Biographical Information
Name(s) Kōbō-Daishi
Age 61
Sex Male
Status Priest
Height Unknown
Culture Japanese Buddhist
Date(s) AD 774 - 835
Site Mount Kōya
Current Location
Location Mount Kōya
Catalog # Unknown

Kūkai, later known as Kōbō-Daishi, was a prominent figure in medieval Japan. A civil servant and scholar, and Buddhist monk who founded the Shingon school of Buddhism. Kūkai is most known for his part in inventing the kana and bringing sokushinbutsu to China.


As the Shingon school’s founder, Kūkai is believed to have developed sokushinbutsu. In his final years, Kūkai grew sick and spent most of his time on top of Mount Kōya performing sokushinbutsu. For almost three months, Kūkai isolated himself, stopped taking food and water, and immersed himself in meditation. Nearing the end of the third month, Kūkai died, leaving the physical world and finalizing sokushinbutsu. Sokushinbutsu refers to the practice of asceticism to achieve enlightenment while entering mummification alive. It was practiced by the Shingon Buddhists in Northern Japan between the 11th and 19th century. To complete sokushinbutsu, practitioners ultimately had to bury themselves alive after numerous days of starving and dehydrating themselves while meditating under the sun’s heat.


Swancer, B. (2014, Apr, 28). The Mysterious Living Mummies of Japan. Retrieved from

Hansen, L. (2014, Mar, 24). 10 Facts You Should Know About Self-Mummification.

Wikipedia Contributors (2016, Dec, 8). Kukai.

Wikipedia Contributors (2017, Feb, 16). Sokushinbutsu.

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