Heritage policies and the separation of state and religion in Japan: Principles, practice, and the effects

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Engelska parken Hus 2: K1023
  • Lecturer: Mark Teeuwen, Professor in Japanese studies at Oslo University
  • Organiser: Department of Theology
  • Contact person: Ernils Larsson
  • Föreläsning

Japan’s post-war Constitution maintains a strict separation of state and religion, banning public engagement in «any religious activity» and the use of public funds for «the use, benefit or maintenance of any religious institution». At the same time, Japan has been exceptionally active in public efforts to preserve sites and practices of historical, cultural, or artistic value, often involving sizeable subsidies. Heritage policies in Japan go back to the 1897 Law for the Preservation of Shrines and Temples, and were greatly expanded after the war, culminating as Japan took a leading role in UNESCO heritage politics in the 1990s and 2000s. Many of the country’s Cultural Properties, World Heritage sites and Intangible Cultural Heritage elements are of a religious nature: temples, shrines, rituals, festivals, and even Catholic churches.
The lecture will focus on the way the separation of state and religion has been handled in the case of shrine festivals. Mark Teeuwen will draw on his recent field work in Kyoto (in the spring and summer of 2018), where he investigated the history of public involvement in the Gion matsuri, arguably Japan’s largest and most famous city festival. Here, city, prefectural and national policies have had a crucial role in keeping the festival alive, but at the cost of what one might call a «crisis of authenticity». How have these developments impacted on the validation of the festival (the narratives that give it meaning), on its funding and organisation, and also on its physical appearance? How have various groups of actors reacted to the post-war «crisis», by developing new ways of performing authenticity?