En no Ozunu is the founder of Shugendou which teaches how to gain mystic powers through ascetic practices in the mountains and, by unifying with nature, to reach Sokushin Joubutsu, attaining enlightenment in one’s present form. As the initiator who first organized the Japanese spiritual doctrine, En no Ozunu has stood out with his enormous influence that still continues today.
He was born in 634 at the foot of Katsuragi Mountain in present day Gose City, Nara Prefecture. He possessed unique talents since childhood teaching himself to carve Buddha statues and learning how to write Sanskrit characters. At the age of seventeen, he left his family home and began spiritual practice in Katsuragi Mountain.
Legend says he spent time with a sennin, a legendary immortal hermit, even chastising Buddha and deities, and became a man of strength who had a demon as his follower. When his supernatural powers became known to the Imperial Court, the Emperor, frightened by his power, ordered him exiled to Izu Ooshima Island.
In his late life, he traveled throughout Japan and visited a number of sacred mountains. Reportedly most of mountains considered sacred mountains today were founded by him. At the age of sixty seven, he passed away while smiling, surrounded by many disciples in Tenjyouga-dake Mountain.
Mt Gessan is one of the three mountains in the Dewa Sanzan group, and is located in Tagawa, Yamagata prefecture.
Mt Gessan is 1984m high and stands almost in the middle of Yamagata prefecture. It lies in the northern part of Bandai Asahi National Park and is a treasure house of nature that includes animals, plants and primary forest like beech.
The name of Gessan ('moon mountain') derives from the fact that it appears to be as enormous as a half-moon. The mountain has always been linked to religion and there is a shrine at the top dedicated to Tsukuyomi-no-mikoto, a brother of the goddess Amaterasu-omikami.
The mountain has also been a place for ascetic training. Many practitioners have visited here to worship Gessan-okami, but most of them have not felt ready enough and have gone back. Their route back is still known as the 'Return of Practitioners' although hikers take this road today. Mt. Gessan is a spiritual mountain with great views and alpine plants.
Mitokusan Sanbutsu-ji Temple belongs to the Tendai Buddhist sect and is located in Mitoku, Misasa-cho, Touhaku-gun, Tottori Prefecture. The temple's main deities are the Gautama Siddharta, Amitabha and Vairocana Buddhas. It is also the 31st Fudasho of the Chinese Kannon Sacred Ground, and the 29th Fudasho of the Houki Kannon Sacred Ground.
The temple was founded by En-no-Gyoja (also known as En-no-ozuno) in 706 as a training ground for Shugendo (the study of the relationship between man and nature). In 849, Jikaku Daishi Enin bestowed to the temple its three principle Buddha images.
This mountain temple is located on Mt Mitoku (900m), which lies practically in the center of Tottori Prefecture. A mountain trail continues from the main temple to Nageiredo hall, passing the Monjudo and Jizodo halls. The Shoro hall can be seen, too. Nageiredo is a platform temple built some 470m up in the rock face, and is the only national treasure in Tottori. Mitokusan Sanbutsu-ji Temple is a sacred site, famous both as a scenic spot and an historic relic.
Onikenbai or Demon Sword Dance is a folk performance passed down through generations in Kitagami region of Iwate Prefecture.
Its origin is not clear and there are a few different theories. One of them is that the dance was started during Taihou era between 701 and 704 when Enno-ozuno, who was believed to be the founder of Shugendou religion, danced while chanting. According to another theory, the dance dates back to Daitou era when a priest of Haguro-yama was initiated into the dance by the deity, Arasawaoniwatari, who was the incarnation of Mahāvairocana.
Dancers wear masks, which are said to be the embodiment of a Buddha, as well as a breastplate, chain mail and red cord to tuck up the sleeves. They dance to music performed by a band consisting of drums, flutes and tebiragane, a small hand chappa cymbal.
The dance, categorized as a chanting sword dance, is characteristic that it employs Henbai walk style performed in a shrine religious event to drive away evil spirits. It is conducted to perform salvation for all creatures and to terminate demons.
The Demon Dance has been passed onto many different regions of Iwate prefecture and developed and preserved in many different versions.
Murayama Sengen Shrine is located in Murayama, Fijinomiya City, Shizuoka Pref. The enshrined deities are Oyamanegi no Mikoto and Kamosawa Hime no Mikoto. It is said that En no Ozuno, the founder of mountain practice, transferred the deity from Oshoji Temple in Mt. Fuji in the 7th century. According to another account, it was built in 702 and Sakanoue no Tamuramaro visited to worship the temple and made a donation. The place is considered to have been the training ashram for the Murakami mountain practitioners, who worshipped and trained themselves in Mt. Fuji. In the old days, as the shrine was on the path to climb Mt. Fuji, it thrived and there were hundreds of priests’ living quarters. But it declined since a new road was built. At the present time, only Hondo (the main hall) and Dainichi Hall remain. In the precinct stands prefecturally designated protected species of huge cedar and gingko trees. The shrine is now at a height of 500 m above sea level at the southern foot of Mt. Fuji. From a picture drawn in 1609, it seems that the surrounding landscape hasn’t changed very much.
Tonanin Temple is one of the tacchu temples (small temples in the precinct) of Kinpusenji Temple. It is a Shugendo temple founded about 1,300 years ago by En no Gyoja. The main object of worship is En no Gyoja Jinben Daibosatsu (the deified En no Gyoja, the founder of Shugendo). When En no Gyoja founded Kinpusenji Temple, he also built this temple in the to-nan direction (southeast) of the main hall of Kinpusenji Temple.
In 1684, a master poet Matsuo Basho stayed in this area and wrote a poem for his Nozarashi Kiko (the travel diary written in Kii and Yamato provinces). In the precinct stands the stone monument with this poem inscribed in it. Tahoto pagoda with Hinoki-bark roofs stores the statues of Dainichi Nyorai, Bishamonten and Fudo Myoo. The inscription on the bronze gong called Waniguchi (crocodile mouth) at the front of the pagoda reads “the 7th year of the Eiroku era (1564).”
In spring, viewed from the top of nearby Mt. Idatenyama (370 m), Tahoto pagoda surrounded with cherry blossoms are especially beautiful.
Sakuramotobo Temple located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is a Shugendo temple founded in the late 7th century by Emperor Tenchi, who had became a priest and Buddhism at Hinoo Imperial Villa in Yoshino when young. Legend has it that one day he was dreaming of a cherry blossoms in full bloom, and then when he woke up and found a cherry trees really blossoming in winter. After his enthronement, he founded a temple where the cherry tree stood giving it a name of Sakuramotobo (a temple under the cherry tree) and invited Hinoo no Kakujo, a senior apprentice of En no Gyoja, as the resident priest.
The main object of worship is En no Gyoja Jinben Daibosatsu (the deified En no Gyoja, the founder of Shugendo) and the statues of Shaka Nyorai and Jizo Bosatsu. Originally the temple was located near Kinpusenji Temple and was the largest tacchu temple (attached temple) of Kinpusenji. Sakuramotobo Temple is one of the three temples that comprise Kinpusen Syugen Honshu. It was also the largest of all the Omine Gojiin Temples until the Meiji period. As the pantheon of Yamabushi culture, the temple is known for possessing a large number of treasures. It was once abolished by the Haibutsu Kishaku (abolition of Buddhism) movement in the Meiji period but was revived later.
Yoshimizu Shrine is located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. It was originally a temple named “Kissui-in,” which is said to have been founded in the Hakuho era (650-654) by En no Gyoja. It had been a Sobo (a living quarters of priests) of Kinpusen Shugendo Honshu for a long time. It was the main shrine of the South Court during the Nanbokucho Period (1336-1392) and was flourished with the spread of Shugendo until the early Meiji period (1868-1912). However in the Meiji period, it became a shrine according to the Meiji government’s policy of separation of Shinto and Buddhism.
The enshrined deity is Emperor Go-daigo of the South Court accompanied by his loyal retainers, Kusunoki Masashige and Kissui-in Soshin Hoin. The temple is also pertaining to Minamoto no Yoshitsune, his wife Shizuka Gozen, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The shrine is said to be the treasure box of cultural properties, for more than 100 important cultural properties are exhibited here. Among others, it has the largest number of documents concerning the South Court.