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Ubasute no tsuki (The Moon of Ubasute), one of the 100 works in the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Ubasute (姥捨て, "abandoning an old woman", also called obasute and sometimes oyasute 親捨て "abandoning a parent") is a mythical practice of senicide in Japan, whereby an infirm or elderly relative was carried to a mountain, or some other remote, desolate place, and left there to die.[1] Kunio Yanagita concluded that the ubasute folklore comes from India’s Buddhist mythology.[2] According to the Kodansha Illustrated Encyclopedia of Japan, ubasute "is the subject of legend, but…does not seem ever to have been a common custom."[3]


In one Buddhist allegory, a son carries his mother up a mountain on his back. During the journey, she stretches out her arms, catching the twigs and scattering them in their wake, so that her son will be able to find the way home.

A poem commemorates the story:

In the depths of the mountains,
Whom was it for the aged mother snapped
One twig after another?
Heedless of herself
She did so
For the sake of her son

In popular culture[edit]


Ubasute Mountain
Ubasute Mountain

Similar practice in other cultures[edit]


  1. ^ Hoffman, Michael (September 12, 2010). "Aging through the ages". The Japan Times. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  2. ^ Kunio, Yanagita (1991). Tōno Monogatari (遠野物語). Vol. 264. Japan: Shueisha. ISBN 978-4087520194.
  3. ^ Japan, An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993, p. 1121.
  4. ^ Suicide 'epidemic' among Japan's elderly BBC News
  5. ^ 冠着山 長野県の山 信州山学ガイド] (in Japanese)
  6. ^ Hoffman
  7. ^ "Suicide in Japan: Deep in the woods: Fewer Japanese are killing themselves". The Economist. January 30, 2016. p. 45.

Further reading[edit]

  • Japan, An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Kodansha Ltd., Tokyo, 1993, p. 1121

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°28′07″N 138°06′24″E / 36.46861°N 138.10667°E / 36.46861; 138.10667