Caleb Swift CarterSep 13, 2022
A Path Into the Mountains
Shugendō and Mount Togakushi
University of Hawaii Press 2022
Often represented as a tradition of ancient origins, Shugendō has retained a quality of mystery and nostalgia in the public imagination and scholars as the “original” champions of mountain asceticism.
In his monograph, A Path Into the Mountains: Shugendō and Mount Togakushi (U Hawaii Press, 2022), Caleb Carter challenges this conceptualization by examining historical documents of Mount Togakushi. By focusing on themes of narratives, institution, and ritual, Carter explores how the transmission of this complex religious system at Togakushi was not a natural phenomenon, but a conscious act by a practitioner from Mount Hiko. Using a variety of textual sources including origin stories (engi) and temple records, Carter demonstrates how the practitioners of Mount Togakushi utilize storytelling, institutional support, and ritual processes to not only provide legitimacy but also establish a foundation for Shugendō at Togakushi. With discussions on Shinto and women’s exclusion (nyonin kekkai), staple topics in Japanese religions, A Path Into the Mountains offers something for those interested in not just Shugendō but also Buddhism, mountain religions, and religious history.
Raditya Nuradi is a Phd candidate at Kyushu University. He works on religion and popular culture, particularly anime pilgrimages. His research explores pilgrims' experiences through space and materiality.