immortal wishes:
labor and transcendence
on a Japanese sacred mountain

Ellen Schattschneider

Duke University Press (2003)



Sacred Beings


Like Jizo, Kannon (Sanskirt: Avalokitesvara; Chinese: Kuan Yin) is an important Bodhisattva, an incarnation of the Buddha who has voluntarily renounced Enlightenment in order to guide lesserbeings though the realms of existence. In Japan, as in China, Kannon is usually depicted in female form.

In the Tsugaru region, as in many other regions in Japan, there is a popular pilgrimage through thirty-three major Kannon sites. The members of Akakura Mountain Shrine undertake this pilgrimage every June.

There is also a line of thirty-three kannon statues stretching up the left ridge of the Akakura gorge culminating in a large Shokannonsama statue near the mountain's summit, an important route of mountain shugyo (ascetic discipline). This large statue was carved, and carried to the summit, by the foundress' brother.

Finally, there is an assemblage of thirty three small kannon statues in the rear area of Akakura Mountain Shrine, centered around a large statue of Kannon. This area functions as the ritual center of the Ancestral Memorialization (Senzo Kuyo) ceremony each October.

See: Statues of Kannon at Akakura

See: List of the 33 sacred Kannon sites of the Tsugaru region

Kannon statue at rear of Akakura Shrine complex


Internet Resources on Kannon

Kannon: Japanese Buddhist Corner

Guide to Japanese Buddhist Statues (Soto Zen): Kannon

Contains a helpful diagram on the different sections of Sho-Kannon statues.

Goddess of Compassion: Kuan Yin

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


Website developed by Ellen Schattschneider (Brandeis University)