This interdisciplinary panel explores the selective re-imagining of premodern religious practices, sites, and buildings in modern contexts. Each of the four papers provides a case study of the contemporary appropriation and redefinition of premodern histories of Japan’s religions to show how, since the Meiji period, people have turned to the notion of “tradition” when reconfiguring—or outright inventing—sacred sites and practices. Through a case study of Sefa Utaki, a sacred grove on Okinawa, Dr. Rots investigates how the indigenous worship traditions practiced on the Ryukyu islands were reinterpreted under the guise of “Ryukyu Shinto” as part of the incorporation process of the islands into the Japanese national narrative starting in the nineteenth century. In her paper on Toji’s reception hall, Dr. Tsuchikane explores how a medieval building was supposedly “revived” in the early twentieth century at a time when the temple was designated by the state as one of the sacred sites in relation to its propagation of the Southern line of the imperial lineage. Dr. DeWitt’s paper provides a study of the Munakata Shrine's Miare Festival, which, although conducted at a "shrine," is in fact a modern reconstruction of ancient and medieval Buddhist rites. She thus explores how shrine authorities and patrons understand, promote, and reconstruct the premodern past. Finally, Dr. Van Goethem examines the recent self-portrayal of five Kyoto shrines as the age-old guardians of the ancient capital through the identification of the shrines with the five directional deities found in ancient Chinese cosmology.
Speakers: Aike P. Rots (University of Oslo), "Whose Sacred Grove? Imperialism, Heritage Production, and the Invention of 'Ryukyu Shinto'” Yasuko Tsuchikane (The Cooper Union), "Perpetuating the Dharma against Modernity by Rebuilding Temples: The Construction of Shoshibo at Toji, 1934" Lindsey E. DeWitt (Kyushu University), "Recrafting the Past: The Modern Miare Festival of Munakata Grand Shrine"