TIM BUNTING

KIWI YAMABUSHI

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Differences noticed between low and high mountains in Japan

I was thinking about how I had never articulated this before, but the low lying mountains in Japan and the high mountains historically have had very different meanings, well from what I have noticed at least.

Generally speaking, the lower mountains were closer to where people lived, so they were a source of food, at times shelter, and a place to collect wood or things for daily life.

In contrast, taller mountains were basically where only the really serious mountain worshippers ventured.

This is reflected in the sorts of things you find and the stories of both types of mountains. Taller mountains are easier to explain, usually a shrine (or temple) built to withstand the elements at or near the summit.

Lower mountains are where all the folk tales happen. They still happen on the higher mountains, but this is where they really come to the fore. An example would be on Kamewari-yama, which was an important part of Yoshitsune’s journey to Hiraizumi (check out Kanjincho, the subscription list, it’s an interesting story that set the basis for a Kurosawa film).

Either way, that the 100 famous mountains of Yamagata list includes both I think is a really good thing. If the list only included taller mountains, I wouldn’t have found as many stories to tell. Sometimes the description is as much as ‘this mountain was used for ascetic training in the past’, which isn’t exactly exciting.

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Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

tim@timbunting.com

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