TIM BUNTING

KIWI YAMABUSHI

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Not With Us: 10 Years to the Day

Ten years ago, I was just over half a year into my life in Japan. I felt the earthquake, and remember it being very long. However, being on the opposite coast of the Tsunami, besides the lack of resources for a few weeks we were fine. Others not so much.

I volunteered and spent some time clearing rubble in Minamisanrikumachi in Miyagi. Out of respect we were asked not to take photos, so I don’t have any to share, but I remember the building we were in charge of clearing being a doctor’s office, and I specifically remember finding what looked to have been an expensive watch. It made me wonder how it got there, had it recently been on the arm of someone who was now not with us?

I’m not sure how common this is in Japan these days, but Japan is known for ancestor worship, and especially in the Shonai region where I live this is very important.

I’ve written about this before here, but there exists a belief called Kannabi Shinko in Japan. Kannabi Shinko must be a Shugendo belief because it combines elements of Shintoism and Buddhism, but it’s believed that when we pass, our souls spend time in the mountains doing their own version of what I guess is Yamabushi training.

Guided by 13 Buddha, our souls spend 33 years starting from the lower mountains and slowly making their way to the top of the higher mountains, in the case of Shonai, that is Mt. Gassan. Once they reach the summit, they turn into Kami gods that look over all of us here on earth.

It is believed that the souls of the ancestors that are prayed to turn into gods that bring good, but at the same time those who aren’t prayed to bring evil. So when a large natural disaster like 3.11 happens, and whole families are wiped out, naturally there is no one to pray for them, and the cycle of evil continues.

That is why when we do Yamabushi training, we pray for the souls of those who have no one left to pray for them. So to say they are not with us is incorrect. They are with us, we just have to remember them.

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

tim@timbunting.com

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