Film Showing
Shugen: The Autumn Peak of Haguro Shugendo

[25 March, Fri 19:30-22:00]

Sacred mountains have been revered in Japan from ancient times as the source of the water that sustains all life, and as places where the spirits of the dead go to dwell. Over the centuries practices and ideas related to mountains took specific shape, under the influence of Buddhism, Daoism and other religious forms, until they emerged recognizably in the medieval period as Shugendo. Shugendo was long characterized by its acceptance as objects of devotion and practice both the native deities called kami and the various Buddhist divinities. Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and the resurgence of imperial authority, the new government prohibited kami-buddha admixture in temples and shrines, and banned Shugendo. In some places Buddhism came under direct attack and much physical destruction occurred. The shrine-temple complex on Mt Haguro, which had until this time been very powerful both as a Shugendo centre and as a regional economic force, was turned into an imperial shrine under the banner of the new ideology, Shinto, and Haguro Shugendo received a near-mortal blow. Despite the ban on Shugendo, however, the traditions of Haguro Shugendo were maintained, often with great difficulty, through the temple of Kotakuji, the former inner precinct of the shrine-temple complex, deep in the mountain. These traditions live on today through the annual ritual practice called the Autumn Peak, or Akinomine, which is unique in that it preserves the medieval form of mountain-entry ritual based on the themes of death and rebirth in the mountain and the ten realms of rebirth according to Buddhism.

This nine-day ritual has never before been recorded on film. When the head of Haguro Shugendo, Shimazu Kokai, decided to allow it to be filmed in its entirety to preserve it correctly for future generations, it was Kitamura Minao, a well-known maker of documentary films of an anthropological nature, who was entrusted with the task. He and his team from Visual Folklore recorded the whole ritual, doing their best not to disturb participants unduly during filming. Following the first showing in Japan in January 2004, it has been shown in many parts of Japan and earned much acclaim. A shortened version was broadcast on NHK earlier this year. It was shown overseas for the first time in London in December 2004, and again in Edinburgh in January 2005.

The film is 115 minutes long. It will be shown in Japanese with English interpretation, preceded by a short introduction by the eminent Shugendo scholar Miyake Hitoshi, and followed by a question and answer session with Professor Miyake, Dr Gaynor Sekimori of the University of Tokyo, and the director, Kitamura Minao.


Gaynor Sekimori (University of Tokyo)

Hitoshi Miyake (Kokugakuin University)

Question and answer session:
Hitoshi Miyake (Kokugakuin University)
Gaynor Sekimori (University of Tokyo)
Kitamura Minao (Director)

*The film will be shown in Japanese with English interpretation.

Prof. Susumu Shimazono, President of the JARS Congress Secretariat of the 19th World Congress of IAHR
Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Letters, University of Tokyo
7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan 113-0033
TEL: (81)3-5841-3765@ FAX: (81)3-5841-3888
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