The transcript below is from the video “Meet Japan’s Toughest Monks” by Great Big Story.

Great Big Story (YouTube Channel, global media company devoted to cinematic storytelling):

Yamabushi monks commune with nature to achieve spiritual enlightenment. It’s a beautiful journey, but it involves a grueling physical quest. In a ritual that simulates death and rebirth, the Japanese monks hike up a mountain in Yamagata Prefecture, take a pounding from a waterfall and jump over fire. Think you have what it takes to perform this ancient practice? The Yamabushi monks invite members of the public to join them for special training sessions.

Great Big Story (YouTube Channel, global media company devoted to cinematic storytelling):

Pounding waterfalls, grueling hikes, leaping over fire…  These are the trials of the Yamabushi, some of the toughest monks in Japan.

Hajime Ohta (Yamabushi Priest):

 In Yamagata Prefecture Japan, the Three Mountains of Dewa are considered a sacred pilgrimage site for spiritual group known as the Yamabushi.  Hajime Ohta is a priest, who has obtained the highest level of training for a Yamabushi.

Hajime Ohta (Yamabushi Priest): 

I started practicing as a Yamabushi when I was 18.  That was 45 years ago.  Initially, it wasn’t my decision, but my father was one and so was my grandfather.  I felt it was my responsibility.

Great Big Story (YouTube Channel, global media company devoted to cinematic storytelling):

The practices of the Yamabushi involve intense self-discipline in order to obtain a form of spiritual enlightenment.  And today, Mr. Ohta shares the Yamabushi training with people from all over the country.

Hajime Ohta (Yamabushi Priest):

Today, we have a special trial training event for two nights, three days.  To complete this training, you must make it up and back down the mountain.  We need to make it difficult.  To hike Mount Gassan in thin slippers, it’s very tiring for the feet.  On our way down the mountain, you are hit by a waterfall.  You feel extreme pain and soreness in your muscles.  After climbing the mountain, most people fall asleep from fatigue.

Hajime Ohta (Yamabushi Priest):

To keep your eyes open, and stare at one point and keep your thoughts focused is the point.  At the end of the Yamabushi training, you jump over fire.  You enter the world of death, and come back reborn.  It’s pretty rough.  But the severity is what some people are looking for.  It makes me happy when the participants tell me that they’ve come back after the previous year.  They’re yearning for an experience they cannot get anywhere else.

Hajime Ohta (Yamabushi Priest):

Doing something different from your ordinary day, and going into the mountains for your practice, you feel alive and excited.  We feel grateful for everything.  That is what a Yamabushi is.




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