The Creepy Japanese Art Of Self-Mummification


The idea of self-mummification doesn’t exactly sound very appealing. Someone mummifying your body after you’ve passed away sounds quite reasonable, but self-mummification?

Located in the north of Japan, you’ll find around two dozen creepy self-mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu. These monks practiced the art of self-mummification eventually taking their own lives in the name of enlightenment.

The Sokushinbutsu self-mummified monks of the Yamagata Province were members of the Shingon school of Buddhism, which was founded over 1000 years ago by a priest named Kuukai. The Shingon monks practiced extreme self-punishment which they believed would help them become enlightened. The monks put their bodies through real torture in their quest to become enlightened. Walking on hot coals and meditating under ice cold waterfalls for hours on end was all part of their daily routine.


The self-mummification process was pioneered by Shingon priest Kuukai and took upwards of ten years for a monk to mummify themselves. The grueling process began with a strict diet of nuts and seeds for around 1000 days. While on this diet, the monks would take part in lots of physical activities to completely strip their body of fat.


After 1000 days of the seed and nut diet had passed, the monks then spent another 1000 days eating only tree roots and bark. The monks also drank a poisonous tea brew made from the Urushi tree which is used today as a lacquer. The Urushi tree poison was said to be so poisonous, it prevented the mummified body from being eaten by maggots at a later date. Once the monks had gone through this process it was time to lock themselves away in a small stone tomb sitting in the lotus position.

Once inside the stone tomb, the monks used a small air tube to breathe, they could also ring a bell to let the other monks know that they were still alive. Once the bell stopped ringing it meant the monk had finally passed away inside the tomb mummified forever. Hundreds of monks were said to have tried this process, but only around 24 Sokushinbutsu have been found so far.