Shugendō 修験道 (literally, the “way of cultivating efficacious powers” in the mountains) is a fascinating subject to teach in the university classroom. It offers broad potential for discussion on the nature of mountain asceticism, Japanese religions, popular religion, women and gender, ritual, cosmology, religious hybridity, esoteric Buddhism, pilgrimage, healing, and more.
For those interested in teaching a unit on it, here is a short list of sources that I’ve found works well in the undergraduate classroom. Its very bare bones, so please add comments and questions below!
Two recent films:
- Shugendō Now 今の修験道 (2010, 88 minutes; shorter classroom versions available as well)
- Là où les montagnes volent/Where mountains fly (2010,60 minutes)
Paul Swanson reviews them in the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (hereafter, JJRS) (2010, 37/2).
Mark McGuire, co-director of Shugendo Now, has an article on contemporary Shugendō and environmental concerns in the Kumano region that goes very well with the film. JJRS (2013, 40/2, 323-54).
Gaynor Sekimori has translated the following works by Miyake Hitoshi 宮家準 (present godfather of the field):
- Mandala of the Mountain (Keio University, 2005). Excellent topical overviews broken down by chapters that can be assigned separately or collectively. Note that it may only be available for purchase in Japan.
- “Shugendo,” A History of Japanese Religion (2001, ed. Kazuo Kasahara, 455-74). A short but broad-ranging introductory essay on early modern Shugendō.
Women and Gender:
- Benard Faure, “Crossing the Line,” in The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity and Gender (Princeton, 2003). This chapter gives an overview of nyonin kekkai 女人結界 (the practice of banning women from sacred peaks), especially pp. 219-235.
- Helen Hardacre “The Cave and the Womb World,” JJRS (1983, 10/2-3, 149-74). An insightful analysis of a cave ritual as it relates to issues regarding women and gender.
- Despite nyonkin kekkai, women still participated in mountain-related rituals, as shown in this 18 minute mini-doc on the Nuno Bashi (cloth bridge) rite at Mt. Tateyama (scroll down to the second embedded movie on the web page for the English narration version).
- Paul Swanson “Shugendo and the Yoshino-Kumano Pilgrimage: An Example of Mountain Pilgrimage,” Monumenta Nipponica (1981, 36, no. 1: 55–84).
- Ann Bouchy “The Cult of Mount Atago and the Atago Confraternities,” Journal of Asian Studies (1987, 46/2, 255-77).
Mountain worship in Japan:
- Hori Ichiro 堀一郎 “Mountains and Their Importance for the Idea of the Other World in Japanese Folk Religion,” History of Religions (1966, 6, no. 1: 1–23). Dated (and needs to be taught critically) but a classic, nonetheless.
- Allan Grapard “Flying Mountains and Walkers of Emptiness: Toward a Definition of Sacred Space in Japanese Religions,” History of Religions (1982, 21, no. 3: 195–221). One of Grapard’s numerous works on Japanese mountain ritual and thought. This one is another classic, discussing sacred space in premodern Japan and the esoteric mandalization of mountains.
- http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/shugendou.htm. Informative entry on Shugendō with many images on Mark Schumacher’s excellent website on Japanese religions.
- http://www.shugendo.fr/en. Introductory information, images, web links, and an extensive bibliography
- Association for the Study of Japanese Mountain Religion (日本山岳修験学会)
- I have also blogged on this site (archived here) about mountain sites and rituals related to Shugendō.
There are many more English-language books, articles, and resources on Shugendō (and of course, much more in Japanese), but this will get you started with some ideas for teaching it in your next course.
Again, add to the conversation with suggestions and questions below!