Japanese mountain asceticism: a spiritual approach to the environment

Shugendō priest on mountainToday I watched a recently released documentary film Shugendo Now, which aims to provide the viewer with “an experiential journey into the mystical practices of Japanese mountain asceticism.” While identified as a documentary, the film is more like watching a moving work of art – with minimal narrative, the documentary-makers take the role of observing rather than judging or interpreting, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions or to simply “experience” the film.

While environmental history tends to be a predominantly intellectual exploration of the human relationship with the environment, this film reminded me of the myriad other ways human beings can experience the environment. Continue reading