Explaining the Shugendo religion would be a job for a book, not a blog post. But let’s just say it’s a colourful mix of Buddhism, Japan’s ancient Shinto religion, and even more ancient native animism.
Shugendo’s adherents are known as Yamabushi – men (and a few women) who undertake arduous ascetic training in the mountains. Favourite Yamabushi activities include hiking for miles on end, standing under waterfalls and walking on hot coals.
These photos are from a press-tour to Dewa-Sanzan in Yamagata, famous for its three Shugendo mountains. As you can see there was some great weather and I got lots of photos of our Yamabushi guide on two of the mountains: Haguro-san and Gassan.
Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed at the third, Yudono-san. That was truly an incredible place, mysterious in the mist and rain. But you’ll have to visit yourself to see it!