Ian Reader

Buddhist pilgrimage inventions, promotions and exhibitions in contemporary Japan

Pilgrimage as a practice has been widely used by Buddhist temples in Japan as a means of enhancing their popularity and in order to get people to engage in prayer activities at temples.  In the present day –when, as I discussed in a previous talk in the Buddhist Studies Forum (Sept 21 2010),  Japanese Buddhist temples are rapidly losing support -  pilgrimage remains a common way through which temples  try to bring people into their precincts.  In recent times,  Buddhist temples and organisations have used a variety of promotional activities to this end.  They have put on exhibitions about pilgrimage in museums,  established copies of their pilgrimages in secular settings such as department stores and airport malls,  invented new routes that incorporate not just Buddhist sites but also those associated with Shinto, offered new consumer items (along with special discount train tickets in conjunction) that might attract visitors, and campaigned to gain UNESCO World Heritage status for one prominent pilgrimage.  In my talk I will examine these activities and discuss the extent to which they represent a continuation of standard patterns of pilgrimage promotion that have long been used by Japanese Buddhist priests, or whether they can be seen as evidence of an increasing secularisation of the pilgrimage process – a secularising process made necessary because of the problems Buddhism faces in the modern day in Japan.

Ian Reader, foto Ute Hüsken

Appr. 51 minutes. 46,8 MB

Published Feb. 22, 2012 11:47 AM - Last modified Feb. 29, 2012 12:36 PM