Yamabushi (山伏)

Yamabushi is a practitioner of Shugendo (Japanese mountain asceticism/shamanism incorporating Shinto and Buddhist concepts) who earnestly walks in the mountains as an ascetic practice.
They are also called 'Shugenja.'

The basic objective is to earn the natural spiritual power of the mountains by practicing severe hardships such as Toha (Toso) (running throughout the mountains) and Zange (confession) in deep sacred mountains, such as Mt. Daisen (Tottori Prefecture) and Haguro-yama (Yamagata Prefecture).

The practitioner wears a polygonal hat-like object called a Tokin on his head, and holds a metallic cane called a Shakujo in his hands. They wear kesa (Buddhist stole) and suzukake, which are clerical garments made from hemp.

They carry instruments made from conch shell for communicating with each other in the mountains, and they carry Japanese swords for protection.

Tengu (long-nosed goblin) and Karasu Tengu (crow-billed goblin) wear Yamabushi costumes.

The 16 tools of Shugen

The 16 tools of Shugen represent the only world, Jikkai (the Ten Realms), Fudo Myoo (Acala, one of the Five Wisdom Kings), the mother's womb and so on. By putting on these tools and conducting ascetic practices, Shugenja can earn the natural power.

1. Tokin, or Zukin (hood)
2. Suzukake
3. Yuigesa, or Fudogeza (Buddhist stole)
4. Iratakanenju (Buddhist rosary)
5. Hora (trumpet shell)
6. Hangai, or Hinokigasa (hat)
7. Shakujo (Bosatsu Shakujo)
8. Oi, or Hakooi (box to put in various things)
9. Katabako (box, put above Oi)
10. Kongozue (walking stick)
11. Hikishiki (cushion)
12. Kyahan (gaiters)
13. Yatsume no waraji (straw sandals)
14. Hi-ogi (wooden fan)
15. Shibauchi (small sword)
16. Hashirinawa, or Kai no o (rope)
17. Hokisen

The above is the list of tools, which refers to items 1 through 12 as the 12 Yamabushi tools and items 1 through 16 as the 16 Yamabushi tools.

Experiencing ascetic practices

In Haguro-yama (Yamagata Prefecture), an applicant can wear a white costume and enter the mountain to experience Yamabushi's ascetic practices such as fasting, Takiuchi (standing under a waterfall), walking over fire, 床堅 (Zen sitting meditation), Ninku no Gyo (Nanban Ibushi, or being smoked), and so on, in September of every year.

[Original Japanese]