Oct. 24th, 2010

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View my ignoble return to the blogosphere. In particular, my revival of this particular blog, in which I had only ever posted a paltry two entries about a year and a half ago. Well, I don't know how well this will go, but in any case, being in grad school now and having to read a book or two a week for my Japanese history class this semester, I figured I could start writing about those readings instead of relegating them to the recesses of my mind because, really, some of them are quite good. And some, not so good. These aren't meant to be critical academic reviews, just a brief overview and my thoughts.

Anyways, I'll start with something good. Last week I read Sarah Thal's Rearranging the Landscape of the Gods: The Politics of a Pilgrimage Site in Japan, 1573-1912 (2005). The book focuses on the pilgrimage site Konpira (later renamed Kotohira), and its changes through time as a consequence of various social, economic, and political pressures.

Prior to the Meiji Restoration, temples and shrines weren't exclusive of each other the way they are today. You'd have shrines on temple grounds and temples on shrine grounds. You'd have kami, Buddhist deities who were supposedly avatars for native Shinto kami, long-nosed goblins (tengu), and mountain asceticsm all gathered together and worshipped at the same site. Konpira was a hugely popular pilgrimage site that at the height of its popularity around the 1850s was even compared to Ise. It's located in eastern Shikoku on Mt. Zouzu in Takamatsu domain and identified with the Buddhist Shingon sect, with its main deity being Konpira. The temple was well off economically during the Tokugawa period. It had a taxable population in the town of Konpira at the foot of the mountain, income lands donated through various connections, and a close alliance between its head priests and the daimyo lords of the domain. The deities of the site were associated with miracles, healing, safety at sea, gold, and so on. The very ambiguity of the gods made it all the more popular, as pilgrims could interpret them as they wished.

With the Meiji Restoration... )

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October 2010

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