Sokushinbutsu - The Self-Mummified Monks

Sokushinbutsu - The Self-Mummified Monks

Sokushinbutsu, literally: the "Buddhas of flesh", are mummified bodies of ancient Buddhist monks that, in order to become "Buddhas" after their death, went through a long and severe process of living mummification until their death.

Monks who aspired to become Sokushinbutsu had to retire themselves to the mountains and cut the 5 forbidden grains (the rice, the wheat, the beans, the Japanese millet and the Foxtail millet) from their diet ; and eat essentially mountain plants and herbs during 1000 to 5000 days in order to lower their body fat.
During the last 40 days, they would dig a hole or retire themselves in a cave and completely stop eating. Everyday, they would drink a lacquer-based poison in order to preserve the human tissues of their bodies. The monk had to ring a small bell all day long to let his peers outside know he is still alive. Once the bell stops ringing, the monks outside would know the monk has finally become a Sokushinbutsu.

Sokushinbutsu are kept in Buddhist temples and are really considered as gods. The amulets containing a piece of a Sokushinbutsu's clothing are said to keep you away from accidents, disease, and help you to cure illness and have a safe delivery.

You can visit 4 Buddhas of Flesh near Tsuruoka. One at Nangakuji temple (inside Tsuruoka city), one at Chûrenji temple (near Mt Yudono), one at Dainichibô temple (near Mt Yudono), and one at Honmyôji temple (in Asahi area).


Honmyôji temple: Yamagata prefecture, Tsuruoka city, Higashiiwamoto, Uchino-388, 997-0402 (tel: 0235-53-2269)
Dainichibô temple: Yamagata prefecture, Tsuruoka city, Ōamiji Nyudo-11 , 997-0531 (tel: 0235-54-6301)
Chûrenji temple: Yamagata prefecture, Tsuruoka city, Ōamiji Nakadai 92-1, 997-0531 (tel: 0235-54-6536)
Nangakuji temple: Yamagata prefecture, Tsuruoka city, Sunadamachi 3-6, 997-0839 (tel: 0235-23-5054)
See the location


Honmyôji temple: Free
Dainichibô temple: 500 yens/adults, 400 yens/junior high school students, 300 yens/children
Chûrenji temple: 500 yens/adults, 400 yens/teenagers, 300 yens/children
Nangakuji temple: 400 yens/adult, 200 yens/children


Honmyôji temple: Please make a reservation by phone prior to your visit. (tel: 0235-53-2269)
Dainichô temple: 8:00am to 4:30pm (the temple closes at 5:00pm)
Chûrenji temple: From May to October: 9:00am to 5:00pm / From November to April: 10:00am to 4:00pm
Nangakuji temple: 8:30am to 4:00pm (closed all day long on January 2nd and May 13th)


Honmyôji temple: 30min by bus from Tsuruoka JR Station (Bus to Ochiai). 40 min by car
Dainichô temple: 40min by car from Tsuruoka JR Station
Chûrenji temple: 35min by car from Tsuruoka JR Station
Nangakuji temple: 10min by bus from Tsuruoka JR Station (Bus to Atsumi-onsen). 20min by bicycle from Tsuruoka JR Station (free bicycle rental from 9:30 am to 5:00pm possible at Tsuruoka Tourism Information Center in Foodever Building -in front of the station)