Ubasute (姥捨て, "abandoning an old woman", also called obasute and sometimes oyasute 親捨て "abandoning a parent") is the supposed rare, old[1] practice of senicide in Japan, whereby an infirm or elderly relative was carried to a mountain, or some other remote, desolate place, and left there to die.[2] 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".[1]

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


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,
Whom 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 cultureEdit


Ubasute Mountain
Ubasute Mountain

Similar practice in other culturesEdit


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

Further readingEdit

  • Japan, An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Kodansha Ltd., Tokyo, 1993, p. 1121

External linksEdit

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