WHAT IS YAMABUSHIDO TRAINING?
Yamabushido is a collection of training programs in the way of Shugendo, one of Japan’s most ancient and transformative practices.
Our programs consist of authentic Yamabushi training, under the direction of a 13th generation Yamabushi master, Master Hoshino. The programs are held on some of Japan’s most sacred mountains, the Dewa Sanzan in Yamagata Prefecture, four hours north of Tokyo.
It’s a non-verbal training which you will take back into your lives with a renewed sense of power, a new understanding of your potential, and a new ability to cut through obstacles that might be in your path.
You’ll gain the ability to disconnect yourself from distractions, from the chatter inside your head, from noise and stress. You’ll have the powerful opportunity to begin again, by letting go of anything in your life that needs to be left in the mountain. And to begin again as a fresh, empowered version of yourself, armed with resilience, strength, and a fearless smile.
These programs are specially arranged for international visitors based on a program that has been operating for many years only for Japanese speakers. Shugendo is not for everyone, nor is the path of the Yamabushi. It is one of Japan’s most ancient and esoteric traditions, and it is demanding. But if you would like to be part of it, we invite you to get in touch.
Shugendo is an ancient belief with its origins in 8th Century Japan. It is a fusion of Shinto, Buddhism, Animism, and mountain faith. Shugendo has always been a path for those who want to strip away the excesses of the world, and who want to understand themselves better by immersing themselves in the power and strength of the natural world.
The Yamabushi are the ancient mountain priests of Japan. Their traditional role was to help guide people to find their true nature, and to teach discipline and the way of the warrior. Although they are mostly hidden from public life these days, and their numbers are few, the work they do has not changed. What they offer to the world is now more relevant than ever.
Four-day experience that takes place on all three of the Dewa Sanzan: Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan, and Mt.Yudono. Includes waterfall meditation. Only limited places available.
Two-day Yamabushi experience under the direction of a certified Yamabushi guide that takes place on Mt. Haguro and Mt. Kinbō. This program has less physical demand than the Full Yamabushi Training, yet maintains the waterfall meditation.
Yamabushido programs are entirely experiential. The only way to truly appreciate them is by experiencing them, so we purposely do not explain too much.
Our programs are open to all genders. Basic instructions in English will be given by the support guide throughout the training, and basic English support will be offered.
Visitors who speak Japanese can also enrol in the Japanese-only version if they prefer.
What you will do
You will experience traditional Yamabushi activities including:
- Hiking in the sacred Dewa Sanzan area
- Zazen meditation
- Reciting mantras
- Prayers for peace and well-being
- Waterfall meditation
- Night walking
- Jumping over fire
- Visiting sacred shrines (some not open to the general public)
- Accommodation in a traditional Shugendo Shukubo pilgrim lodge
And some other activities which – although not secret – are part of a Shugendo tradition of not being fully explained to those who are not initiated.
At the heart of the Yamabushi practice is the concept of UKETAMŌ. Uketamō means “I accept with open heart”, and through this idea we drop the idea of expectation, and of thinking in a typical way, and experience something more powerful, the ability to live without knowing what might happen next, the ability to improvise. And the ability not to worry, to just enjoy the experience of this moment.
All Yamabushido Programs are supervised by Master Hoshino, a famous local Yamabushi priest, and the 13th generation of his family to follow this vocation. Master Hoshino lives in and runs Daishōbō, a pilgrim lodge located at the foot of Mt. Haguro.
He has dedicated his life to living as a Yamabushi, introducing many people from all over the world to its mystical power.
His approach to the Yamabushi tradition is grounded in deep tradition, but also made deeply relevant to the way we live our lives today.
* Master Hoshino may not be present with the group throughout the whole program
DAISHOBO PILGRIM LODGE
Daishobo pilgrim lodge is an important Shugendo location. Until recently, the pilgrim lodges were reserved for Shugendo initiates, but with our training the doors are open to you too.
Daishobo is renowned for its excellent traditional Shojin Ryori (ascetic cuisine) meals. It is also a place of Buddhist and Shinto worship, including meditation, incantation and distribution of talismans of protection. Daishobo is a certificated Sange community pilgrim lodge, and has been providing Yamabushi training for more than 20 years based on Shugendo.
THE SHONAI REGION IN YAMAGATA
One of the most secluded regions in Japan
Yamagata Prefecture’s Shonai region has prospered as a historically and culturally-significant area with three distinct cultures; Jokamachi, the area surrounding the castle walls, Sangakushinko, the mountain ascetic culture, and Minatomachi, the culture around the sea port. Due to these three distinct cultures, the area developed a wide diversity and tolerance for cultural differences.
Holy mountains in Shonai
The Dewa Sanzan
The Dewa Sanzan is a sacred mountain range in northeastern Japan consisting of Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan, and Mt. Yudono. It is renowned for its biodiversity, mystical scenery, and rituals of spiritual rebirth. Traditionally and among select groups today, the Dewa Sanzan is a unique hub of animistic Shinto and Buddhist fusion, where different forms of Japanese spirituality blend into one.
Learn more at DewaSanzan.com
Mt. Haguro was founded over 1,400 years ago as one of the three Sacred Mountains, and is where Haguro Shugendo is said to have been founded. Until the Meiji Era (1868 onwards) Shintoism, Buddhism, and Shugendo were worshipped together on the Dewa Sanzan. Then, the Meiji government enacted an ordinance calling for the abolishment of any religion besides Shintoism.
This lead to widespread destruction of many Buddhist artefacts throughout the country. However, at this time, the Dewa Sanzan switched to strictly Shintoism (besides a few temples on Mt. Yudono), meaning few of the buildings survived. After WWII, freedom of religious expression was reenacted, and Buddhism, Shintoism, and Shugendo were allowed to be practiced freely on the Dewa Sanzan again.
Founded 1,400 years ago, Mt. Kinbo is another famous Shugendo training ground in Shonai. Kinbo shrine at the top of Mt. Kinbō was a sacred spot for the Lords of Shonai in 17th century. Since then, its popularity has died down, however Mt. Kinbo is seeing a resurgence amongst younger generations in recent years.
Japan’s Galapagos Islands
The Shonai Region
The Shonai region is like the Galapagos Islands in that it has been very isolated from the rest of Japan, both culturally and geographically.
During the Edo Era (1603-1868), the Shonai region supported the Bakufu Tokugawa government against the new Imperial government. This caused the Shonai region to develop industrialization at a much slower rate compared to the rest of the country. The people of Shonai prided themselves in their traditional skills. They prioritzed tradition over the modern industrialization that the rest of the country so eagerly embraced. These traditional skills are still maintained to this day.
The Shonai region is also geographically isolated from other main areas of Japan. Once the snow fell, all paths leading to Shonai were closed off. This isolation allowed the people to continue the traditional arts in their original form, without turning to the mass production and mass consumption of the Industrial Age. In these ways, the Shonai region developed a greater tolerance for cultural diversity.
UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy
Thanks to its unique food culture, Tsuruoka City was designated as Japan’s only Creative City of Gastronomy in 2016. The main reasons for this designation are the Dewa Sanzan’s unique Shojin Ryori (ascetic cuisine), the large variety of heirloom vegetables, vegetables only passed down among the same families, and the variety of geographical features in the city such as the Dewa Sanzan mountains, the plains, and the Sea of Japan.
HOW WE RUN YAMABUSHIDO
The cost of our services includes the cost of maintaining the precious local culture which is a fundamental part of the Yamabushi tradition. As a result, we are committed to paying the proper costs to support and maintain the local culture (i.e. Pilgrim Lodges, Shinto Shrines, Hotels, Local Food Culture including farmers.)
We return 10% of our sales to the local community to be spent on maintaining the cultural assets you see during your training. These include the stone steps and cedar forest on Mt. Haguro, the thatched roofs of the Dewa Sanzan shrines, and the general preservation of the mountain paths.
We support diversity of culture. In Japan, as elsewhere, the rise of the global economy is threatening the uniqueness of certain local cultures, and their traditional ways. UNESCO has started a new designation system called ‘Creative Cities’ to maintain and develop Cultural Diversities for cities all over the world. We support this initiative.
Options and customized experiences are also available.