How To Practice Shugendo

Shugendo is a Japanese spiritual tradition that combines elements of Buddhism and Shinto. It is a discipline that involves physical and spiritual training and is often practiced in Japan's mountain forests and temples.

If you are interested in practicing Shugendo, here are a few things you might consider:

  1. Learn about the history and teachings of Shugendo: Understanding the principles and practices of Shugendo can help you better understand what it means to be a practitioner. You can read about the history and teachings of Shugendo, or talk to someone who has experience with the tradition.

  2. Find a teacher or mentor: It is generally recommended to find a teacher or mentor who can guide you in your practice of Shugendo. This person can provide you with instruction, support, and guidance as you learn and grow in your practice.

  3. Engage in physical and spiritual training: Shugendo involves both physical and spiritual training. Physical training may include things like hiking, climbing, and other outdoor activities. Spiritual training may involve meditation, prayer, and other spiritual practices.

  4. Find a community: Connecting with others who are interested in Shugendo can be a helpful and supportive way to practice. You may be able to find a local community of practitioners, or connect with others online.

  5. Be patient and persistent: As with any spiritual practice, it can take time to develop your skills and understanding. Be patient and persistent in your practice, and remember that progress often happens gradually.

The practices of Shugendo

The chief practice of Shugendo is “practices in the mountains”, or nyūbu shugyō, especially since mountains are viewed as the supernatural home for various deities.

According to Miyake Hitoshi, an author who is knowledgeable about the practice of Shugendo, there are 3 main ways that Shugendo is practiced:

  1. Entering the mountains to make offerings, read, or burn sutras, and so on.
  2. Entering the mountain for some time, much like what Prince Hachiko did. This type of practice allows practitioners to receive knowledge and gain insights from the mountain deities
  3. Wintertime retreat in the mountains. This kind of practice is the more advanced and challenging one, where it is said that practitioners who do so will be conferred special spiritual powers.

Another important practice of Shugendo is the demonstration of magical and spiritual powers (genjutsu, 験 術). These practices can include fire walking and even walking on swords!

Yet another commonly seen, and important, practice of Shugendo would be the rituals of worship towards deities, which would include making offerings to mountain deities, as well as chanting sutras.

How to kickstart your religious journey

If readers are interested in the religion of Shugendo, read on to find out how you can dapple in this religion and learn more about it.

Traditionally, Mount Omine, a sacred mountain located in Nara, Japan, is the main sanctuary and training grounds for Shugendo. Paying a visit to the mountain would be a valuable experience in the pursuit of Shugendo as a religion. The mountain stretches 100km from north to south and was historically the biggest place to practice Shugendo. There are 75 areas to conduct Shugendo practices along the mountain trail. Additionally, the Ominesan-ji Temple which is at the peak of Mount Omine stands tall at an altitude of 1719m. This temple is considered to be the highest sacred site of Shugendo in Japan.

However, one thing to note is that as of now, Mount Omine does not allow women to enter due to traditional reasons, stating that women are a distraction to a sacred mountain. As such, women who wish to learn more about Shugendo can instead pay a visit to shrines and temples, especially Tendai and Shingon temples. Some note-worthy temples would be Kimpusen-ji in Yoshino, Ideha Shrine in the Three Mountains of Dewa, and Daigo-ji in Kyoto.

What is Shugendo?

Shugendo is a religion that originated in Japan. It is a highly syncretic religion, meaning that it is influenced by multiple beliefs and schools of thought. Shugendo is mainly the amalgamation of folk practices, Shinto, and Buddhism.

Interestingly, in Japan’s Meiji Era, the government erected a barrier between Shinto and Buddhism. Shugendo was then unacceptable due to the fact that it was an amalgamation between these two religions, and the government officially forbade Shugendo in 1872. However, after the Second World War, religious freedom gained popularity, and hence Shugendo was revived as a religion.

The doctrine of Shugendo revolves around mountains, where practitioners of this faith are to conduct their practices in some of Japan’s most sacred mountains. It is believed that via these practices, practitioners will be able to gain supernatural powers, saving themselves and those around them.

The History of Shugendo

Shugendo originates from the experience of an ancient royal, Prince Hachiko. Following the assassination of his father, he fled to the Dewa Province and was warmly welcomed due to the fact that he brought the gift of grains with him.

Unfortunately, the village was later struck with a disease that no one could figure out or cure. Prince Hachinko took to the nearby mountains, Mt. Haguro. He spent 100 days in solitude and was one with nature, praying for a solution. He is said to have received a revelation from a mountain deity and was able to find a solution to rid of the disease that plagued the village.

Prince Hachiko, grateful for the wisdom and help that the mountain deities had bestowed upon him, devoted himself to the worship of mountains. From there, Shugendo continued to develop and spread throughout Japan.

We hope that this has taught you more about the religion of Shugendo, and perhaps piqued your interest in this religion!

Aokigahara Forest is an incredibly captivating place due to its dark beauty. We will explore why this place has become so notorious, and why tourists and hikers are drawn to visit despite its dark past.

We also cover different running routes around Kyoto that are perfect for creating your own sightseeing tour on foot. From cultural experiences near shrines and temples to scenic mountain trails covered with cherry blossoms in springtime, these four routes will take your running experience in Kyoto to a whole new level!


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