The gradual inclusion of waka on Buddhist themes (sometimes called shakkyō-ka) in the imperial poetry anthologies during the latter half of the Heian period (784-1185) parallels developments in the personal (shisenshū) anthology (Hosshin wakashū by Senshi Naishinnō,ca. 1012), the private (shikashū) anthology (Chōshū eisō by Fujiwara no Shunzei, 1178), and the one-hundred waka sequence known as the hyakushu. The first hyakushu comprised entirely of shakkyō-ka is by the poet-priest Jakuzen (ca. 1114-1118-ca. 1182). As a rarely studied work of literature in either Japan or the West, the Hōmon hyakushu (One Hundred Waka Sequence on the Dharma Gate) is unique, not only because it is the first of its kind, but also because each poem is followed by a short prose epilogue that speaks directly to the Buddhist teaching represented by the waka and its dai, or topic. Moroever, the entire hyakushu is divided like an imperial poetry anthology into ten books of ten poems each on the topics of spring, summer, fall, winter, congratulations, separation, love, reminiscences, impermanence, and miscellaneous. Like many other, though not all, shakkyō-ka of this era, the poem and epilogue are preceded by a four-, eight-, or ten-character dai that is drawn from Buddhist sutras and texts.
This paper will examine five poems with new translations, one each from the summer, autumn, separation, love, and mujō sections in order to determine how Jakuzen drew from three literary styles—Buddhist Chinese (dai), waka, and Japanese prose—to create a finely textured anthology that both teaches and preaches while it honors the Heian period waka tradition.
Million Dollar Question: Does the Woman’s Body Matter? An Examination of Female Salvation in The Tale of the Heike
In the “Devadatta” chapter of the "Lotus Sutra", Śāriputra, one of the two male disciples of the Buddha, said to the dragon girl, “A woman’s body is filthy, it is not a dharma receptacle.” Despite this normative understanding of the five obstructions and three obligations preventing women to attain enlightenment, the dragon girl’s ability is underestimated when she instantly undergoes a physical and spiritual transformation. In this paper, I intend to focus on characters Giō and Kenreimon’in from "The Tale of Heike" and their attitudes toward enlightenment in order to examine to what degree representations of female salvation in literature engages with the religious discourse. I argue that Giō and Kenreimon’in’s attitudes toward Buddhism are representative of two paradigms of female salvation: conventional and radical. I find that Giō’s choices presents a traditional approach to Buddhist life where being a nun is the only course of action available to her, whereas, Kenreimon’in cites the dragon girl to support her claim of already achieving enlightenment. The dragon girl’s story also appears in another sutra, "The Sutra of Sāgara, the Nāga king", which erases the idea of a woman’s body as an obstruction to salvation based on teachings of emptiness. Therefore, the need or absence of physical transformation for women is a major soteriological debate. When a woman, like Kenreimon’in, references the dragon girl, does that boldly suggest she believes herself to be exceptional (like the dragon girl), or does that ground her belief in the Buddhist teachings of emptiness and nonduality?
Tangled in Ambiguity: Gender, Sexuality, and Identity of a Buddhist Acolyte in a Medieval Chigo Tale, Ashibiki
In medieval Japan, it was common for Buddhist temples to house, clothe, and educate lay adolescent boys known as chigo (Lit. “child”). In exchange, these beautifully adorned, sacralized boys attended their master priests in many capacities, including sexually. This study concerns a 14th-century chigo tale of Ashibiki. An archetypical plot of chigo tales presents a forbidden love affair between a chigo and a monk of rival temples, which results in a tragic death of the first and a religious awakening of the latter (Later, it is revealed that the chigo was an avatar of a bodhisattva). Although Ashibiki is a love story between a priest and a chigo of rival temples, it deviates from the archetype in major ways. First, lack of the supernatural. Second, the protagonists’ natural deaths and rebirths in Pure Land. Third and most important, the transformations of the chigo’s identity: After his ponytail is stealthily cut off by his jealous stepmother, he vanishes and is later discovered as a mountain ascetic (yamabushi) with a new name and a new bobbed hairstyle. Later, he shaves his head and becomes a monk, then a recluse. With the historico-cultural functions of hair as a primary focus of analysis, this paper attempts to shed new light on the meanings of monk-chigo homoeroticism and its power dynamics. In addition, the well-known notion that chigo tales were invented as a pretext to “redeem the massive child abuse” (Faure, 1998, p. 278) will be reexamined.
It is well-known that values of filial piety, called kō 孝 in Japanese, permeated all classes in the Edo period. Until now, the major forces behind their widespread appeal have been thought to be Confucianism and the policy of the shogunate. The influence by Buddhism has scarcely been considered. In fact, however, Zen priests in the early Edo period wrote numerous biographies of filial children. Medieval Zen priests of Gozan 五山 were among the first Japanese to study the Twenty-Four Paragons of Filial Piety (Nijū Shikō 二十四孝), and its proponents in the Edo period included Chinese monks of the Ōbaku school 黄檗宗who came to Japan at the time of the disintegration of the Ming dynasty. The Ōbaku school is known to have introduced to Japan new practices in various aspects of culture, including pictorial arts and calligraphy. Biographies of filial children kōshiden 孝子伝, which constituted an important part of Edo-period literature, should be counted as yet another area in which the Ōbaku influence left a mark. Buddhists have long been accused by Confucianists, who consider it very undutiful to abandon one’s parents in order to pursue priesthood. This paper will analyze the role of the Ōbaku school monks in the creation and dissemination of biographies of filial children, and examine whether their efforts to spread stories of filial piety allowed them to resolve any differences between Buddhist and Confucian values.
This paper examines two works of comic fiction, both written after the death of popular fiction writer Ihara Saikaku井原西鶴 (1642-1693), which present afterlife scenarios of the author as he suffers the karmic consequences of retailing in “crazy words and fancy language” (kyōgen kigyo 狂言綺語). The first, Miyako no Nishiki’s 都の錦 (b. 1675) Genroku Taiheiki 元禄太平記 (Record of Great Peace During the Genroku Period, 1710), depicts Saikaku as a commercially minded hack who spends the advance payment for a commissioned work over the course of five nights of drunken revelry, and then dies before he can complete the work. Saikaku meets up with his publisher in hell, where he is forced to make profuse apologies for his prodigality. The second, Genmu’s 幻夢 Saikaku meido monogatari 西鶴冥途物語 (Tales of Saikaku in Hell, 1697), depicts Saikaku in a less critical light, as reformed saint of poetry who rails against the spirit of commercialism that prevails in the contemporary world of haikai poetry. Taken together, both works attest to the complex negotiations Saikaku’s admirers and critics needed to make in the course of assessing his literary legacy. These issues, I argue, are hardly limited to Saikaku himself, and touch up deeper concerns about the propriety of commercial writing during the early Edo period.
Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s The Love Suicides at Sonezaki (Sonezaki Shinjū, 1703) marked a shift from earlier representations of love suicide by emphasizing the salvation of the lovers through their act. The rituals the lovers engage in before death in Sonezaki, based in the pair’s faith in the saving power of Amida Buddha, become the model for the death rituals in most of Chikamatsu’s subsequent love suicide plays. This paper examines three variations: The Love Suicides of the Sunken Well (Shinjū Kasane Izutsu, 1707), The Love Suicides with an Icy Blade (Shinjū Yaiba wa Kōri no Tsuitachi, 1709), and The Love Suicides at the Women’s Temple (Shinjū Mannensō, 1710). In these plays, the suicides draw upon faith in the Lotus Sutra, the guiding spirits of lovers who previously died in love suicide in addition to Pure Land Buddhism, and Shingon Buddhism, respectively. I analyze how Chikamatsu adjusts the imagery and religious allusions to reflect these variations. I also analyze how Chikamatsu intertwines folk beliefs with Buddhist imagery and rituals in these plays. These variant plays demonstrate possible divergent models of love suicide and reveal the core components of love suicide as a means to salvation.
The Reception of Japanese Literature by the Jesuits in Japan: An Analysis of the Amakusaban Heike Monogatari
The original “The Tale of Heike” is a history about the dispute between the two families: Heike (or Taira) and Minamoto (or Genji) around the 12th century. It contains many Buddhist’s values, like mujôkan (impermanence of the things) and ingakan (causality). Even in the 16th century, when the Jesuits came to Japan, “The Tale of the Heike” was still very popular and was transmitted by the biwa hôshi (Japanese lute minstrel) orally. Then, when the Jesuits started the press in Japan, in 1590, one of the first books printed was “Amakusaban Heike Monogatari”. Printed in 1592, in a place called Amakusa, this book was written in alphabet (romaji) in a Japanese colloquial style. Although this book was based in the classical “The Tale of Heike”, “Amakusaban Heike Monogatari” differs in many ways. One of the peculiarities of this publication is the fact it was written by a Japanese Christian Brother named Fabian. In “Amakusaban”, many original sentences were omitted and rearranged. And the literally style was adapted to a colloquial one. This publication aimed not only to facilitate the Occidental priests to study Japanese Language and History but also to teach the virtues of loyalty, bravery, honor etc. in the Jesuit’s colleges in Japan. So, the objective of our research is to compare the “Amakusaban Heike Monogatari” and the original, investigating the differences and similarities and understanding the reception of “The Tale of the Heike” by the Jesuits.
Literary works in which religious elements figure prominently can be read as stages upon which religious ideas are engaged and which serve as points of connection between ideology and more secular concerns. In this sense these texts can be read dialectically as examples of what Nishida Kitarō terms “discontinuous continuity”--the idea that the world is simultaneously durative and ephemeral. That is to say, the religious notions called upon by textual references are simultaneously modified and preserved with each reiteration: they undergo modification by means of juxtaposition with different sets of ideas. At the same time, their reiteration itself provides some degree of stability in terms of meaning. Reading from this perspective also reframes these texts as sites of a dialogic performance which represents an active engagement between ideology and local voices. Examination of the religious aspects of texts from this point of view represents an opportunity to incorporate the local into more global and historical narratives. By bringing together both pre-modern and modern texts, this panel aims to explore a general shift in the performative function of religious textual elements from engagement with ideas to a more codified representation of ideology.
In renga each verse must connect to the previous one, but no distinct thread is allowed to extend beyond two verses. This rule creates an ephemeral space in which meaning vanishes and is created afresh between each pair of verses. The constant shifting of meanings in renga makes it an ideal medium for placing cultural threads usually seen as separate, perhaps even as as incompatible, into dialogue with each other. Verses linked by the technique of the changing “mask,” in which the words of one type of imagined speaker pivot into those of another, employ this ephemeral space to particular effect. For example, a verse expressing unspecified emotional fervor can serve as a bridge from a passionate love scene to a monk’s utterance of devotion to the Buddhist law. Under the guise of poetic virtuosity, such links bring religious experiences and worldviews into proximity with secular voices in a new way. This paper will focus on links between religious and non-religious verses in Muromachi-era renga, looking at ways renga resituates and destabilizes religious ideologies by placing them in contact with other types of narratives. This destabilization occurs side by side with a newly pervasive application of Buddhist philosophy to poetics, as seen in treatises such as Shinkei’s Sasamegoto. Thus renga sees major changes in the role of religion within literature, with religiously-inspired constructs making ever more central contributions to poetic theory at the same time that religious dogma is being subtly deconstructed through poetic device.
In this study, I intend to show the locus of preservation and modification of Buddhist concepts within medieval comedies (kyōgen). I will argue that kyōgen, as a form of secular entertainment, preserves and modifies Buddhist concepts more effectively than texts employed for religious purposes and, as a result, contributes to the re-creation of religion in a contemporary mode, despite how outrageous this might have appeared to devout Buddhists of the time. My presentation focuses on the comparative representation of Enma (King of Hell) in entertainment forms directed respectively toward religious and secular purposes, namelyKumano kanjin jikkai mandara (Kumano Mind Contemplation Ten Worlds Mandala), which was used by Kumano proselytizer-nuns during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the kyogen play The Gambler and the King of Hell, in which a deceased gambler introduces gambling to the king of hell, who then becomes addicted to it. While Ten Worlds Mandala portrays a dignified king of hell who is difficult to deal with, the king in the kyōgen play is characterized as humanized and relatable. I will argue that intimidating depictions of the king in order to promote conversion to Buddhism might be an orthodox strategy, but a more sympathetic king engenders deeper connections. A similar method can be seen in the contemporary manga and TV animation Hōzuki no Reitetsu by Natsumi Eguchi. It serves to familiarize Buddhist terms and images to audience members who might otherwise have little contact with them.
Conventionally, allusion serves to enrich a literary text by broadening meaning through the indirect incorporation of extratextual elements. In the case of religious allusions, meaning builds upon a body of referential material that has already constituted a third-order meaning. While reconstituting third-order meanings, these allusions are also operating within the setting of a specific text, conferring yet another layer of meaning onto the allusion, In other words, literary allusion can also function toward reconfiguration, adaptation and alteration of third-order meaning by resituating religious artifacts in contemporary settings. I will argue that Ishikawa Jun agitates this function of allusion by employing religious icons ironically. This act represents a kind of “iconography,” or the writing of images, that Ishikawa makes possible by rendering his allusions ironically. Specifically, in the works Fugen (The Bodhisattva) and “Yakeato no Iesu” (“Jesus of the Ruins”), he employs allusions to Fugen, the bodhisattva of praxis, and Jesus, a symbol of salvation, as stabilized points of contrast to prewar and immediate postwar Japanese society. In doing so, these religious figures are reintroduced with new dimensions to their third-order meanings that are both provocative and unexpected.
Hiratsuka Raichō (and Natsume Sōseki): Zen Practice, Western Philosophy, and Social Activism Woven Together
Hiratsuka Raichō's 1911 Seitō ("Bluestocking") manifesto, "In the Beginning, Woman Was the Sun," is familiar to many scholars of Japanese literature as well as to the scholars of feminism. What has been underemphasized, however, is the vital role the Zen practice Raichō underwent, and the psychic effect of the initial breakthrough of the kōan studies, known as "kenshō" (lit., "seeing one's original nature") that had on her person and her work. In this paper, I will delineate three stages, in the order of development, of Raichō's understanding of the sexed body in relation to her Zen practice and in response to the Swedish thinker Ellen Key's feminist thought, as mainly expressed in her writings of 1911-1917. As a secondary theme, the discussion involves a brief mention of Natsume Sōseki by way of his reaction to Morita Sōhei's novel, "The Smoke" (1909), which resulted out of Morita's "experiment" with his literary theory. Morita directed his failed experiment at Raichō, as being ignited by his intrigue with Raichō's understanding of the sexed body. A closer study reveals Sōseki's negative appraisal of the fashion of "naturalism," as well as his critical view of Morita's first novel. Sōseki's interest in Zen will also be speculated, over and beyond the commonly held notion based on his novel, "Mon."
Early 20th century Japanese children’s literature often employed religious or supernatural imagery. However common, such imagery is best characterized as depicting a synthetic spirituality, often a mix of Christian redemption or Buddhist morality that was principally used to advance a romantic critique of modernity.
This paper focuses initially on a story by Ogawa Mimei 小川未明 (1882 - 1961) that appeared in his 1910 debut, Akai fune (Red boat 赤い船): “Shiroi yuri to akai bara” (White Lilies and Red Roses白い百合と赤い薔薇) presents an exotic religious quest. As young Shizuko leaves a church where she has just listened to a sermon, an angel sets her with an unimaginable task. Christ in heaven is ill and it is up to Shizuko to find the three colors of hydrangea flowers – red, white, and black - that will provide the necessary cure. And she has only one day to carry out this vital mission.
A close reading of this story reveals the central role of poetic romanticism that imaginatively invokes, but does not directly engage, religious traditions. Spirituality, in this way of reading children’s literature, was a means to utilize a global cultural discourse that critiqued the modern in Japan. The paper follows with an analysis of early Showa tales from Shojo kurabu (Girls’ Club 少女倶楽部 1924 - 1937) and the colonial children’s journal Taiwan shonen kai （Taiwanese Youth World 台湾少年界1931) which extends and qualifies the use of religious imagery in the unfolding romantic critique of modernity.
Nagai Kafû’s artistic agenda for his Amerika monogatari was to overcome limitations on his artistic expression of the nature of existence in order to articulate his vision of the artistic sublime, his worldly retort to a religious and reverent spiritualty. In the text “Old Regrets” in Amerika monogatari, Kafû replaces representation of the quotidian exchange of the translator (a notable elision at several levels of the text) for the sublime vehicle of music as the medium by which artistic truth can be perceived. The apprehension and articulation of an artistic spirituality by means of literary creation for Kafû provided the grounds on which he aspired to peer-hood with the constellation of artists that he admired, especially Charles Baudelaire, who is quoted in the epigraph for the Amerika monogatari collection. Kafû experiments with the mechanics of displacement in order to find an appropriate aesthetic register that would allow him to express his vision of artistic spirituality and the sublime, one that both embraced impurity while articulating an epiphanic experience of purity. “Old Regrets” uniquely demonstrates, through the vehicle of music - namely Wagner’s opera Tannhauser - Kafû’s own repression of the visible trace of translation and its return as an aesthetic signature of the presence of artistic spirituality.
A Superfool Constantly Dreaming of the Future: Christ as Poet in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s Saihō no hito (1927)
My paper proposes a new reading of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s retelling of the life of Christ in “Saihō no hito” (“The Man from the West,” Kaizō, August 1927) and “Zoku Saihō no hito” (“The Man from the West: The Sequel,” Kaizō, September 1927). “Saihō no hito” was the last text Akutagawa published during his lifetime, and “Zoku Saihō no hito” was the last text he wrote before taking a fatal dose of Veronal on the night of July 23, 1927. Existing scholarship interprets these texts almost universally as documents that diagnose the author’s mental state in the last days before his suicide. My paper proposes an alternative reading arguing that the Christ in “Saihō no hito” is the embodiment of Akutagawa’s ideal of the artist. Akutagawa’s texts not only qualify Christ repeatedly as a “poet” and “journalist,” but also refer to authors such as Strindberg, Goethe and Poe as “christs that came after him.” I will explain how Akutagawa reinterprets key 19th century scientific texts on artistic creativity, such as Genius and Madness (1864) by Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), to identify the Holy Spirit with the forms of mental pathologies that were thought to accompany artistic genius in the Taishō era. Christ becomes then an example of the misunderstood artist, a “superfool [chō-ahō]” that pays with his life and sanity for his superhuman creativity. At the same time, artistic labor gains a spiritual dimension in the “eternal search for transcendence” that Akutagawa discovers in the life of Christ and his followers.
Shiina Rinzô (1911-1973), widely regarded as an important sengoha or après-guerre writer in Japan, underwent two types of tenkô (conversion) in his lifetime. The first was the renunciation of his allegiance to the Japan Communist Party in the early 1930s, the second a conversion to Christianity in the 1950s. Shiina joined the Japan Communist Party in 1931 while working as a train conductor. Before long, he was arrested in a nationwide roundup of the leftists considered a threat to the nation’s growing war effort. In prison, subjected to torture and gripped by the meaninglessness of his existence, Shiina eventually committed tenkô in 1933. Several years later, much inspired by works of Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, he began writing as a way to wrestle with the existential problems brought on by the experience of imprisonment and subsequent tenkô. Turning to religion was perhaps a predictable consequence of his existential struggle, however, his conversion to Christianity was anything but finding rest in the absolute. In this paper I argue that, for Shiina, being a Christian and having faith in Christ was to occupy a humorist position in the Freudian sense, steering clear of absolutism as well as nihilism. Through my analysis of his novella, “The Lukewarm One” (Hampamono no hankô; 1962), I investigate the inextricable relation between his writing of fiction and being a humorist/Christian.
I examine the works of two non-Christian authors, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (1892-1927) and Yokomitsu Ri’ichi (1898-1947), and one Christian author Endō Shūsaku (1923-1996), to show how the encounter with Christianity was crucial to sculpting perceptions of Japanese identity, religion, and art in the twentieth century. Christianity stimulated Akutagawa’s artistic production. Juxtaposing Christianity’s “power that destroys,” he celebrated Japanese religion’s “power that re-creates,” likening it to the process of artistic creation. A devotee to art throughout his life, Akutagawa maintained his unfaltering belief that the ultimate creator is art: he even re-created Christ into an artist in his final essay. Yokomitsu’s last novel, A Traveler’s Sadness, demonstrates how Christianity acts as the catalyst for the establishment of Japanese national identity. Written mostly under Imperial Japan, the novel showcases the fear for the loss of Japanese identity in the face of overwhelming Western influence, and the urge to establish one, utilizing Ancient Shinto as the source. Endō began his career as an author because he wanted to reconcile his conflicting Christian and Japanese identities. He initially scrutinized his native country of Japan and its religion with critical Catholic gaze, but his artistic endeavor gradually transformed Endō into what I call a “catholic” Catholic. Although Christianity was never successful in propagating its religious messages to the masses in the history of Japan, the re-introduction of Christianity in the late nineteenth century left a powerful impression in the development of modern Japanese literature because it presented the “Western spirituality” against which the authors defined their religious, national and even artistic identities.
The hyaku monogatari (“one hundred stories”) - a parlour game born in the Edo period – is initially played by samurai class as a test of courage but in a short time gains a hight popularity between commoners. Considered a sort of lighthouse for spirits, it has a huge fortune and the stories of ghoulish encounters narrated in the gatherings converge in a literary stream which includes some Japanese literature masterpieces of all times. In Meiji and Taishō era, despite of the wave of positivism which spread in Japan after the influence of the Western culture, well-known intellectuals – like the novelists Mori Ōgai and Izumi Kyōka, and the ethnographer Yanagita Kunio - show a deep interest in hyaku monogatari participating to those gothic meetings and reproducing that atmosphere in their works. If in the first part of modern Japan the heritage of hyaku monogatari seems to be in the hands of literature, in the '60 are manga and anime - in particular Mizuki Shigeru's production – to show a special bond with the practice. On one hand this represents the debut in the media world of Edo-period ghost stories but, at the same time, means the rediscovery of a national tradition by youngsters and the results can be seen in the next generation of novelist, whose most representative voice can be considered the “contemporary hyaku monogatari teller” Kyōgoku Natsuhiko. In this paper my aim is to analyse the fortune of hyaku monogatari during the process of modernization of the country, and make clear the path trodden by the practice that led it to contemporary Japan.
Toward a Phenomenology of Supernatural Abduction: Izumi Kyōka and the Creation of a Mystical Subject in Modern Japanese Literature
Izumi Kyōka’s 1896 story “Ryūtandan” (“The Tale of the Wyrm’s Watery Depths”) marks a turning point in Kyōka’s career as one of his first stories to substantially engage with supernatural themes. In this paper, I will undertake a close reading of “Ryūtandan” to show how it engages with a major trope in Japanese folk religion: belief in kamikakushi, or abduction by a supernatural entity. With this story, Kyōka creates a kamikakushi narrative that is unconventional in two ways: first, the abductor is female; and second, the kamikakushi narrative is told from the perspective of the abducted. Both of these aspects are extremely unusual in extant 19th-century kamikakushi reports. By eliminating the mediating presence of the witness, in whose voice traditional kamikakushi stories are narrated, Kyōka achieves something as yet unseen in modern literary discourse: the creation of a first-person narrating subject whose subjectivity is defined by mystical experience. This paper will thus make a series of linked arguments. First, I will argue that we need to take folk religion seriously as a religious discourse, and that we likewise must consider literary production as a major site of the “folk.” I will then argue that Kyōka’s “Ryūtandan” represents a major achievement in a project set in motion by Kōda Rohan a decade earlier to integrate supernatural fiction systematically into the framework of serious literature. Finally, I will show how the subsequent formation of a narrating subject simultaneously modern and mystical is precisely what made this text problematic for contemporary critics.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Nakazato Tsuneko中里恒子 (1909-1987) wrote a variety of fiction works involving the slightly musty theme of supernatural abduction. Despite the numerous fresh literary and scholarly interpretations of kamikakushi that the film “Spirited Away” (2001) stimulated, a sedate story by Nakazato entitled Oborozōshi 朧草子(A Misty Script, 1976) remains compelling in many respects. The aspect on which I will focus in my presentation is the story’s premise that popular belief in supernatural interventions persists and can be manipulated to facilitate success in highly competitive professional fields, especially in the realm of the arts. The story treats kamikakushi as an essential element in a complex system of substitutions, sacrifices, compromises, and cover-ups in which the process of career development in such fields is thoroughly enmeshed. The narrative revolves around a family that is dealing with the mysterious disappearance of one of its members. The young man might be living deep in the Kumano Mountains, in bondage to a sinister woodsman (a tengu天狗?) The story foregrounds the issue of how a discourse that enables belief in supernatural creatures and events is created and maintained, in society and in the world of the tale. The final scene of Oborozōshi evokes the female protagonist’s splendid dance performances. Does the dancer’s apparent detachment from her brother’s fate serve to accentuate the horrors of human trafficking or to affirm the redemptive power of artistic expression?
In his 1975 novel, Hijiri, Furui Yoshikichi transposes the traditional figure of the hijiri or holy man into a modern secular setting. He covers a range of issues relating to traditional views of death and mediation of the passage to the afterlife, all of which benefit from investigation in relation to their liminal characteristics. The hijiri were men of lowly status who travelled from village to village, raising funds for temples and other such projects. Their activities often included religious services such as preaching, divination and exorcism. These itinerants ranged from men who took the religious life seriously and may even have lived ascetic lives as hermits, to those who were in reality no more than charlatans and criminals. As travellers, they were clearly outsiders to be tolerated only at the very margins of village society. In addition, their duties in connection with the dead were a source of pollution, an additional ground for marginalisation. This paper will examine the role of the student protagonist, until this moment totally secular and unconnected, as mediator, when he is suddenly cast into the role of hijiri after being seduced by a young woman so that her grandmother may die peacefully and according to the old local customs, and how the liminars in Hijiri provide connections between the divine or spiritual world and the world of everyday human experience, between the traditional and the modern way of life, and between the natural and the man-made worlds.
Nishikawa Mitsuru (1908-1999) was active in Taiwan toward the end of the Japanese occupation. His literary activities in Taiwan were influenced by the idea of gaichi bungaku (overseas literature), as conceived of by Shimata Kinji. A pioneer of overseas Japanese writing, Nishikawa cofounded the journal Literary Taiwan and published numerous works that depicted local people's lives. He was a keen observer of local festivals and religious practices, often dealing with these themes in his writings. In this paper, I will first introduce the historical background of Japanese imperial literature in Taiwan in the late 1930s and early 1940s. I will also investigate Nishikawa’s experience there, especially his encounters with folk culture and religions, and the ways in which this experience is reflected in his writing. Then I will analyze how local religions and customs serve as an important historical and social frame in two short stories: “The City God Temple Festival” (Jōkōbyō) and “The Record of the Lantern Festival (Genshōki). Although Nishikawa’s depiction of these customs is based on his observations, the religious practices of the Ghost Festival in “The Record of Sulfur Mining” (Sairyūki) are based on his imagination. I will argue that these practices highlight the importance of local customs in Nishikawa’s literary production as I discuss the fictional customs of the Ghost Festival depicted in the story. Finally, I will demonstrate how Shimata Kinji's concept of gaichi bungaku is visible in Nishakawa's writings, emphasizing Nishakawa’s perspective on the “exotic flavor” of local religions and customs.
Failure of Goddesses: The Discourses on the Culture of Female Shaman (Miko no Bunka) in Contemporary Japan
Itsue Takamure (1894-1964), a pioneer female Japanese historian, insisted that female culture in Japan continues to exist from the mythological era to the present. Comparing herself as Female God with Jehovah, she defined the female culture in Japan as “Miko no bunka”. This paper examines how two female manga and novel writers describe the relationship between women and ‘knowledge, sex, truth, laws and relief’, in terms of the failure of goddesses in Japan, where a transcendental deity has not historically existed. I will analyze the failure of goddesses through the works of Moto Hagio’s 1975 ‘Juuichinin iru!’ and Natsuo Kirino’s 2004-2007 ‘Tokyo Jima’, both of which share the same weltanschauung as Takamure’s philosophy. In their works, images of female gods who fail to ‘designate’ male gods or other human beings play important roles. Disasters caused by their failures are shown as female sins to human beings, and return again and again to human communities. While in Hagio’s work, female sins are described as one stemming from their spiritual immaturity, Kirino’s work attributes them to their aging bodies. Their sins coincide with the failures of Izanami and Amaterasu in Japanese mythology. In conclusion, the female sins described in these works indicate discrepancy of sexual maturity between women’s minds and bodies. In contrast to Moses’ Exodus, the planned exodus to escape from these sins led by fatherly figures in the communities as described in their works, end in failure.
The short story Yūkoku [Patriotism] was first published in December 1960. It depicts Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama and his wife Reiko’s suicide following the attempted Coup of February 26th, 1936 (Ni-ni-roku jiken). The exemplary and heroic nature of the characters and the first chapter in which the narrator announces, in classical Japanese, what is to follow, bestow upon the text the quality and role of a sacred hymn. Similarly, the locus of the seppuku scene –the couple’s house- is depicted as a sacred space, a temple in which ritual death is carried out, and a mausoleum for their bodies. The distance between the contemporary readers’ “horizon of expectations” (Jauss) and these thematic and textual features suggests that Mishima is intentionally playing with stereotypes found in sacred and edifying Japanese literature. This questions the potential renewal of stereotypes: Is Yūkoku just a collection of clichés or does the text also reworks the topoi it uses? And if so, to what extent? I will show that the author is confronting intertextual references and interweaving antithetical images of death. The ritual and solemn dimension of the text thus falls apart in the seppuku scene where violent and sometimes grotesque representations emerge. Yūkoku’s sacred and hieratic architecture renders to the novella the qualities of a temple, or a tomb, dedicated to its own – as well as the characters’- annihilation.
Sata Ineko “Kaze ni najinda uta” ： Maria Of 「Yamiiti」
The topic of the other or otherness is a lingering issue ever since Japan started Westernization/modernization in the mid-19th century. Western modernity’s dualistic orientalist world vision requires Japan to discover herself as an inferior other of the West. Spirituality, then, becomes a necessary topic for a Japanese self; one must overcome the negativity attached to the construction of Japan’s modern identity. Yet, the more exemplarily spiritual salvation is achieved (even through Buddhism or so-called traditional spirituality), the more such achievement may simply reinforce the dualistic world vision of Western modernity. In the search for modern identity (at individual, ethnic, gender, and any other levels), spirituality and otherness thus function as a set of topics to deal with the epistemological dilemma intrinsic to Japan’s internalization of Western modernity.
This panel will examine how these topics are discussed in postwar Shōwa and early Heisei narrative texts by highlighting four different authors, who commonly focus on the ways in which their protagonists deal with elements of otherness they find in their close counterparts or in their own selves. Yasuoka Shōtarō’s stories in the 1960s examine how the protagonists respond to their mothers’ madness and death. Tachihara Masaaki’s fascination to, and distancing from, Japanese traditional aesthetics in his novels in the 70s and 80s will be discussed in relationship with his own double identity—his Japanese pen name and Korean origin. Yamagishi Ryōko’s manga narratives in the 90s deal with the conflicting psychology of the mother-daughter relationship from the standpoint of the daughter’s horrified reactions to her mother’s demonic psyche. In Yoshimoto Banana’s Amrita (94), the protagonist suffers from her own otherness expressed in the form of memory loss and pursues a spiritual salvation. The novel will be examined as Banana’s response to the popularity of the New Age and other cult movements of the time.
The panel as a whole will shed light on complex and dynamic development in the topics of spirituality and otherness found in the narratives from the 1960s to the 1990s.
This presentation will touch upon the mother-daughter discourse that took place in the ‘80s. Mothers often pressured their daughters to achieve more than they had, but at the same time still expected them to fulfill traditional roles, creating a confusing mother-daughter relationship. Yamagishi Ryōko, a leading shōjo manga artist, dealt with this topic in her works through the utilization of traditional supernatural motifs. She experimented with borrowing from ancient Japanese literary works and combining them with contemporary women’s issues in her horror tales. Her artistry and narrative skills are highly regarded, and her stories, with the psyche of adolescent girls as their subject matter, greatly appeal to the young female audience.
Her stories are normally narrated from the daughter’s perspective. Mothers are portrayed as having a dual nature; in addition to their nurturing qualities, they also possess a dark side of fierce emotion and repressed sexuality. In Yamagishi’s stories, this negative aspect is presented with a sense of uncanny Otherness through the motif of a hannya (demon) mask. My presentation will focus on the story “Yasha gozen” (Demon Presence), in which the daughter, who will soon become a mother herself, hallucinates her own mother wearing a demon mask. When the daughter discovers her mother’s long suppressed emotions and sexuality, the mother becomes foreign to her, and domesticity itself suddenly changes into a site of horror. Yamagishi’s stories of demonic women are a re-imagining of traditional supernatural tales with contemporary women’s issues as their framework.
Tachihara Masaaki is considered a popular writer who strives to embody Japanese medieval aesthetics in his works. His novels appear as love stories on the surface; however, a Zen undercurrent can be recognized. His protagonists are driven by the desire for selfless state of mind –the ultimate state of Zen—but they can neither complete the negation of their egos nor attain the ultimate aesthetic sense. Instead, they keep aimlessly wandering in the physical world. Tachihara, while on the one hand following Zeami, Sesshū, Bashō, and Sen no Rikyū, all of whom succeeded in sublimating their solitude to their own aesthetics, on the other hand in his essay “Nihon no niwa”, sympathizes with Musō Soseki, a Zen Buddhist, who lived during the medieval period and was not able to reach the ideal state because of his vulgarity. This intricate attitude can be related to his ethnic background. Tachihara, a Korean Japanese writer, intentionally or unintentionally hesitates to merge himself with the Other and believe in the essentialism of Japanese culture.
First, I will survey the Zen influence on Japanese culture by examining the self in Zen. After that I will analyze how Tachihara weaves aesthetic topics and the elements of Zen Buddhism into his popular stories. In this paper, I will also refer to a question which Tachihara’s wandering characters pose to those who believe that the salvation lies in negating the self in Zen and sublimating themselves into the artistic stage.
I will discuss Yoshimoto Banana’s Amrita (1994). The loneliness of the protagonist deepens when she loses memories after her head injury. However, her crisis opens the door for the reexamination of her life and thanks to her interactions with many of her friends, who have psychic power, she makes a steady progression toward spiritual reincarnation.
The time when Amrita is published, New Age and other religious cult movements are popular among, especially, young people in Japan. As Amrita extensively deals with the theme of spirituality, I would like to examine how Banana responds in this novel to the interest in something spiritual shared by her readers, in differentiating herself from the type of new religious movements such as, in particular, the Aum Shinrikyō movement.
In Amrita, as she exhibits her strong belief in the spiritual healing power within one’s everyday life, Yoshimoto becomes a healer for those who live in the gloomy 90s.
In the midst of a rich materialistic society, some Japanese people are now having a stronger yearning for spirituality. Yasuoka Shōtarō was one of the earlier writers to focus on the issue of spirituality: this occurred when Japan started to enjoy the early stage of her postwar economic miracle (around 1960). After Yasuoka’s mother’s madness and death, he became keenly aware of his mind’s emptiness and developed a lengthy examination of his self through, in particular, two important novels, —Kaihen no kōkei (A View By the Sea, 1959) and Maku ga orite kara (After the Curtain Has Fallen, 67).
Yasuoka was raised as an only child and he was heavily attached to his mother, which is a common thread found in many of Yasuoka’s novels. In fact, some critics claim that the alter ego protagonists in Yasuoka’s novels never try to become independent from their mothers. The above two novels deal with the topic of motherhood by focusing specifically on the aspects of her otherness to her son. The first novel depicts the protagonist’s reactions to his mother’s madness and death, while the second one examines the protagonist’s midlife crisis after his mother’s death. Particularly, the latter deals deeply with the protagonist’s insecurities, both within his own marriage and his underdeveloped yet long-going affair with another woman.
In these novels, Yasuoka pictures the image of his protagonists’ mothers as a site of constant tension between two opposing elements—between the mother and the other, between consciousness and madness, between city and country, and between the modern and the primitive. I will further discuss what exactly Yasuoka has discovered in terms of the topic of spirituality, through the examinations of his protagonists’ complex and double-bind responses to their tension-filled mothers.
This panel explores theories and practices surrounding the current debates on the school of Yogācāra (yuishiki, consciousness-only) and the religious experiences that are rendered in modern Japanese literature. Rooted in the early Indian Mahāyāha Buddhist tradition, Yogācāra was allegedly conceived by Maitreya (Miroku 350-430) and transmitted to Japan through China in the form of the systematic philosophy known today as the Hossō school during the Nara period (ca. 710-794). As the nomenclature of “yuishiki” suggests, the system of thought fundamentally negates the existence of all phenomena and considers everything as the result of the workings of our cognition. This phenomenological purview of the world has wielded a notable influence on Japanese literary discourses, which encompass medieval Buddhist allegory through modern fiction by such writers as Mori Ōgai, Mishima Yukio, and Ishikawa Jun.
Above all modern Japanese literature has been inspired by the notions of manashiki (Skt. mano-vijñāna, thinking consciousness) and arayashiki (Skt. ālaya-vijñāna, store consciousness), the seventh and the eighth levels of unconsciousness that are considered to exist beyond the six layers of sentience (vision, aural senses etc.) and consciousness. With such, writers have engaged with the issues of religiosity that are translated into the plurality of mystical experience extrinsic to the uniqueness of sensorial immediacy. Then, in modern Japanese literature, a question arises as to what has this epistemic model proposed by yuishiki brought to articulate or galvanize the existing worldview. To answer the question, for example, we can tentatively posit that the negation of phenomenal reality is meant to wrestle with the Cartesian divisions of the self and the object as the foremost determinant of our experience in the context of Japan’s Westernization. To some extent of consideration, yuishiki can be dialogic with contemporary cultural politics of heterogeneity in general for its discredit to a priori notion of objects, as well as for its endorsement of provisional structure of consciousness. Drawing on these general assumptions, this panel examines (in)validity, (mis)interpretation, philosophical impasse and limit of literary texts in articulating the philosophy of yuishiki.
Ishikawa Jun’s novella Bodhisattva, or Samantabhadra (「普賢」, 1936) epitomizes mystical experiences that recur in a number of his works. This paper explores how the first-person narrator envisions a literary locus, where his writing self grapples with a phenomenological experience with historical events and figures, and his contemporaries —an experience that highlights the self’s quest for fictional form in tandem with its “cognition of all phenomena.” Also my analysis of his unfinished novel Kegon (「華厳」, 1949) reveals Ishikawa’s affinity to the idea of Avantamsaka Sutra (華厳経) that resonates with yuishiki (唯識) in that both ideas point to the self’s creative process to formulate its worldview, rather than its closure. As a literary device, mystical experiences envision other-worldly settings within mundane situations, in which, though, the subject (主体) of Ishikawa’s protagonists are constantly displaced and renewed in a paradoxical process toward the enlightenment as unattainable, and attempt to reify alternative realities to Japan’s growing militarism in the 1930s and the aftermath of WWII. Given that what Ishikawa calls “the eternity of literature” lies in a “close relationship between the unchanging and the ever-changing, or being and phenomenon,”(“Literature Today,”1941) mystical experiences in his stories, as the self’s creative process, extend to the philosopher Ueda Shizuteru’s Buddhist idea of “dual world—世界/虚空 (akasha)” in which the “self is not an entity but a movement from self to another self.”
Attempting to understand Mori Ōgai (1862-1922) and his literary projects have consumed a tremendous amount of critical resources in Japanese academia and the Japanese public at large. This may be due to the belief, for better or worse, that understanding “Ōgai” leads to an understanding of the successes and failures of the Meiji state and the trajectory of Japan’s “modernization.” Perhaps the most influential view surrounding Ōgai was created by Okazaki Yoshie in his 1969 study 「鴎外と諦念」(Ōgai and resignation). Therein Okazaki outlines Ōgai’s intellectual and philosophical attempts to understand Ōgai as a writer who chronicled and philosophized his failures to reform state, family and literary structures in Japan. Recent discussions with Ikuho Amano and Yoshihiro Yasuhara on the influence of 唯識論 (the Yogācāra school of Buddhism) in Mishima Yukio and Ishikawa Jun’s novels encouraged me to reconsider the view of Ōgai as a writer who essentially decided to “give up,” centering on the reading of the concept of “resignation,” which has been glossed as 「諦念」by some Japanese literary critics, although the term was used by Ōgai as well in some of his writings. This paper will re-examine Ōgai texts and critical writings to explore whether the concept of “resignation” can be interpreted through the definition of 「諦念」as conceived in the Yogācāra school of Buddhism (which Ōgai studied) and lead to a more fecund reading of some of the memorable people whom Ōgai created in his oeuvre.
This paper disentangles the ways which Mishima Yukio’s tetralogy The Sea of Fertility (「豊饒の海」, 1965-70) interprets yuishiki (唯識) (Yogācāra; consciousness-only), an influential Buddhist philosophy that originates in the early Indian Mahāyāna tradition. The series of four novels are linked together based on the purported phenomena of reincarnation. In the process of death and rebirth, Mishima’s discursive narrative on yuishiki animates the protagonists’ impassioned action. Overall the tetralogy takes form of dialectics between manashiki (末那識) (Skt. mano-vijñāna, thinking consciousness) and arayashiki (阿頼耶識) (Skt. ālaya-vijñāna, store consciousness). In particular Mishima contemplates on the function of arayashiki, a repository of all human experiences derived from sentience and self-oriented forms of consciousness. Mishima’s narrative assigns manashiki to the sidekick character, who keenly observes the four cases of reincarnation, and arayashiki to the four protagonists who die young being engrossed in their passion and action. The tetralogy concludes with the abnegation of the self and one’s memory, and thereby endorses the truth of Panta Rhei (万物流転) and its resonance with ayarashiki, which is metaphorically represented by the recurrent images of ceaseless waterfalls. Drawing on this narrative core, my paper explores intersections between the limit of reason, religiosity, and Mishima’s ambitious attempt at “interpreting the world” (世界解釈), for which the tetralogy was conceived.
In their recent films, both Koreera Hirokazu (1962-) and Kawase Naomi (1969-) investigate the nature of everyday praxis. Koreeda’s Like Father like Son (Soshite chichi ni naru 2013) is a story of switched babies in a local hospital in Maebashi, and various everyday conflicts caused by it. A couple is unexpectedly told about the possibility that their child may have been switched at birth with a child of another couple immediately after they were born in the hospital. Kawase’s Hanezu (Hanezu no tsuki 2011), completed shortly after the March earthquake of 2011, is (according to an intertitle) “dedicated to a myriad of nameless souls,” indicating that it partially reflects Kawase’s reaction to the earthquake incident. The film is based on an ancient poem of Man’yōshū narrating a triangular relationship among the three mountain-gods in Yamato region. The mythical triangularity synchronizes (rather than subordinate) the quotidian reality of the present era. Collectively, these films show cinema’s potential as a science of everyday. If religion is defined as rethinking or interrogations of secular everyday, although these films do not specifically fall in the category of “religion,” they share their concerns of everydayness. Having started their careers in documentaries, both Koreeda and Kawase have distinct approaches to contemporary secularism. Simultaneously, it is possible to look upon these works as reactions against the incident in 2011. If time allows, the presentation will discuss a few theories of religion that deal with similar issues of everydayness, in particular, the ones in the inter-war Japan.
This paper discusses Haruki Murakami’s representation of religion, spirituality, and healing through an examination of his short story collection, After the Quake (2000), giving special attention to its connection to his nonfictional works, Underground (1997) and Underground 2 (1998). Murakami wrote a series of short stories, published as After the Quake , and all six short stories in this collection show the obvious influence of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995. Subtle but noteworthy details indicate that the collection was influenced by another significant event occurring in 1995—namely, the Tokyo subway attack by the religious cult group Aum. Murakami actually wrote his first nonfictional works, Underground and Underground 2, based on his interviews with the survivors of the attack and former Aum followers. Murakami thinks that Aum attracted its followers by proving them with an “allocated narrative.” In After the Quake , he depicts fear, confusion, and anger, which are driven by an unpredictable force, reconstructing the psychological conditions that may urge people to seek relief in an “allocated narrative.” Throughout the collection, he inquires who saves us. All stories involve family relations, and one of the stories, “All God’s Children Can Dance,” is especially peculiar in its representation of a family intertwined with its religious faith. After the Quake is a healing novel that directs the reader to discern the values of his or her life. The purpose of this paper is to explore the position of religion and spirituality in Murakami’s view of healing.
Following the events of March 11th 2011 the so-called Post-Fukushima-Literature emerged, in which, echoing the apocalyptic dimension of the catastrophe, philosophical and religious topics are frequently addressed. The popular author Yoshimoto Banana pursues a “spiritual” direction. In her novel “Sweet Hereafter”, published in November 2011, she transposes the actual experience of the earthquake, the flood and the nuclear disaster that many people in Northern Japan had to witness into the story of a young couple, whose future is taken in a car accident.
But the female protagonist gains strength from her liminal experience. The text constructs a continuum of life and death and depicts a form of conviviality of the living and the dead, which is able to put the experienced loss into another perspective. Thus cured from her trauma, Yoshimoto’s protagonist evidently functions as a figure of identification for the reader, who may find “comfort and healing” (iyashi) by reading the novel. Yoshimoto’s “religiosity” or “spirituality” of the crisis is an example for the Japanese literary esotericism that can be traced back to the literary scene of the 1980s. To explore the characteristics of this movement is to further the understanding of contemporary Japanese discourses of culture and identity.
For the anniversary of the massive Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011 that devastated Japan, the country’s Holocaust Education Center commissioned and distributed 1,200 copies of a manga adaptation of Anne Frank’s Het Achterhuis (1947, The Diary of a Young Girl, 1952 Eng.) to the affected areas. The idea was for the children of Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima prefectures to find “hope and courage” through reading about the life of a young Jewish girl in hiding during World War II. This paper examines pedagogical manga adaptations of Anne Frank’s Diary used in Japan to teach children about the Holocaust. By strategically retelling her story in manga form, this paper argues that Anne’s Jewish identity has been sanitized in order for her legacy to speak to the larger victimization of children during the atomic bombings of Japan. The central text analyzed is Etsuo Suzuki’s Edu-Manga Anne Frank (2001, 2006 Eng.). I begin by situating Suzuki’s text within the larger history of manga and anime adaptations of Anne’s life and Japanese-language literature about Jews. Next, I examine key scenes not present in Anne’s Diary but fabricated both textually and visually for the manga to heighten a sense of Japanese proximity to the plight of the Eastern European Jewry. The paper concludes with a discussion of the positives and negatives of representing religious traditions and religious iconography in manga.