Modern Passings: Death Rites, Politics, And Social Change in Imperial Japan

Przednia okładka
University of Hawaii Press, 2006 - 242

What to do with the dead?

In Imperial Japan, as elsewhere in the modernizing world, answering this perennial question meant relying on age-old solutions. Funerals, burials, and other mortuary rites had developed over the centuries with the aim of building continuity in the face of loss. As Japanese coped with the economic, political, and social changes that radically remade their lives in the decades after the Meiji Restoration (1868), they clung to local customs and Buddhist rituals such as sutra readings and incense offerings that for generations had given meaning to death. Yet death, as this highly original study shows, was not impervious to nationalism, capitalism, and the other isms that constituted and still constitute modernity. As Japan changed, so did its handling of the inevitable.

Following an overview of the early development of funerary rituals in Japan, Andrew Bernstein demonstrates how diverse premodern practices from different regions and social strata were homogenized with those generated by middle-class city dwellers to create the form of funerary practice dominant today. He describes the controversy over cremation, explaining how and why it became the accepted manner of disposing of the dead. He also explores the conflict-filled process of remaking burial practices, which gave rise, in part, to the suburban soul parks now prevalent throughout Japan; the (largely failed) attempt by nativists to replace Buddhist death rites with Shinto ones; and the rise and fall of the funeral procession. In the process, Bernstein shows how today s traditional funeral is in fact an early twentieth-century invention and traces the social and political factors that led to this development. These include a government wanting to separate itself from religion even while propagating State Shinto, the appearance of a new middle class, and new forms of transportation.

As these and other developments created new contexts for old rituals, Japanese faced the problem of how to fit them all together. What to do with the dead? is thus a question tied to a still broader one that haunts all societies experiencing rapid change: What to do with the past? Modern Passings is an impressive and far-reaching exploration of Japan s efforts to solve this puzzle, one that is at the heart of the modern experience.


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Spis treści

Of Buddhas and Ancestors
The Shinto Challenge to Buddhist Death
The Great Cremation Debate
Divesting Shinto Funerals
Grave Matters
Dying in Style
The Japanese Way of Death and Its Critics
Prawa autorskie

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Popularne fragmenty

Strona 12 - To Western eyes, the sight would appear strange of a Japanese family inviting their relatives, through the medium of telephone, to take part in a ceremony of this nature ; while equally incongruous would seem the spectacle of the members of the family, some of them attired in European and others in native costume, assembled in a room lighted by electricity, making offerings and obeisances before the memorial tablet of their ancestor. The curious blending of Past and Present is one of the most striking...
Strona 23 - When your parents are alive, comply with the rites in serving them; when they die, comply with the rites in burying them; comply with the rites in sacrificing to them.
Strona 29 - Were we to live on for ever — were the dews of Adashino never to vanish, the smoke on Toribeyama * never to fade away — then indeed would men not feel the pity of things. Truly the beauty of life is its uncertainty. Of all living things, none lives so long as man. Consider how the ephemera awaits the fall of evening, and the summer cicada knows neither spring nor autumn. Even a year of life lived peacefully seems long and happy beyond compare; but for such as never weary of this world and are...
Strona 27 - I have been to a most unpleasant land, a horrible unclean land. Therefore I shall purify myself Arriving at the plain Apaki-para by the river-mouth of Tatibana in Pimuka in Tukusi, he purified and exorcised himself.

Informacje o autorze (2006)

Andrew Bernstein is assistant professor of history at Lewis and Clark College.

Informacje bibliograficzne