"The Buddha Mummies of North Japan"

How is it possible to be dead, yet alive? To meditate, though mummified? To be worshipped as a living Buddha for committing suicide? "The Buddha Mummies of North Japan" explores vitality in death, the ultimate paradox, by documenting the perspectives and experiences that pilgrims, ascetics, monks, scholars, and lay people have of Buddhist mummies in northeastern Japan who, in a time of drought, famine, and pandemic disease, are said to have achieved enlightened consciousness through the willful immortalization of their physical bodies. While hundreds of monks attempted to self-mummify between the 12th and 19th centuries in Japan, only a fraction of them were successful. They are known as sokushinbutsu, literally “Embodied Buddhas.”

Director:  Satoshi Watanabe

Producer:  Shayne A. P. Dahl

Genre:  Documentary, 21 min

Awards: Winner, Best Documentary, University of Toronto Film Festival 2017. 

© 2018 by Alpine Ethnographer