinto ceremony, or stay in a wonderful, friendly place with an amazing atmosphere where you can really relax a have a good think, then stay at a shukubo and enjoy delicious shojin ryori (vegetarian food).
Shukubo (temple lodging), can be find all over Japan. I went to Yamagata-ken and stayed at the Miyashita family shukubo. All the members were very nice with us really thanks them for everything.
I have to say, it can be unusual for them to receive foreigners and even Japanese Smile without any knowledge of Japanese religions. But they were very open-minded, helpful, and answering any kind of questions we had.

Just at the beginning of the trek up to Hagura-san, you can find a little village with a lot of shukubo. I will add later information about how to go there, name of place, and all sort of useful things.
The place we stayed at was a Shinto shukubo, but for example if you decide to go to Koya-san in Wakayama prefecture (read also the post by sanji about the mummies), you will stay in Buddhist shukubo. The food was interesting, based on vegetables and mushrooms (with a taste of meat). Here is a picture of the diner we had.

Image 246



Various room with different size can be find in the shukubo from 4 people to about 50 people. Also take care that if you go there with your girlfriend you will have to sleep in separate room.
After a quiet night, we woke up early morning for the fire ceremony where they burn some stick of wood (we wrote our name previously on) to purify the people attending. Also during this ceremony, they put some paper over the fire and - with some kind of power the priest possesses - this paper will not burn. I still have the paper at my home; it was given to me after the ceremony as a talisman to protect my house from fire. Believe it or not but after 3 years still no fire occurred!

Image 247 Image 248



I really think that to stay in a shukubo is an interesting approach to understand the two main religions in Japan (Buddhism and Shinto). We were also lucky to go there during the low season; the ceremony, normally attended by 100 persons, was only for us.

Here are the details of this shukubo :

Name : Miyashita shukubo (宮下坊)
Address : 山形県鶴岡市羽黒町手向223番地
Telephone : 0235-62-2371
Internet : www.syukubou.jp

Hope you like this part, and I will try to post information on how to go there.

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sanji
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Wed Feb 21, 2007 6:53 am Back to top

Thanks Alessandro for this interesting post.

I thought I would add for information on those Buddhist mummies, which are quite a rarity in this world... In fact, when scientist started to study those mummies, they were very surprised to observed that they still had their internal organs in place, unlike Egyptian mummies whose organs are removed to preserve the rest of the body.

The process of self-mummification (即身仏, Sokushinbutsu) is said to have been pioneered by Kukai (774-835), the founder of the Shingon esoteric Buddhism whose headquarters are in Koya-san, and later developed by his followers in the three following steps:

- First, for a period of 1000 days, the priest follow a strict diet, surviving only on nuts and seeds; this lead to a body with a minimum of fluid in it, and no more body fat which tend to decompose quickly after death;
- Then, for 1000 other days, only roots and barks from pine trees are consumed, lowering further the weight of the priest who looks at that stage like a skeleton. At the end of this period, he is also drinking tea made from the sap of lacquer trees (called urushi in Japanese); this extract contains a diuretic poisonous substance which reduce the body fluid to the minimum amount;
- Finally, the priest takes place in stone room which will become his grave, with just some supply of air but neither food nor drink; he just rings a bell on a regular basis to let others know he is still alive; when the ringing stops, the tomb is first sealed, and then opened later to check whether the self-mummification was effective.

The biggest problem to succeed such operation is the need to ensure the body would not be destroyed after the death by maggots, for example. The consumption of poison is therefore needed. Some suggests that since some of the water found in Yamagata-ken near the temples contains an important quantity of arsenic, the accumulation of poison in the body during the years of privation allows the success of the procedure. Still, most priests who attempted self-mummification did not succeed, dying during the privation period or being unable to prevent decomposition of their body.

Nowadays, there are about 20 Buddhist mummies in Japan. Half of the mummies are located in Yamagata-ken.

You can find a list of them here, with addresses, price and a small description, all in Japanese. The latest priest to die that way did so in 1903 (仏海上人, Holy Bukkai in the Kannon Temple of Murakami, Niigata-ken).




Some readings:

Buddhist Mummies of Japan : excellent resource with many explanations.

Daruma Forum Articles : with information from many web sites, a very interesting resource in English.

Life of Kukai

A comprehensive article by Sylvain Guintard
(French version available here)

Hope you will find that informative. I have just included one small picture of a mummy, as some might find it a little... too hard to look at. You can find some on the above mentionned links.


sanji


Last edited by sanji on Wed Feb 21, 2007 6:53 am; edited 3 times in total

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Yamashita
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Mon Jan 14, 2008 7:02 pm Back to top

Thank you very much for very interresting topic.
I was told that there is an oportunity to participate in activities of yamabushi in Dewa Sanzan. Could you tell me, please, thomething about this. If it's not possible could you tell me some details on shukubo wich you talking about - may be e-mail, phone number or adress (how to find it)

I'm a newcomer on this forum. I've got over there when were searching information about Dewa Sanzan.
What's concerning to me I'm doing traditional kenjutsu Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu for six years, interesting in shingon, shugendo etc. This spring I'm going to Japan for training with Otake Sensey. And I'm going to visit some interesting places after this. If you could say more about actaul place's of yamabushi and shugenja in modern Japan I'd really appreciate it.

I do apologise for my english, cause I have a lack of practice for a long time

With respect,
Sergey

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Alessandro
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:24 am Back to top

Dear Yamashita,

If you are looking at information about yamabushi, I think that checking wikipedia page is a good idea; they surely know more than me about that subject.

When we went there, we found information about the shukubo on the internet and, after writing them an email, got all details. They can speak English and here is their homepage : Miyashita shukubo
You will find a link at the top of that page to mail them.

Hope this is what you were looking for, if you have a chance to go there I think it really worth it.

(PS : also excuse me for my English, my mother language is French Confused )

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Yamashita
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Tue Jan 15, 2008 8:18 am Back to top

Thank you very much for useful information about shukubo.
I would prefer more competent sources rather htan Wiki:-) for example http://www.shugendo.fr/index.html

I can read in french but I couldn't write - I would be quite illiterate:-)Sad Thus I can read you when I write your native language, but I would answer in english if you don't mind:-)

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webero
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Thu Oct 02, 2008 12:13 pm Back to top

It's really awesome these information.
I'm gonna visit Japan in october and I'm very interested in visiting (and lodging if it's possible) Dewa Sanzan.

Do you know where can I do a reservation in a shukubo?

Thank you

Rolling Eyes

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webero
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Thu Oct 02, 2008 12:24 pm Back to top

Oh, sorry!
I've just read the last Alessandro's post.
I'm gonna look for a reservation in another shukubo

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Alessandro
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:41 am Back to top

No problem; if you climb Gassan-san (I was there too late in the season), don't forget to post some comments, pictures on the forum Wink

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graou_hyoga
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:35 am Back to top

I'm just back from Dewa Sanzan. Spent two days there, with trips by night bus from Tokyo to Tsuruoka.

First, I recommend renting a car if you're at least two people. It will prove very useful as the buses are few, expensive and not that handy, especially if you're off climbing season (which is only July-August). You will then be able to access different parts easily and FAST. with buses you'll be stuck to one place a day or so.

I have nothing to add to the Haguro-san part above, it's well described.

- Yudonosan
It is never possible to climb Yudonosan as there is no hiking path to get up there. However you can follow a hiking path which takes you half-way up. This path can be quite difficult (very steep) and should NOT be attempted if it has rained the day before. It is very steep and follows a stream in places -> slippery rocks.

Once you arrive at the top of this path (about 45min to 1h), you have three possibilities:
1- Take the path to the left and go up to Gassan. Count about 2h30 for just the way up, and keep in mind it will get dark around 5pm.
2- Take the path in front: it goes down the other side of the mountain, so obviously you'll need some transportation (can't help you with that, I had a car waiting on the same side of the mountain so...)
3- go back to Yudonosan parking lot


- Gassan
Buses go from Tsuruoka station to Gassan station 8, going through Hagurosan on the way, in July and August only. There are two buses early in the morning and that's it.
If you have a car, the road to the station is open until sometime in autumn (in 2010, until October 20th). after that, the gate at station 4 is closed and you can't get up there.

Now you have two other solutions, until roughly the end of October. The first one is right above, going through Yudonosan.

The other one is to go to Gassan ski resort. It is on the road 112 in direction of Yamagata from Tsuruoka.

Now this is one funky ski resort, since it is closed from November to March. Gassan boasts about ten meters of snow each winter, though it's only 1984m high. Therefore it is plain impossible to open the ski resort before April (when the other resorts in the country are beginning to close, roughly ...!! )
Anyway, after the ski season is over, in July (!!!), the resort stays open to hikers and it's possible to ride the lift up to something like 1500m high. You can always hike the whole distance (much better since you walk through the forest and it's nice). Just take the very small bridge right after the entrance cabin (where you'll pick up a hiking map), go on the left then behind the house. Then follow the path.
It is windy and cold up there, bring warm clothes (should be obvious but there's some kind of micro-climate - the piles of snow must come from somewhere after all).


Accommodation

http://syukubo.com has an English version where you can check various shukubo. You still need someone in Japan to phone for you in Japanese if you can't do it, if you want to make a reservation.
some of them are just like regular ryokan that serve shojin meals. Lots of them are in Hagurosan.


There is a good ryokan that is open all year long below gassan ski resort, in Shizu Onsen. This is the stuff: http://www.gassannoyado.com/
I didn't try the ryokan itself, but we stopped at their onsen... View on the lake with the colors of the autumn, and gassan in the background. splendid. the owner told me they're open even in winter, when they have to deal with around five meters of snow. They apparently have a speciality of cooking mushrooms from the forest around.


Last edited by graou_hyoga on Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:35 am; edited 1 time in total

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katakanadian
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Thu Feb 17, 2011 6:33 am Back to top

I did Dewa-sanzan last summer. Pictures here near the beginning of the set.
We called from the 9th station on Gassan for a taxi to meet us at the 8th station. to take us to Haguro-san. With 4 of us it was cheaper than the bus. We also took the same taxi back to Tsuruoka. He offered to take us for the same fare as the bus but we didn't have to wait an hour an the trip was faster.

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