The Buddha Mummies of North Japan

(Kita-nihon no sokushinbutsu)

- JAPAN, CANADA / 2017 / Japanese, English / Color / Digital File (Original: Blu-ray) / 20 min

Director, Photography: Watanabe Satoshi
Photography: Sato Koichi
Producer: Shayne A. P. Dahl

There are a number of Buddhist temples in Japan that revere sokushinbutsu, or monks who underwent live self-mummification through ascetic practices. These temples maintain the belief even today that the power attained by these monks through their severe self-discipline and self-denial can cure sickness and protect living things. Yamagata Prefecture is known as one of the foremost sacred places for sokushinbutsu in Japan. This film introduces the unusual ritual of the changing of the mummies’ clothes, performed only once every six years, and also describes the dietary regimen and harsh ascetic conditioning that was necessary for live self-mummification, unraveling mysteries of the world of religious belief.

Watanabe Satoshi

From Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. A graduate of Tohoku University of Art and Design who was apprentice to film director Iizuka Toshio. His films as director include Reviving Recipes (2011, YIDFF 2011), Silent Revolution (2017), and Yukiguni (2018), all released in art theaters nationwide.


Yamagata City Newsreel program now available online!

In the mid-1950s as small towns and villages in Yamagata went through the municipal mergers of the era, staff from the city’s public relations division documented the daily lives and countenances of local people using 16mm cameras and sound recording equipment. Screened also at YIDFF 2013, this year they will be available for viewing online.
* For summaries of the individual films in the Yamagata City Newsreel program please refer to the 2013 Yamagata and Film program.

YouTube: Yamagata City Newsreel