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Home - Travel - Sightseeing Guide - Tohoku - Yamagata - Dewa Sanzan
Churenji and Dainichibo 
# 4   of 4 most visited
sights in Dewa Sanzan

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Dainichibo

In addition to the three sacred mountains and their shrines, the Dewa Sanzan area in Yamagata Prefecture is home to two interesting temples: Dainichibo and Churenji. These two temples are the sites of sokushinbutsu, men who transformed their own bodies into mummies while still living. Their mummified bodies are on display in Dainichibo and Churenji, close to Yudono-san.

Shugendo is a religion based on mountain worship that combines practices and tenets of both Buddhism and Shinto. Physical and mental endurance of the elements is an important part of Shugendo. Self-mummification is the most extreme form of this endurance and those monks who succeeded at the practice are now revered as Buddhas.

The technicalities of self-mummification are staggering; by one method, monks endure three 1000 day periods of dietary restriction, intense physical activity and meditation. For the first thousand days, they ate only mountain vegetables, while continuing to practice the physical hardships of Shugendo training. For the second 1000 day period, the diet was restricted even further to just bark and roots.

Churenji

Some monks also drank a special tea made from the sap of the urushi tree, or spring water from nearby Yudono-san containing arsenic. Arsenic, like urushi sap, is a poisonous substance that had a preservative effect on the monks' bodies.

Finally, for the third 1000 day period, the monk was sealed into a cedar box and buried. A breathing tube inserted into the box and a bell to ring were the only connections to the other monks. Once the bell stopped ringing (after a few days or weeks), the breathing tube was sealed. When the final 1000 day period was over, the tomb was opened to reveal a mummified body.

Not all those who attempted self-mummification were successful. However there are 16 such sokushinbutsu across Japan, eight of which are in Yamagata Prefecture. They are considered to have become living Buddhas for their achievement.

Any Questions? Ask them in our question forum.

How to get there
On April 1, 2014, the consumption tax increased from 5% to 8%, causing widespread changes to transportation fares. This page has not been updated yet, and some of the fees and fares in this section may not be up-to-date.

Dainichibo and Churenji are located along the bus route, which connects Tsuruoka Station with Yudono-san. Get off at Oami bus stop (大網), from where Dainichibo can be reached in a 5-10 minute walk and Churenji can be reached in a 20 minute walk. There are five round trips per day around the year. The one way trip between Tsuruoka Station and Oami takes 45 minutes and costs around 1000 yen.

How to get to and around the Dewa Sanzan

Hours and Fees
On April 1, 2014, the consumption tax increased from 5% to 8%, causing widespread changes to admission fees. This page has not been updated yet, and some of the fees in this section may not be up-to-date.

Churenji
Hours:8:00 to 17:00 (May to October)
9:00 to 16:00 (November to April)
Closed:No closing days
Admission:500 yen

Dainichibo
Hours:8:00 to 17:00
Closed:No closing days
Admission:500 yen

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Best rated sights nationwide (out of 764):
Not yet ranked due to insufficient data.
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756.  Norikura Kogen (Norikura)   19
757.  Churenji, Dainichibo (Dewa Sanzan)   19
758.  Jionzenji Temple (Gujo-Hachiman)   19
759.  Suehiro Sake Brewery (Aizu)   19
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English Links
Dainichibo Temple
Official English website.

Japanese Links
Churenji Temple
Official website.
Dainichibo Temple
Official website.
Shonai Kotsu
Official website of the local bus operator.

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Related Pages
Travel
Sightseeing
Tohoku Region
Yamagata Prefecture
Dewa Sanzan

Haguro-san
Gas-san
Yudono-san
Churenji and Dainichibo

Shinto
Buddhism

Dewa Sanzan: Access and Orientation

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