Ubasute no tsuki (The Moon of Ubasute), by Yoshitoshi

Ubasute (姥捨て?, literally "abandoning an old woman", also called "obasute" and sometimes "oyasute" 親捨て "abandoning a parent") refers to the custom allegedly performed in Japan in the distant past, whereby an infirm or elderly relative was carried to a mountain, or some other remote, desolate place, and left there to die,[1] either by dehydration, starvation, or exposure, as a form of euthanasia. The practice was allegedly most common during times of drought and famine, and was sometimes mandated by feudal officials. According to the Kodansha Illustrated Encyclopedia of Japan, ubasute "is the subject of legend, but [...] does not seem ever to have been a common custom".[2] According to folklore, the Aokigahara forest at the base of Mount Fuji was once such a site. [3]

In folklore

Ubasute has left its mark on Japanese folklore, where it forms the basis of many legends, poems, and koans. In one Buddhist allegory, a son carries his mother up a mountain on his back. During the journey, she stretches out her arms, catching the twigs and scattering them in their wake, so that her son will be able to find the way home.

A poem commemorates the story:

In the depths of the mountains,
Who was it for the aged mother snapped
One twig after another?
Heedless of herself
She did so
For the sake of her son

In popular culture


Ubasute Mountain
Ubasute Mountain

Similar practice in other cultures


  1. Hoffman, Michael (September 12, 2010). "Aging through the ages". The Japan Times. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  2. Japan, An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Kodansha Ltd., Tokyo, 1993, on p. 1121
  3. "Suicide in Japan: Deep in the woods: Fewer Japanese are killing themselves". The Economist. January 30, 2016. p. 45.
  4. Suicide 'epidemic' among Japan's elderly BBC News
  5. 冠着山 長野県の山 信州山学ガイド] (Japanese)
  6. Hoffman

Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 36°28′07″N 138°06′24″E / 36.46861°N 138.10667°E / 36.46861; 138.10667

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