A Special Ritual for 3.11

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How the Haguro Yamabushi pay their respects to the victims

Yesterday I took part in a very special ritual, with a harrowing history.

After 3.11, the Haguro Yamabushi had to do something to commemorate the souls of the deceased. Master Hoshino put a call out for Shakyo, copies of The Heart Sutra. He made a call for 10,000 copies. In return, he got over 13,800.

Then, over the course of about two weeks, they set about reading each and every one of the 13,800 copies. These copies were then carried to the summit of Gassan, where they have been buried in a special mound.

Each year since, in May (which I assume was to do with the shifting of the Kami of Gassan from Dewa Sanzan Jinja back to the summit of Gassan), Master Hoshino and some local Yamabushi spend hours on end chanting the Heart Sutra non-stop in commemoration of those souls.

I was very honoured to take part. I have only been a Yamabushi since 2017, and have only taken part a few times in the years since (thanks, COVID), but it is something that makes me proud to be a Yamabushi.

Yesterday when we were praying, I had a think about the victims of the disaster, and thought about how easily it could have been me. I was in Japan at the time. I was even doing a job that at least one of the victims was doing (JET ALT). I felt the earthquake (it was looong), and I was only a few hundred kilometers away from where the tsunami hit.

I even went to help with the cleanup at a small village called Minamisanriku. It was a real sight to see, but I’m glad I got to go back there a few years later to see the town doing well, on top of a new massive sea wall at that.

It’s already (only?) been twelve years, but it changed the course of history forever. And we Yamabushi will be praying forever too.



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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 


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