immortal wishes:
labor and transcendence
on a Japanese sacred mountain

Ellen Schattschneider

Duke University Press (2003)

Teaching Resources


Some of the following sites are academic and scholarly, others reflect the personal spiritual quests of the creators.  All strike me as potentially interesting and helpful to readers of Immortal Wishes.


Local Newspaper Coverage of Folk Shamans in Aomori Prefecture
An excellent on line article, by Japanese Historian of Religion Ikegami Yoshimasa on reportage on "kamisama" spirit mediums (of the sort who practice at Akakura Mountain Shrine) in the Tsugaru region. Includes [Case 86] selections from a fascinating article about "ghosts" and "demons" at Akakura.

The Life of a Shamaness: Scenes from the Shamanism of Northeastern Japan
An interesting on line article on spirit mediumship in Miyagi precture,  by Kawimura Kunimitsu, emerging out of traditions closely related to the forms of "kamisama" spirit mediumship practiced at Akakura Mountain Shrine.


An excellent on line, illustrated resource on Shinto architecture and sacral space, developed by UC-Berekely graduate student Vimalin Rujivacharakul.

Shinto Architecture

Sacred Places of Japan
An intriguing on line essay by Dr. James Swan compares sacred sites in Japan (in Sendai and Nara) to Native American sites and beliefs.

Places of Power and Peace.
Discuss sacred pilgrimage sites around the world, includes a nice page on Japanese sacred mountains and a map of Japanese sacred sites.

The Shikoku Pilgrimage
A guide to one of Japan's most important pilgrimages, associated with the figure of Kukai (Kobo Daishi), who is also honored at Akakura Mountain Shrine.

Sacred Places
Dr. Christopher Witcombe (Art History, Sweet Briar College) has assembled a very helpful site on sacred sites around the world, including pages on the great Shinto shrine of Ise in Mie prefecture, Japan and the general symbolism of  sacred water, sacred mountains, sacred stones, and sacred caves. (It might be helpful for students reading Immortal Wishes to read these pages and reflect to the extent ritual practice and cosmology at Akakura conforms to the general themes Dr. Witcombe has noted.)

Goddesses of Mt. Fuji

This fascinating website contains passages from "Sacred Mountains of the World," by Edwin Baldwin, University of California Press, 1997, about Konohana Sakuya Hime, the principal goddess of Mount Fuji.

A Culture without Temple (Tsutomu Iyori)

A lovely, thought-provoking paper abstract on ritualized processions over Okinawana/Ryukan landscapes, constituting sacred sites without temples as such. Students might wish to apply Iyori's insights to the Akakura case.

Designing the Contemplative and Healing Garden: Teachings from Sacred Landscapes (Dennis Winters)

A thoughtful discussion of sacred landscapes and gardens, drawing on examples from China and Japan.

see also:




Sacred Mountains of the World: Introduction (Dr. Edwin Bernbaum)

The introduction to Edwin Bernbaum's Sacred Mountains of the World. University of California Press. Berkeley Los Angeles London. 1998.

Sacred Mountains of China (Dr. Martin Gray)

Korean Sacred Mountains (David Mason)

A fascinating site on shamanic rites associated with various Korean sacred mountains.

Arunachala: The Mountain (India)

A fascinating website on on important Tamil Nadu (South Indian) sacred mountain. Students might consider some of the intriguing parallels between Japanese and Indian mountain veneration practices.

Sri Pada ("Adams Peak") Sri Lanka

This detailed site introduceds Sri Pada, an important sacred mountain in Sri Lanka, upon which the Buddha is believed to have left a footprint

Sacred Mountains of India (Environmental Education Centre, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India)

Includes a link to an annotated list of some important Indian sacred mountains. Found within the site:

Travels through Sacred Mountains (by Adina Racoviteanu)

Fascinating website on the author's journeys to various mountain pilgrimage sites in Asia and South America, includes:

The Symbolism of Sacred Mountains: Places of Pilgrimage

The Sacred in Nature

Intriguing short essay on personal journeys to Indian sacred mountains.


Croagh Patrick: Ireland's Holy Mountain (Joseph Rose)

A virtual tour of an Irish sacred mountain.

Sacred Mountain website guide (Martin Goodman)

A guide to websites about sacred mountains around the world, developed by Martin Goodman in support of his book "On Sacred Mountains."

Between Heaven and Earth (the Mountain Institute)

An introduction to some of the world's sacred mountains.

See also the Mountain Institute's Sacred Mountains Program:


Glossary of Shinto Names and Terms
A helpful on line dictionary of Shinto terms, prepared by the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University.


Basic Terms of Shinto

Sacred Texts: Shinto
An on line compilation of sacred texts in Shinto and related Japanese religious traditions, including excerpted translations of the Kojiki, the Nihongi and the Yengishiki.

Shinto Online Network Association

Shinto Purification Rituals: An Aesthetic Interpretation.

Based on the article by James Boyd and Ron Williams, Artful Means: An Aesthetic View of Shinto Purification Rituals," Journal of Ritual Studies, Volume 13, Number 1, Summer 1999, pp. 37-52


International Shinto Organization


Jinja Honcho: The Association of Shinto Shrines

The official, overarching organization of Shinto shrines.

Shinto On Line Network Association

RITUAL TRADITION AS VITAL HISTORY: Shinto Festivals as a Gateway to Japanese Cultural History (Nold Egenter)

Japanese Mythology

(Covers both Buddhist and Shinto deities)

Society for the Study of Japanese Religions

see especially Links related to Japanese Religion

Japanese Religion Links (Joseph Adler, Kenyon College)


Internet Sources on the Devadatta Chapter of the Lotus Sutra:

Internet Sources on the Heart Sutra (Hannya Shingyo)


Japanese Mythology

(Covers both Japanese Buddhist and Shinto deities)

Demons in Japan

Demons of Japan (Cornell)

The Japanese Oni Exchange Museum (Ohe, Tango Province, Kyoto Prefecture)

Get Out Ogre! Come In Happiness! Setsubun in Japan; A Lunar "New Years' Eve" (Steve Renshaw and Saori Ihara)

Interesting article on the common ritual of expelling demons at New Year's. A version of this rite is performed each New Year's at Akakura Mountain Shrine.

Japanese Ghosts (Tim Screech, SOAS)

What is Oni? (Yukio Taniguchi)

A Japanese ceramic artists reflects on the meanings of oni


Images of Divinity
Inspired by the work of author China Galland, this moving website explores worldwide imagery of the feminine sacred, including goddess figures, in the context of struggles for social justice and tolerance.

Goddess of Compassion: Kuan Yin

This website contains some of the work of Japanese-American printmaker Mayumi Oda, whose artistic visions emphasize goddess symbolism.

Goddesses of Mt. Fuji

This fascinating website contains passages from "Sacred Mountains of the World," by Edwin Baldwin, University of California Press, 1997, about Konohana Sakuya Hime, the principal goddess of Mount Fuji.




Images of Divinity
Inspired by the work of author China Galland, this moving website explores worldwide imagery of the feminine sacred, including goddess figures, in the context of struggles for social justice and tolerance.

Japanese Buddhist Corner
This very helpful photo library and dictionary by Mark Schumacher documents images of divinities from Japanese Buddhist and Shinto traditions.  Of particular relevance to readers of Immortal Wishes are the pages on the Myo-o (wisdom kings), bodhisattva,   Kannonsama (the "Goddess of Mercy") and  Dragon images.

The Living Rope that connects us all: Mariyo Yagi

Fascinating interview with Japanese artist Mariyo Yagi, who constructed and ritually burned a great ritual rope ("nawa") to honor the souls of those who perished in the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake in Kobe. The artist specifically mentions Tsugaru, and compares the burning rope to a "fire dragon." The symbolism of this work of performance art strikingly recalls the dynamics of the Mountain Opening rite at Akakura.

More on Mariyo Yagi and her rope-inspired art:


Aomori Prefecture Official website

Around Aomori Newsletter.

An on line newsletter put out by the non-profit "Aomori Foundation for Advancing International Relations."

Research on [Aomori] Prefectural History

Partial on line compilation of journal articles on Aomori history and culture.

Hirosaki University
The city of Hirosaki is the intellectual and cultural center of Tsugaru, and Hirosaki University is a wonderful institution for those interested in learning more about local culture and history.
My colleague Dr. John Phillips has a very helpful page on the  value of studying at Hirosaki University.

The Tsugaru Thirty Three Kannon sites:


Tsugaru Geography and History

Tsugaru Peninsula Map and Information

Aomori Prefecture on line videos

Neputa and Nebuta Festivals

Tsugaru Shamisen music

Cities and Town in Tsugaru

Hirosaki City.

The intellectual and cultural capital of the Tsugaru region.

Kanagi (a lovely town in central Tsugaru, birthplace of novelist Osamu Dazai





Website developed by Ellen Schattschneider (Brandeis University)