immortal wishes:
labor and transcendence
on a Japanese sacred mountain

Ellen Schattschneider

Duke University Press (2003)



Teaching Resources

Akakura Mountain Shrine

Sacred Beings

Sakanoue no Tamuramaro

(see Immortal Wishes, pp. 33-34)

Sakanoue no Tamuamaro, a historical personage in the ninth century Yamato imperial court, has been incorporated into the mythic pantheon of Akakura and other northern Tohoku institutions. Akakura Mountain Shrine worshippers believe that Sakanoue undertook shugyo (ascetic discipline) on Akakura's slopes more than 1,000 years ago, and that his spiritual presence endures on the mountain. He is honored with a wooden statue next to the Shinden, and has close associations with Akakura Daignongen.

In the Tsugaru region, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro is celebrated as the conqueror of the indigenous Ainu/Ezo, a victory re-enacted each year in the Nebuta and Neputa festivals. According to some accounts, the elaborate illuminated floats used in these rites recall the lanterns deployed by Sakanoue no Tamuamaro to lure indigenous demons out into the open. Many temples in the region are dedicated to Sakanoue no Tamuramaro as an avatar of the demon-crushing Bishamon.

Internet Resources on Sakanoue no Tamuramaro


Military History

Neputa and Nebuta Festivals





Website developed by Ellen Schattschneider (Brandeis University)