Northern Networks: The Range and Roles of the Dewa Sanzan Cult in Northern Japan


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


This project explores the religious cult associated with the Dewa Sanzan mountains in Northern Japan. Based in the mountain ascetic tradition known as Shugendo which combined esoteric Buddhism, Daoism, and Shinto, it was the region’s most important religious organization. Focusing on the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries and emphasizing the cult's Buddhist character, my research analyzes the parish system that linked centrally-located ascetic lineages with their parishioners and branch temples throughout Japan and examines how these lineages defended their parish rights in conflicts with other religious organizations. I argue that maintaining and defending strong networks between the cult's headquarters and parishes was crucial to its growth and success.