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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Death of Kyoto Legend Yusai Sakai


Kyoto has lost a legend.

Yusai Sakai, a monk at Enryakuji Temple, passed away at age 87 early Monday morning in nearby Otsu.

The retired monk came to fame for completing the Sennichi Kaihogyo (One Thousand Days Training), or marathon training - twice.

Before turning to what the "marathon" consists of, let's look at Sakai.

During the second World War, Sakai trained as a pilot. After the war, Sakai returned to Japan and worked in a family-run noodle shop, which burnt down and thus ended the business. Thereafter, he married a cousin, who two months later committed suicide.

At this point, at age 40, Sakai became a monk at Enryakuji Temple.

There, as part of one's training, monks run progressively more marathons on the mountain over a seven year period, thus the 1,000 Days. Most never come close to completing the grueling training. Monks often run at night, in straw sandals, on mountain paths.

The climax for those who complete the running portion is a nine-day sleepless fast. The experience is said to bring one precariously close to death.

The few monks who manage to complete the training are feted throughout the city of Kyoto.

Sakai did it twice, staring death in the face twice.

He defied death until now.


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