Classroom DVD Features

Two classroom videos on one DVD

  • The Lotus Ascent 42 min.
  • The Forest of Mountain Learning 48 min.

FAQ with Filmmakers 12 min.


Languages: Japanese, English, French & Spanish
Subtitles in English, French and Spanish
1.85 Aspect ratio – NTSC – All Regions

Study Guide available from Documentary Educational Resources (PDF).

A useful tool to stimulate discussion in the classroom. It forces students to critically confront their expectations of Shugendô as it is lived and practiced in contemporary Japan.

Barbara Ambros, H-Japan

A well-executed documentary, Shugendô Now includes compelling footage and avoids heavy-handed voice-overs, presenting viewers with conceptual juxtapositions that should provoke discussion in or out of the classroom. […] Most likely its primary strength will be its potential for generating discussion among students, though it could also fruitfully be used as a target for analytical writing assignments.

Heather Blair, Journal of Buddhist Ethics

The Lotus Ascent

In The Lotus Ascent we accompany 120 male pilgrims from all walks of life on a twenty-six kilometer climb to the peak of Japan’s Mt Ômine. This sacred mountain, off limits to women, is regarded as the home of divinities and Immortals as well as the mother’s womb: a site of rebirth, catharsis, and healing. Returning with them to the sprawling metropolises they call home, we learn what motivates pilgrims and how they integrate lessons learned from Nature in daily life. Our guide Tanaka Riten, a seasoned ascetic with intellectual credentials, media savvy, and a keen sense of humor, has made the traditional practices more accessible to lay people, boosting participation considerably. Yet attendance by more experienced ascetics has dropped. Wagering that the only way for a religious tradition to survive is to have the broadest possible membership, Tanaka believes his efforts have not been unsuccessful.

The Forest Of Mountain Learning

Struggling to stay human, wishing to live “smelling the earth,” and choosing between accounting or the artist’s life: these are some of the motivations that attract visitors to The Forest of Mountain Learning. Charismatic priest Tateishi Kôshô has established this rustic temple and training site as a space for individuals at a crossroads in their lives to contemplate Nature and “know their heart-mind.” Kôshô’s musical and culinary virtuosity, colorful background, and wisdom gained from ascetic practices in rugged mountains make him an appealing conversation partner. But his disciplined practice and protection of the natural world from illegal dumping and gravel production earn him the respect and admiration of a global cohort of pilgrims.

Frequently Asked Questions with the filmmakers

  1. Can you tell us how this film came together?
  2. What is the relationship between priests Tanaka Riten & Tateishi Kôshô?
  3. Why are women prohibited from ascending the peak of Mt Ômine?
  4. How do Shugendô priests make a living?
  5. What are the paintings interwoven in the film?
  6. What is a kami?
  7. Why is it a problem to dump tatami mats in the mountains?
  8. What is the meaning and significance of a Shugendô practitioner’s attire?
  9. How did you get those shots during the Lotus Ascent?
  10. How can I get Tateishi Kôshô’s tofu noodle recipe?