immortal wishes:
labor and transcendence
on a Japanese sacred mountain

Ellen Schattschneider

Duke University Press (2003)


Akakura Mountain Shrine

Sacred Places


The Waterfall of Fudo

(Fudo Taki)

The waterfall of Fudo, located within Akakura gorge, is located near the base of Akakura gorge. It is the most common destination of those undertaking shugyo (ascetic discipline) at Akakura Mountain Shrine. Here, worshippers pray intensely, reciting Hannya Shingyo and the Fudo-son-ken-Kudoku-no-mon prayer to the fire divinity Fudo Myoo.

At the waterfall, ascetics may experience revelatory visions of Fudo or of the mountain's principal divinity Akakura Daigongen in his various incarnations, including that of a dragon (a being intimately associated with water, rain and waterfalls.)

On May 1st, when the gorge is still covered with snow and ice, the assembled shrine congregation collectively climbs to this spot and hangs a great shimenawa (rice straw rope) above the waterall, in the Mountain Opening Ceremony (Yamabiraki)

The waterfall is depicted in several votive paintings in the shrine, as in this image of the shrine foundress undertaking water discipline (mizu gyo) within its icy waters. As Carmen Blacker notes in The Catalpa Bow, the dedicated medium is believed to possess such great internal heat that she may experience the waterfall as a fire, intimately associated with Fudo Myoo's own flaming sword.

In this painting, the praying foundress, to the left of the waterall beholds a vision of vision of Akakura Daigongen (in his incarnation as a white haired old man) floating on a golden cloud.

 Related Internet Resources

Water Rituals in Japan



Website developed by Ellen Schattschneider (Brandeis University)