Shugendō (修験道) is a religion in Japan which is a mixture of both Buddhism and native Japanese mountain worship, historically said to have been founded by En no Ozunu upon the slopes of Mount Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture.
The religion had a rather quick growth after its onset and the current Emperor at the time (Monmu) feared they were a threat to his power, and so he exile the relgions founder, Ozunu to the island of Izu Ōshima for three years.
Practitioners of this religion are known as Yamabushi (山伏), a hardy people who live in the moutnains and are known for great expertise in martial arts.
Centuries after the death of En no Ozunu, the Yamabushi built a dojo in his honor on a Koga Mountain called Hando-san, they built it here as they believed this mountain to have been the home of Ozunu.
Historically these practitioners are seen as the first people to have taught the Ninja their tricks, teaching them how to use herbs and minerals, how to understand weather patterns as well as how to camouflage themselves.1
The creatures known as the Tengu have deep associations with the Shugendō as they are seen as guardians of mountains2 Additionally due to their association with this religion they are seen as minor gods.3
1. Yoda, H & Alt, M. (2012) “Ninja Attack: True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws” Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.
2. Yoda, H. and Alt, M. (2016) “Japandemonium: Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopaedia of Toriyama Sekien.”. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
3. Yoda, H & Alt, M. (2008) “Yokai Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide” Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd.
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