Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Full Access Observations on the Blurring of the Religious and the Secular in a Japanese Urban Setting

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Observations on the Blurring of the Religious and the Secular in a Japanese Urban Setting

  • PDF
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Journal of Religion in Japan

AbstractThis paper presents some observations on how the borders between the religious and the secular are perceived, blurred and reinterpreted at the community level in Kyoto. These reflections are based mainly on my extended fieldwork in the city, where I participated in and took note of the activities of two chōnaikai (neighborhood associations). I also observed and examined events related to the Gion matsuri, which takes place in July and is one of the three main festivals in Japan. The neighborhood associations play a pivotal role in Kyoto’s community life, and the boundaries between the religious and the secular very often remain indistinct due to the ambiguous character of the chōnaikai. In this context, I analyze some of the religious activities within the chōnai, such as taking care of the small votive shrine dedicated to the bodhisattva Jizō, and events related to Shintō. With regard to local festivals, I explore religious and secular aspects of the Gion matsuri, an event that attracts crowds of visitors from all over Japan and abroad, which offers the opportunity to investigate the intermingling of religion and business, local government, culture and tourism.

Affiliations: 1: University of Leipzig Leipzig Germany, Email:, URL:


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

1. Ama Toshimaro Why are the Japanese Non-Religious? 2005 Lanham University Press of America
2. Aoyagi Kiyotaka Ghaus Ansari , Nas P. "“Viable Traditions in Urban Japan: Matsuriand Chonaikai”" Town-Talk: The Dynamics of Urban Anthropology 1983 Leiden Brill 96 111
3. Asahi Shinbun 朝日新聞 "“(Gion Matsuri 09) Junkō anzen inoru, En no Gyōja yama (祇園祭09)巡行安全祈る、役行者山”" 2009 7 17 28
4. Asahi Shinbun 朝日新聞 "“Kyōto/Gion no maboroshi, yamahoko ato matsuri: ipponka de dai konzatsu, fukkatsu e chōshū ugoku “京都・祇園の幻、山鉾後祭―本化で大混雑、復活へ町衆動く”" 2011 7 13 9
5. Asahi Shinbun 朝日新聞 "“(Gion Matsuri 2011) Mori no miyako de konchikichin Gion bayashi, Sendai tanabata matsuri ni shucchō (祇園祭 2011) 杜の都でコンチキチン 祇園囃子、仙台七夕まつりに出張”" 2011 8 7 35
6. Ashkenazi Michael Matsuri: Festivals of a Japanese Town 1993 Honolulu University of Hawaii Press
7. Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) "“Final Report of the International Partnership Programme for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage 2009-10. 3rd Training Course for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.”" 2009 Tokyo ACCU 17 (accessed 12 September 2011)
8. Bestor Theodore C. "“Tradition and Japanese Social Organization: Institutional Development in a Tokyo Neighborhood”" Ethnology 1985 Vol 24 2 121 135
9. Bestor Theodore C. Neighborhood Tokyo 1989 Stanford Stanford University Press
10. Bodiford William M. "“Sōtō Zen in a Japanese Town: Field Notes on a Once-Every-Thirty-Three-Years Kannon Festival”" Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1994 Vol 21 1 3 36
11. Brumann Christoph "“Outside the Glass Case: The Social Life of Urban Heritage in Kyoto”" American Ethnologist 2009 Vol 36 2 276 299
12. Forfar David Roger Goodman , Neary Ian "“Individual Against the State? The Politics of Opposition to the Re-emergence of State Shintō”" Case Studies on Human Rights in Japan 1996 London Routledge 245 276
13. Fukami Shigeru 深見茂氏 "“Gion matsuri yamahoko gyōji no iji keishō no tame ni 祇園祭山鉾行事の維持継承のために.”" [available in English. “Lecture 8: Activities for Maintaining and Succeeding Tradition of the Gion Festival Yamahoko Events.” Mukei bunka isan no shisutemu ni kansuru ichi nyūmon hen 無形文化遺産のシステムに関する一入門編 I ntroduction to Systems of Safeguarding ICH - UNESCO’s Convention and Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties in Japan]. 2008 1 25 Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto ACCU (accessed 2 September 2011)
14. Gion Matsuri Yamahoko rengōkai 祇園祭山鉾連合会 "“Gienkin 1647man en, hisai bunkazai no shūfuku ni 義援金 1647 万円、被災文化財の修復に”" Asahi Shinbun 2011 35 7.8.2011
15. Hinatani 雛谷優 "“‘Koto no kaze’ (113) fukkatsu naru ka yamahoko junkō ‘ato matsuri’ [rensai]” [古都の風] (113) 復活なるか山鉾巡行「後祭」(連載)" Yomiuri Shinbun 読売新聞 2011 23 2011.07.24
16. Hur Nam-li Prayer and Play in Late Tokugawa Japan: Asakusa Sensōji and Edo Society 2000 Boston Harvard University Asia Center
17. Imamura Anne E. Urban Japanese Housewives: At Home and in the Community 1987 Honolulu University of Hawaii Press
18. Inoue Nobutaka , et al "“A Festival with Anonymous Kami: The Kobe Matsuri”" Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1979 Vol 6 1-2 163 185
19. Inoue Nobutaka , et al Basic Terms of Shinto 1997 (accessed 2 September 2011)
20. Ishii Kenji "“The Secularization of Religion in the City”" Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1986 Vol 13 2-3 193 209
21. Ishii Kenji Noriyoshi Tamaru , Reid David "“Urbanization, Depopulation, and Religion”" Religion in Japanese Culture: Where Living Traditions Meet a Changing World 1996 Tokyo, New York, London Kodansha International 156 170
22. Isomae Jun’ichi Timothy Fitzgerald "“The Formative Process of State Shinto in Relation to the Westernization of Japan: The Concept of ‘Religion’ and ‘Shinto’”" Religion and the Secular: Historical and Colonial Formation 2007 London Equinox Publishing 93 101
23. Kokuritsu Kokkai Toshokan 国立国会図書館 "“The Constitution of Japan”" 2003-2004 (accessed 10 September 2011).
24. Kokuritsu Kokkai Toshokan 国立国会図書館 Ito Miyoji The Constitution of the Empire of Japan 2003-2004 (accessed 3 December 2011)
25. McMullin Neil "“On Placating the God and Pacifying the Populace: The Case of the Gion ‘Goryō’ Cult”" History of Religions 1988 Vol 27 3 270 293
26. Nelson John K. A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine 1996 Seattle and London University of Washington Press
27. Okami Risa 岡見理沙 "“(Gion Matsuri 2011) Higashi Nihon dai shinsai no hisaichi fukkō inori yamabushi dokyō (祇園祭 2011) 東日本大震災の被災地復興祈り山伏読経”" Asahi Shinbun 2011 25 17.7.2011
28. Platvoet Jan "“The Definers Defined: Traditions in the Definition of Religion”" Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 1990 Vol 2 2 180 212
29. Platvoet Jan Jan Platvoet , Molendijk Arie L. "“To Define or not to Define: The Problem of the Definition of Religion”" The Pragmatics of Defining Religion: Contexts, Concepts, and Contests 1999 Leiden Brill 245 265
30. Reader Ian "“What Constitutes Religious Activity? (II)”" Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1991 Vol 8 4 373 376
31. Reader Ian "“Ideology, Academic Inventions and Mystical Anthropology: Responding to Fitzgerald’s Errors and Misguided Polemics”" Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies 2004 (accessed 5 December 2011).
32. Roemer Michael K. "“Ritual Participation and Social Support in a Major Japanese Festival”" Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 2007 Vol 46 2 185 200
33. Schnell Scott The Rousing Drum: Ritual Practice in a Japanese Community 1999 Honolulu University of Hawaii Press
34. Steiner Kurt Local Government in Japan 1965 Stanford Stanford University Press
35. Sonoda Minoru "“The Traditional Festival in Urban Society”" Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1975 Vol 2 2-3 103 136
36. Umemoto Mayumi 梅本真由美 "“Meiji Jingū: 100 nen kōken sueta chinju no mori 明治神宮―100 年後見据えた鎮守の森”" Asahi Shinbun 朝日新聞 2011 accessed 20 September 2011 30 15.1.2011:
37. Williams Duncan Ryūken The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Sōtō Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan 2009 Princeton Princeton University Press
38. Yamada Patricia "“A Friend in Need: The Bodhisattva Jizō”" Japanese Religions 1991 Vol 16 3 76 92
39. Yomiuri Shinbun 読売新聞 "“Buji o hōkoku 無事を奉告”" 2011 08 01 24

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation