Shamanic Japan






Imaginal Japan #2

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Shamanic Japan

Yamabushi Easter: amidst sacred snows and cherry blossoms

We are thrilled to be able to offer once again, thanks to the invitation extended by our Yamabushi friends to a small group of visitors, the pilgrimage to the three sacred mountains of Dewa in the remote north of Japan. For a whole week we will live in monasteries shrouded in forest, following the rhythm of life of the Shugendo ascetics, going to touch with our own hands the depth of this very ancient tradition that combines esoteric Buddhism and Shinto animism.

The programme, designed and led by Yamabushi masters and disciples, will focus on the meditative practices of Zen and Shingon Buddhism, as well as learning the main Shinto purification rituals. In this way, we will have a unique experience of one of Japan’s most mystical places, a centuries-old pilgrimage destination far from the beaten path of mass tourism, under the banner of a great ritual of death and rebirth. Ascending the sacred Mount Haguro and communing with its deities, we will thus celebrate in the most profound and imaginative way possible the moment par excellence of regeneration in the Christian tradition: Easter.

With the expert accompaniment of Michelangelo and Dasha, the Yamabushi intense ascetic programme will be complemented by historical and ethnological insights and numerous meditation and mindfulness practices, including Japanese yoga and practices of shinrin yoku and reconnection with one’s ikigai.

As well as coinciding with Easter, this experience will give us the chance to admire one of the most important and wonderful events in the Japanese calendar: the blossoming of the cherry trees. The free days in Tokyo, during which Michelangelo and Dasha will be available for advice and support, will be the ideal opportunity to enjoy this spectacle while exploring one of the most electrifying and dynamic megalopolises in the world.


Registration is open until

Participation in the trip is limited and is subject to a preliminary interview
N.B. The programme may be subject to change
N.B. The participation fee may vary slightly depending on the exchange rate and the number of participants



PROGRAMME 28 March – 9 April 2024

Day 1 (28 MARCH)

Flight to Tokyo.

Day 2 (29 MARCH)

Arrival in Tokyo. Meeting with the group and free evening. Overnight stay in hotel.

Day 3 (30 MARCH)

Breakfast together at the hotel. Free day for sightseeing. Before leaving for the day, Dasha and Michelangelo will provide participants without prior plans information and advice on what to see and how to organise their visits. Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 4 (31 march – easter sunday)

Breakfast at the hotel. Free day for sightseeing. Michelangelo and Dasha will offer a walk for those who want to enjoy the cherry blossoms together with the group. Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 5 (1 APril)

Breakfast at the hotel. Individual transfer (by taxi and/or underground) to Tokyo Station. Travel via Shinkasen and Tokyo-Tsuruoka scenic train via Niigata. Meeting with the Yamabushi and welcome rituals. Transfer to Zenpoji Monastery (Zen Buddhist monastery). Ascetic ichijyu nisai dinner. Night meditation and bathing. Overnight stay in the monastery.

Day 6 (2 april)

Waking up and mantra chanting ceremony with the monks. Breakfast with meditation on chewing. Cleansing with monks and Zen meditation lesson. Calligraphy lesson. After lunch, discussion with Michelangelo on the history of Buddhism in Japan. Practice on mandalas and ikigai, meditation with Dasha. Free time to visit the monastery (historical and artistic heritage). Ascetic ichijyu nisai dinner and bath. Overnight stay in the monastery.

Day 7 (3 april)

Wake up and mantra chanting ceremony with the monks. Breakfast. Cleansing with the monks. Shinrin Yoku practice in nature and meeting with the local water deity. Zen meditation. After lunch, departure by minibus, visit with the Yamabushi of the local cultural centre and transfer to Haguro Mountain. Welcome prayer in the Shinto temple with the priest. Ascetic ichijyu nisai dinner and mantra recitation. Bathing. Overnight stay in the pilgrims’ quarters.

Day 8 (4 april)

Wake up and shingon purification ceremony. Meditative breakfast. Transfer by minibus to the village and meeting with sensei Yamabushi. Ceremony. Ascent of the sacred mountain on foot with Sensei. After lunch rest and Japanese yoga with Dasha. Ascetic ichijyu nisai dinner and bath. Overnight stay in the pilgrims’ quarters.

Day 9 (5 april)

Wake up and Shinto ceremony in the main temple. Meditative breakfast. Morning discussion with Michelangelo on the history of shugendo and the connection between Buddhism and Shinto in the Japanese tradition. We will study one or two important mantras and analyse their deeper meaning. After lunch, meditative and mindfulness practices with Dasha. Shinrin Yoku in the cedar forest around the shrine and a chance to discuss the history of the place with Michelangelo. Ascetic ichijyu nisai dinner and bath. Overnight stay in the pilgrim’s quarters.

Day 11 (6 april)

Wake up and Shinto ceremony in the main temple. Meditative breakfast and free time to reflect and enjoy the place. Meditative practice with Dasha. Transfer to the village by minibus and traditional banquet with Yamabushi friends. Transfer to the ancient Zen monastery of Gyokusenji and tea ceremony with the guardian monk. Transfer to the Yupoka onsen, run by the Yamabushi community – thermal baths. Return to Mount Haguro shrine and ascetic ichijyu nisai dinner. Bathing. Overnight stay in pilgrim accommodation.

Day 12 (7 april)

Wake up and pray. Ascetic breakfast. Transfer to village for meeting and conversation with Master Hoshino – hereditary Yamabushi Master for 13 generations, one of Japan’s most important spiritual personalities. Conclusion of the Yamabushi path. Transfer to Tsuruoka and visit the home of an artist and powerful woman of the region. After lunch, arrival at the station and transfer by train to Tokyo. Overnight stay at a hotel.

Day 13 (8 april)

Breakfast at the hotel. Free day for sightseeing in the city. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 14 (9 april)

Return to Europe.

Shamanic Japan


– Seminar led by Michelangelo and Dasha

– Meditation experience and intensive practices led by the Yamabushi

– Inland train transportation between Tokyo and Tsuruoka (Dewa Sanzan)

– Overnight hotel accommodation in Tokyo in double room with breakfast, in Dewa Sanzan in pilgrim accommodation

– Full board in Dewa Sanzan


– Meals not mentioned in the programme and meals in restaurants other than the programme – All meals except breakfast in Tokyo and during transfers – Tips and gratuities, optional excursions and any personal requirements

– Airline ticket and airport taxes

– Travel insurance

– Anything not expressly indicated herein and under “the fee includes”.

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What they had to say…

See some of our reviews of Japan from some of our fellow explorers.

It is the experience of a lifetime. I loved waking up early with the group to practice various meditations and yoga to start my day. The cuisine was wonderful and cooked by an extremely talented Chef. This trip honestly has changed my life, as cliché as it sounds. All of the activities such as grateful diary, rock meditations, connecting the body and the mind and the yamabushi rituals and practices, have shown me that life is beautiful and that all that I should do is be grateful and love with no boundaries.
Thank you to Michelangelo and Dasha

After this experience, I feel so much more serene and at peace with myself. I am forever grateful for the friendships that were created with all the participants during this trip.

This experienced has caused a shift within me. I feel stronger, more determined, and aware of each present moment that life gifts to me. Immensely grateful to Michelangelo and Dasha for guiding me and supporting me during this unforgettable voyage.

Michelangelo and Dasha are wonderful, kind, and radiant souls. Thank you to them for opening me up to a whole new world. I now practice the Japanese philosophy of acceptance- uketamo, daily and witness beautiful changes taking place in my life. Through the meditations that I practiced with Dasha, I have learned to let go and focus on the present moment without fear or judgment.

Michelangelo in my eyes is truly an expert on the realms of shamanism and Shintoism. His easy way of communicating complex matters makes it accessible for anyone who wants to dive deep into the world of shamans. This trip not only showed me a new world, but it has also broadened and developed my understanding on Shamanism. Thank you.

Living with the Yamabushi, tea ceremonies, Zen monasteries, sleeping on tatamis and eating locally grown crops from the mountains. There are so many things I want to write but I honestly feel that one must live this experience, reading about it won’t do justice to the most beautiful and magical moments that I have experienced during this trip. Thank you Michelangelo and Dasha for always being there for me and for your care and support.

The discovery of being able to experience the sense of brotherhood and communion, with seemingly unknown but evidently rediscovered people.
A magical bridge between, East and West.
A beginning for a step toward a “planetary ecumenism.”


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