TIM BUNTING

KIWI YAMABUSHI

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Tsutaya: Yamabushi-run Ryokan Traditional Inn in Snow Country

In yamabushi training you meet a whole lot of amazing characters. My first time round I met a dude who had represented Japan at rugby, and who did 1,000 push ups a day, I’m not even exaggerating, you could see him at it whenever you woke up because he was always up before you (outside, mind you). I also met the Australian founder of the equivalent of Sky TV (there’s an amazing story for you), and a Buddhist monk from Tokyo who was full of knowledge about the yamabushi, really enthralling stories, and was doing the Shinto Shrine training with us instead of the Buddhist version like you’d expect (he was the one who made my Horagai conch). There were also a few CEOs of big companies in Japan, not to mention other Brazilian, Dutch, and American yamabushi.

I’ll never forget Shida-san though. This guy was eccentric, and it turned out he ran one of the more popular Ryokan traditional inns in the region, Tsutaya Ryokan in Shizu on the way up to Mt. Gassan on the Nishikawa side. I remember Shida-san being very open and easy to talk to, and also very welcoming, inviting me to come and stay at Tsutaya at the next available chance. Two years later though, I hadn’t had the chance to stay, so I thought I would do something about that and I booked a night for us next week!

A few years back James May did a series in Japan called ‘Our Man in Japan’ in which he stayed in Tsutaya, or at least had a bath with Master Hoshino. Unfortunately they didn’t mention Shida-san much, but as a yamabushi, I would say he would be one of the most experienced mountaineers around, perfect for running a Ryokan located where it is.

With more than 10m falling at the summit annually, Mt. Gassan has some of the heaviest snowfall in Japan. Shizu Onsen where Tsutaya Ryokan is located is on the way up Mt. Gassan, and a few years back when I went there in April there was still at least 3 or 4m on the side of the road. Needless to say, Shizu Onsen gets a lot of snow, and when winter rolls around, saying this place is a winter wonderland would be putting it mildly. I’m looking forward to getting to know Shida-san on a more personal level and sharing his story with you, as well as exploring the place!

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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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