It was one summer evening in July, 2018. I was on my way back to a hotel located in Yamagata city in the Tohoku region after I paid a visit to an old friend of mine from high school, who had moved out of Tokyo into Yamagata after graduating from college.


As I grew a little tired on a long drive, I was looking for a convenience store or a roadside station where I could take a short rest, to no avail. Actually, however hard I tried, I never seemed to be able to come across a suitable place to stop by. My mood was just about to turn into irritation when I found myself in front of a parking lot in the middle of nowhere, which seemed to belong to an old temple in the district.


It began to rain, and the drizzle turned into pouring rain before I knew it. I felt like I had no choice but to park my car and take shelter in the temple for a while. Soon the darkness of night settled all over the place. With the permission from the kind priest I made my way across the creaking wooden floors into the main hall. The sound of the rain on the roof drowned out all other sounds.


I lit a stick of incense, clapped my hands and bowed in prayer. Then what came into sight the very next moment left me completely dumbfounded, confused, making it impossible for me to figure out what “the object” was. It was beyond comprehension!



What I saw appeared to be a corpse, a dead human body, or a mummy…there were no words in my vocabulary to appropriately describe the awe inspiring entity in my field of view at that precise moment.


The priest, with a gentle smile on his lips, explained to me that it was a monk who mummified himself. The legend goes that if a monk has succeeded in making himself mummified, he will acquire the Buddha-like ability to bring about spiritual salvation for all living creatures on the earth.


The process of self-mummification, however, involves extreme measures. First, an individual with this intent is supposed to begin by reducing the amount of food he consumes. He has to refrain from eating cereals, and the kind of food he is allowed to eat is strictly limited to unusual substances such as pine needles and bark. If everything goes as planned, he will die of starvation within several years.


Then, after he has lost a considerable amount of weight, he goes on to the next stage. He abstains from liquid, and takes lacquer so as to prevent his organs from decaying. Eventually, when the time comes, he goes into an underground chamber with a tube to take in oxygen and continues to meditate, in pitch-black darkness, until death arrives.


The next day I had a dream, where I found myself alone with the self mummified monk in the dark hall in the middle of the night. I was saying my prayers when I suddenly felt something was definitely wrong. I sensed a kind of ‘CHI’ coming over me, and saw the monk beginning to budge as if he were screaming and reaching out for me. I was panic-stricken, unable to move an inch, and completely helpless.


Do you believe in the existence of life after death?


by 柳浦