TYPE: Manuscript
DIMENSIONS: 6.5 x 9.5 inches
COMPONENTS: Nine pages
ITEM ID: 5072
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Nine Page Japanese Prayer Guide

DATE
Year: 1817
Decade: 1810s
Century: 19th (1801-1900)

A nine page prayer guide for Mt. Oomine. Most likely a mountain ascetic read chants from this book before standing under a waterfall or similar ascetic activities.

The cover says the name of OOmine-san(大峯山), a sacred place of mountaineering asceticism (Shugen-do 修験道), with the date 1817. The second and third pages have the list of various deities. The four and fifth pages have the list of various deities, some of which is suffixed with Numu(なむ、南無), an expression of faith. The six and seventh pages have the mantra of Buddhism. The eight and ninth pages have the names of people with their villages.

Mount Ōmine (大峰山, Ōmine-san), is a sacred mountain in Nara, Japan, famous for its three tests of courage.

Officially known as Mount Sanjō (山上ヶ岳, Sanjō-ga-take), it is more popularly known as Mount Ōmine due to its prominence in the Ōmine mountain range. It is located in Yoshino-Kumano National Park in the Kansai region, Honshū, Japan.

The temple Ōminesanji, located at the top of the mountain, is the headquarters of the Shugendō sect of Japanese Buddhism and the entire mountain is part of a pilgrimage and training ground for the yamabushi.

Traditionally, women in Japan were not allowed to climb mountains sacred to the Shinto religions. While the origins of the traditions can only be guessed at, originally these areas were banned to unclean people, such as those who had recently had a death in the family or menstruating women, which was believed to be linked to Shinto concepts of impurity, specifically the “blood impurity” brought on by menstruation and childbirth.

Other sacred mountains had different traditions, such as segregating the sexes by season, allowing women to climb at some times and men to climb at others. It is believed that the reason for this ban was to remove thoughts of temptation from the Yamabushi monks who are supposed to practice the strict self-denial of a hermit in isolated mountain. Eventually the bans came to be called Nyonin Kekkai(女人結界) and toward women only.

Mount Ōmine is the headquarters of the Shugendō religion, an ascetic practice with a long tradition. Because of a decrease of ascetic practitioners in modern Japan, most Shugendō-related mountains are no longer used for mountain retreats and are now tourist attractions. Consequently, these sites removed their gender-restrictions and only Mount Ōmine remains.

Scholar Avery Morrow describes this as, “A prayer guide for Mt. Oomine written in 1817. Most likely a mountain ascetic read chants from this book before standing under a waterfall (which I did when I was there) or similar ascetic activities.”

Scholar Atsushi Kadoya added, “As Morrow pointed out, I think it’s an inscription of Osaka that was written in Culture Year 14 (1817).

It is believed that the call writer is Shunzo Watanabe from Naka Gouchi Village (currently Aichi Prefecture Minami Sataraku Village), and other people from the Hatanabe family are connected, so he was involved in the festival as a taio.”

Scholar Sugihiko Uchida commented, “The name of OOmine-san(大峯山), a sacred place of mountaineering asceticism (Shugen-do 修験道), with the date 1817.”

Scholar Mark Teeuwen added, “I think this is a record of a pious association (講) from Nakakawachi Village (today part of Osaka) who have gone on a pilgrimage to Oomine. The text contains the prayers and mantra/dharanis that they learned/recited there, and a list of the party’s members at the end. The date is Bunka 14, 1817.”