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Shugendō practitioners (Shugenja) in the mountains of Kumano, Mie
Shugenja model in the Shugendō-Museum of the Shippōryū-ji-Temple (Osaka prefecture)
Ascetic waterfall exercise supervised by a monk (Shippōryū-ji Temple)

Shugendō (修験道, lit. the "Way [of] Trial [&] Practice", the "Way of Shugen, or Gen-practice"[1]) is a highly-syncretic religion, a body of ascetic practices that originated in Heian-era Japan, having evolved during the 7th century from an amalgamation of beliefs, philosophies, doctrines and ritual systems drawn from local folk-religious practices, Taoist and Shinto practices. Practitioners are called Shugenja (修験者), Sōhei (僧兵, literally "[Buddhist] Monk Warrior"), or Yamabushi (山伏, literally "Mountain Prostrator").


Shugendō evolved during the seventh century from an amalgamation of beliefs, philosophies, doctrines and ritual systems drawn from local folk-religious and Shinto practices.[2]

The seventh-century ascetic and mystic En no Gyōja is widely considered as the patriarch of Shugendō, having first organized Shugendō as a doctrine. Shugendō literally means "the path of training and testing" or "the way to spiritual power through discipline."[3][4]

The Meiji government, which erected a barrier between Shinto and Buddhism, ruled that Shugendō was unacceptable because of its amalgamation of the two religions, and officially forbade it in 1872. With the advent of religious freedom in Japan after World War II, Shugendō was revived.[1]

In modern times, Shugendō is practiced mainly through Tendai and Shingon temples.[citation needed] Some temples include Kimpusen-ji in Yoshino (Tendai), Ideha Shrine in the Three Mountains of Dewa and Daigo-ji in Kyoto (Shingon).[citation needed]

Shugendō practitioners are said to be descendants of the Kōya Hijiri monks of the eighth and ninth centuries.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Catherine Cornille (2013). The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Inter-Religious Dialogue. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118529942.
  2. ^ Kornicki, P.F.; McMullen, I. J. (1996). Religion in Japan: Arrows to Heaven and Earth (Reprint ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 13-. ISBN 9780521550284. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  3. ^ Picken, Stuart D.B. (1994). Essentials of Shinto: An Analytical Guide to Principal Teachings. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 99. ISBN 0313264317.
  4. ^ Blacker, Carmen (2000). "16: Initiation in the Shugendō: the Passage Through the Ten States of Existence". Collected Writings of Carmen Blacker. Richmond, Surrey: Japan Library. pp. 186–199. ISBN 9781873410929.
  5. ^ Blacker, Carmen (1999). The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan (3rd ed.). Richmond: Japan Library. pp. 165–167. ISBN 1873410859.

Further reading[edit]

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