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Episode 14: Living Buddhas-kinda… (Sokushinbutsu)

Episode 14: Living Buddhas-kinda… (Sokushinbutsu)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. A 30-minute drive from there will take you to Honmyoji (本明寺) where you can see the Living Buddha, Honmyouji Shonin.
  3. Next take a 20-minute jaunt to 龍水寺大日坊・湯殿山総本寺 (Yudonosansouhonji). Here you’ll be able to pray to 真如海上人.
  4. Hop back in your car and drive 8-minutes to Yudonosan Churenji (湯殿山注連寺). The sokushinbutsu at this temple passed away in 1829.
  5. 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.

Episode 12: Tricky Numbers (Goro Awase)

Episode 12: Tricky Numbers (Goro Awase)

In Japan numbers can be tricky. Four is thought to invite death. Nine brings suffering and agony. But, hey! Eight is good!

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.

Audio Player

 

 

Episode 10: Hungry Ghosts (Gaki)

Episode 10: Hungry Ghosts (Gaki)

Careful. Living a life of luxury while being selfish and coveting your neighbors goodies just might lead you to another spin on this Wheel of Life. This means after you die you’ll be reborn not as a human again, not even as a squirrel in someone’s backyard. You might just come back as a hungry ghost, and let me tell you why that’s not a very good thing.

This month’s podcast is about Japanese hungry ghosts or gaki in Japanese. Not for the feint of heart.

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.

Episode 9: Obon Part Two-Sending Away Fires (Okuribi)

Episode 9: Obon Part Two-Sending Away Fires (Okuribi)

This month’s podcast is Obon Part Two, the time when you have to send ol’ grandma and grandpa back to the World of the Dead. There are various ways of doing this. I talk about two, the chill, mellow way and the flinging-balls-of-fire-into-the-air way.

Above and below are photos of my local okuribi – sending away fires.

 

Notes: The intro/outro music of Uncanny Japan is a piece by Christiaan Virant (“Yi Gui” from Ting Shuo).  The whole album is just gorgeous as it everything else by FM3.

Thank you for listening. Uncanny Japan is me, Thersa Matsuura (author). If you’d like to help support the podcast and even get your own creepy bedtime story sent to you monthly, check me out on Patreon.

Episode 8: Obon Part One-On Cucumber Horses They Ride

Episode 8: Obon Part One-On Cucumber Horses They Ride

In Japan, Obon is the time of year when all the ancestors’ spirits make the long haul back to the world of the living to pay a visit. It’s kind of a big deal. Butsudan-altars are decorated to the hilt and families wait expectantly for grandma and grandpa, great grandma and great grandpa (not to mention great, great, great grandma and grandpa) to arrive and hang out.

 

This month’s podcast is part one of Obon, welcoming fires and vegetable livestock.

 

 

 

Notes: The intro/outro music of Uncanny Japan is a piece by Christiaan Virant (“Yi Gui” from Ting Shuo).  The whole album is just gorgeous as it everything else by FM3.

Uncanny Japan is Thersa Matsuura (author) who is also on Patreon.