How Yamabushi get through the tough parts

Mt. Chokai above the sea of Japan

A few weeks back I was climbing Chokai-zan, the tallest mountain entirely in Tohoku and one of the 100 Famous Mountains of Japan. Or, I should say, I was filming on Chokai-zan. I was so taken aback by the scenery that I spent a large portion of the climb filming. And if you know the style of filming with a lot of walking back and forth from the camera, this takes a lot of time.

So, with a tall mountain, and a whole lot of filming, I really should have been more conscious of time. But I wasn’t, and in the end I had to start rushing to get back to my car before the sun fully set.

Not only had the climb been steeper than I imagined, it was also on top of large boulders for a majority of the way, and my feet had started to give out. I developed blisters on the soles of my feet that are still healing. That coupled with the sneakily sinking sun, and the fact that my phone was running out of battery, was cause for alarm and I had to scurry down the mountain.

During yamabushi training when things get tough like this, we sing. There’s a song that goes ‘Rokkon Shojo (Rokkon Shojo), Zange, Zange, (Zange, Zange)’, which is basically ‘purify us for our six Āyatana (sense bases), repent, repent’. (Legend has it that this is where the saying ‘dokkoisho’ comes from in Japanese). This and a combination of reciting The Heart Sutra helped me get back in time.

I got back to my car while the sun was very low in the sky, and my phone battery at 1%. But I still made it! And singing this song certainly helped!

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Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

tim@timbunting.com

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