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Sacred Sites and
Retreats Around Japan

Japan is a beautiful place with much to explore. Please enjoy these views of sacred sites from our previous retreats around the country.


About Sacred Sites and "Mononoke"

Trees and stones have long been objects of deep devotion in Japan. Originally there were no shrine buildings; instead a tree, forest, or a large boulder or a mountain, festooned with ropes, would be the focus of worship.


In Japan the mysterious forces of nature, called ke, were believed to permeate palpable matter and formless space (collectively called mono in Japanese) to create mononoke. Mononoke was seen to coalesce in trees and stones. Certain trees, especially the cryptomeria and the evergreen sakaki , were considered sacred for this reason. When one of these trees was felled and the wood used in the construction of a shrine, this sacred quality was believed to follow it into the building. The sacred tree itself was literally and symbolically present in the form of a pillar or post around which the shrine was constructed.

- Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe

Spirits of Nature

Mononoke means "The spirit of a thing". Basically, the Japanese blame mononoke for every unexplainable thing, from a major natural disaster to a minor headache. A mononoke could be the spirit of an inanimate object, such as a rock, a tree or a wheel. Or it could be the spirit of a dead person, the spirit of a live person, the spirit of an animal, goblins, monsters, or a spirit of nature. In the film "Princess Mononoke," the term applies to the guardian spirits of the forest, which appear in the form of enormous "god animals" and as small "tree spirits."

- Studio Ghibli - creators of the film "Princess Mononoke"

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Kodama Forest Spirits - from the film "Princess Mononoke"

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