Self-mummification II: The Perfect Samurai and the Farmer Fuck-up – Japanese History

It’s story time! Today we hear two stories of monks who self-mummified, one starting out as the perfect samurai, the other as a not-so-perfect farmer in samurai-era Japan.

Be sure to support the show at to get your portrait drawn!

Become our patron on Patreon at

Time/place: Japan, 1081 – 1868 CE

Dead Idea: Self-mummification

Co-hosts: Nick and Anna

Link to my Livejournal post when I visited these mummies in 2007

Trailer for a documentary on Shugendo, the religion from which these mummies came (adherents today no longer practice self-mummification)

Cold water ablutions practiced by Shugenja today

The symbolism of the white garb of the Shugenja

A documentary on the mummies – not terribly good, but it does have footage of them and interviews with locals

Main Sources

Blacker, C. (1979/1999). The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan. London: Routledge Curzon.

Jeremiah, K. (2010). Living Buddhas: The Self-mummified Monks of Yamagata, Japan. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.

Maps, pics, references, and more at Music and graphic design by Rachel Westhoff.

Leave a Reply