Listen to me talk about this wonderfully surreal thing I found: Living Buddhas (ikibotoke, 生き仏 or sokushinbutsu, 即身仏). The thing is, they’re not really alive, at least not anymore. *cue scary music*… no, seriously, cue the scary music, things are going to get weird.
Also, because I didn’t mention it in the podcast the background of this month’s Uncanny Japan was recorded at a local temple on New Year’s Eve at midnight. The sounds you hear are the people milling around wishing each other a Happy New Year and the temple bell being rung 108 times (to ring out our humanely sins). The latter thing is called Joya no Kane.
If you’re interested in ikibotoke/sokushinbutsu or self mummification, I found a page in Japanese about a route you can travel to see all the Living Buddhas in their respective temples up in Northern Honshu, in Yamagata Prefecture. Below I translated the highlights:
Start at Nangakuji (南岳寺), a nine-minute car ride from Tsuruoka Station (Yamagata Prefecture). Here you can find TetsuRyouKai, who became a sokushinbutsu in 1881.
A 30-minute drive from there will take you to Honmyoji (本明寺) where you can see the Living Buddha, Honmyouji Shonin.
Lastly, drive one hour to Kaikouji (海向寺) . Here there are two Living Buddhas: Chukai (忠海上人）who became an ikibotoke in 1785 and Enmyokai (円明海上人) who became an ikibotoke in 1822.
It is said that these Living Buddhas can answer your prayers. So there’s that. Also, if you’re into amulets, the self mummified monks’ robes are changed occasionally and the cloth from the old garments is used to make omamori.
Notes: The intro/outro music of Uncanny Japan is a song by Christiaan Virant (“Yi Gui” from Ting Shuo). The whole album is just gorgeous as it everything else by FM3.
March’s Uncanny Japan podcast is all about monkeys and monkey lore — wordplay, superstition, and good luck charms. You can listen to that below.
Also, if you’re interested in me retelling/reimagining obscure Japanese folktales, take a look at my Patreon page. This month’s Bedtime Story (5$ and up reward) is “The Monkeys’ Ojizo Statue” (“Saru no Ojizo”).
(Me holding my smashed faced Sarubobo.)
Finally, below I give you a lucky saru. It’s a hanga-engraving I carved of a cheeky monkey flashing the peace sign while the character for ‘dream’ floats overhead. What could be luckier than that?
Thanks for listening!
Notes: The intro/outro music of Uncanny Japan is a song by Christiaan Virant (“Yi Gui” from Ting Shuo). The whole album is just gorgeous, as it everything else by FM3.