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Yamabushi (山伏, one who prostrates oneself on the mountain) are Japanese mountain ascetic hermits.[1] They are generally part of the syncretic shugendō religion, which includes Tantric Buddhist, Shinto, and Japanese Taoist elements.[2]

Their origins can be traced back to the solitary Yama-bito and some hijiri () (saints or holy persons) of the eighth and ninth centuries.[3]

According to American writer Frederik L. Schodt:

These positively medieval-looking nature worshipers carry metal staves and conch shells and wear straw sandals and sometimes a hemp cloth over-robe with the Heart Sutra written on it. They follow a mixture of esoteric or tantric Buddhism mixed with Shinto, the native animistic religion of Japan.[4]

Clothing and items

Appearance of the Yamabushi. They wear yuigesa, kyahan, and tokin. They hold a shakujō in their hands, and blow the horagai to prevent evil spirits.

The Yamabushi usually wear and bring the following clothes and items with them:[5][6][7]

  • Yuigesa (結袈裟), a harness or sash adorned with pom-poms
  • Kyahan (脚絆), sandals made from straw
  • Tokin (頭巾) which is a small hat-like adornment worn at the front of the head
  • Shakujō (錫杖), a metal rod, held in their hands
  • Oi (), backpack
  • Horagai (法螺貝), a conch shell, which they blow like a horn to bind evil spirits

See also


Further reading

  • Ratti, Oscar; Westbrook, Adele (1999). Secrets of the Samurai: A Survey of the Martial Arts of Feudal Japan. Edison, New Jersey: Castle Books. ISBN 0785810730.
  • Powell, Steve John; Cabello, Angeles Marin (May 12, 2021). "Japan's Mountain Ascetic Hermits". British Broadcasting Corporation.


  1. ^ Nelson, Andrew Nathaniel (1995). The Original Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary (Classic ed.). Rutland, Vermont: C. E. Tuttle Co. pp. 134, 346. ISBN 9780804819657.
  2. ^ "Exoteric Buddhism, Esoteric Buddhism, and Shugendo - 顕教・密教・修験道". www.tendai-jimon.jp. Tendaijimon Sect. Archived from the original on 2020-12-21. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  3. ^ Blacker, Carmen (1999). The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan (3rd ed.). Richmond, Virginia: Japan Library. pp. 165–167. ISBN 1873410859.
  4. ^ Schodt, Frederik L. (2020). My Heart Sutra. Berkeley (Ca): Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 978-1-61172-062-4.
  5. ^ 小項目事典,世界大百科事典内言及, 日本大百科全書(ニッポニカ),百科事典マイペディア,旺文社日本史事典 三訂版,デジタル大辞泉,事典・日本の観光資源,世界大百科事典 第2版,ブリタニカ国際大百科事典. "山伏(やまぶし)とは? 意味や使い方". コトバンク (in Japanese). Retrieved 2023-06-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Cabello, Steve John Powell & Angeles Marin. "Japan's mountain ascetic hermits". www.bbc.com. Retrieved 2023-06-02.
  7. ^ Yamabushi Ascetic Monk, 23 January 2017, retrieved 2023-06-02