Asking a mummy to bring you good fortune may seem strange to some, but it’s a way of life at Ryusui-ji Dainichibo Temple tucked away in northern Japan in the rural city of Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture.
The temple holds one of Japan’s 16 self-mummified monks or living buddhas (sokushinbutsu), most of which are spread across the Tohoku region in Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures. Though it sounds Halloween-esque, the sokushinbutsu believed their eternal bodies would serve as a bridge to the spirit realm, bringing prosperity to those who worshipped them.
Ryusui-ji Dainichibo Temple is on Mount Yudono — part of Dewa Sanzan (The Three Mountains of Dewa) which is referred to by Shingon practitioners as the mountain which you cannot describe with words, but which must be experienced through the energy that flourishes there. As you walk along the misty grounds, you’ll understand why this is a sacred place.
Becoming a mummy
To become a sokushinbutsu, monks ate nothing but nuts and seeds for 1,000 days and drank a quasi-embalming fluid concoction made from tea laced with poisonous lacquer.
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