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Buddhism Buddhism in Japan
by
Lori Meeks

Introduction

European missionaries and philologists undertook the earliest Western-language studies of Japanese Buddhism. In North America, the study of Japanese Zen gained popularity during the period before World War II, largely through the efforts of D. T. Suzuki. The establishment in the United States of Japanese studies centers during the postwar period, combined with the growth of religious studies departments in the 1950s and 1960s, has also played an essential role in the rise of Western-language research on Japanese Buddhism. Until recent decades, studies of Japanese Buddhism tended to focus on the Kamakura period (1186–1333 CE), which scholars once regarded as the era during which Japanese Buddhism became “Japanese.” Although researchers deconstructed this view in the 1980s, its legacy is still evident in the disproportionate number of studies focused on the founders and teachings of the more prominent of the “new schools” of Kamakura Buddhism: Pure Land, True Pure Land, Nichiren, and Zen. Linked to this scholarly admiration of the Kamakura period was a certain distaste for the periods that came before and after, especially the Heian (794–1185), early modern, or Tokugawa (1603–1868), modern, and contemporary periods. Before the Kamakura period, the accepted scholarly narrative held, Japanese Buddhism was an elite tradition unconcerned with the needs of commoners, and after the medieval period, it fell into a state of degeneracy. Over the past several decades scholars have challenged this narrative and have encouraged the study of neglected historical periods. Reflecting larger trends in the study of religion, early work on Japanese Buddhism also tended to focus on doctrine, scripture, and charismatic religious founders or leaders. As larger shifts in the humanities began to influence religious studies, literary, cultural, and social-historical studies of Japanese Buddhism became popular, especially during the 1990s and 2000s. This period also saw the expansion of local histories and site-specific studies, which ground the study of Japanese Buddhism in particular cultural and geographical contexts. In recent decades scholars have also confronted the largely anachronistic narratives of sectarian scholarship, which sought to locate the roots of modern Japanese sects in premodern history. New studies on combinatory practices and site-specific cults, for example, move beyond the sectarianism characterized by much early scholarship and also emphasize the historically constructed nature of categories such as “Buddhism” and “Shinto.” This bibliography begins with the basics: General Overviews, Digital Resources, and Primary Sources in Translation. From there, works have been organized thematically rather than chronologically, with one exception: studies of Modern and Contemporary Buddhism have been grouped together.

General Overviews

The best English-language introductions to the study of Japanese Buddhism are Bowring 2005 and Swanson and Chilson 2006. Bowring’s work, written as a single narrative, contains a detailed synthesis of English-language work on Japanese Buddhism. The Swanson and Chilson volume, in contrast, is a multiauthored work featuring up-to-date introductions to various subfields in the study of Japanese religions, and practical advice for scholars and graduate students undertaking research in these subfields. For undergraduate courses, Earhart 2004 remains the most accessible textbook, though instructors may find it useful to supplement this work with passages from Kasahara 2001 and Matsuo 2007. Blacker 1986 is a classic in the field, though parts of this work are now outdated. Matsunaga and Matsunaga 1974 and Kashiwahara, et al. 1994 both employ methodological approaches that are now considered outdated, but they may be useful reference works if read with a critical eye.

  • Blacker, Carmen. The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan. 2d ed. London: Allen & Unwin, 1986.

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    Groundbreaking in its holistic approach, this ethnographic study examines large trends in Japanese religions that exceed simple categories like “Buddhism,” “Shinto,” and “folk tradition.” Some details are now out of date, though, so readers may want to supplement Blacker’s classic work with a more recent overview of Japanese religions.

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  • Bowring, Richard John. The Religious Traditions of Japan, 500–1600. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Excellent, up-to-date summary of English-language scholarship on Japanese religions. Focuses primarily on Buddhism, although Bowring does make important contributions to scholarly dialogue about the medieval emergence of “Shinto.”

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  • Earhart, H. Byron. Japanese Religion: Unity and Diversity. 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth-Thomson Learning, 2004.

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    Comprehensive yet accessible textbook for undergraduate students of Japanese religions.

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  • Kasahara, Kazuo, ed. A History of Japanese Religion. Translated by Paul McCarthy and Gaynor Sekimori. Tokyo: Kōsei, 2001.

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    Lengthy (648 pp.) collection of essays on religious life in Japan, spanning from prehistoric times through the contemporary period. Because the book is a translation of a Japanese volume first published in 1977, it does not represent cutting-edge research in the field. Many will still find it useful for the classroom, though.

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  • Kashiwahara, Yūsen, Kōyū Sonoda, and Kōyū Sonoda. Shapers of Japanese Buddhism. Translated by Gaynor Sekimori. Tokyo: Kōsei, 1994.

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    Translation of a 1968 work focusing on the lives of great monks who “shaped” the development of Japanese Buddhism. Although this “great man” approach to the study of religion is quite outdated, readers may find the book a useful as a reference work full of biographical data on major monastic figures.

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  • Matsunaga, Daigan, and Alicia Matsunaga. Foundation of Japanese Buddhism. 2 vols. Los Angeles: Buddhist Books International, 1974.

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    Example of the now outdated view that the Buddhism of the Heian period was “aristocratic,” while that of the Kamakura and Muromachi periods can be characterized as a “mass movement.” Also exemplifies the sectarian emphasis of early scholarship on Japanese Buddhism. That said, these volumes do provide a wealth of historical detail, and their attention to doctrinal tenets is also useful.

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  • Matsuo, Kenji. A History of Japanese Buddhism. Folkestone, UK: Global Oriental, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9781905246410.i-280Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Great factual overview for those new to the field. Although the analysis presented here is overly general and even simplistic in places, the book is dense with useful data—both historical and contemporary—not readily found in other English-language introductory volumes.

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  • Swanson, Paul, and Clark Chilson, eds. Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2006.

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    Must-have reference work for graduate students in Japanese studies. In addition to state-of-the-field essays by major scholars in the field, this book also contains numerous “how-to” essays that walk readers through the challenges of conducting fieldwork in Japan.

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Digital Resources

Scholarship in the field has benefited immensely from the emergence of new digital resources. Scholars in the field commonly rely upon the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, which makes back issues of the Journal of Japanese Religious Studies available free of charge, as well as the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism, which can be especially useful when working on translations. Finally, the Sōtō Zen Text Project is making English translations of numerous Sōtō Zen texts, including both classical scriptures and liturgies, available free of charge.

Primary Sources in Translation

On the whole, this selection of available primary sources reflects the fact that the field of Japanese Buddhism has historically privileged the premodern period, and especially the Kamakura period, which saw the emergence of the “new schools” of that period: Jōdo shū, Jōdo Shinshū, Nichiren, and Zen. The field awaits translations of sources from the early modern, modern, and contemporary periods, in particular. One innovative work that breaks this trend is Tanabe 1999, which contains translations of forty-five short passages from primary works, including materials such as brochures from contemporary religious sites.

  • Tanabe, George Joji. Religions of Japan in Practice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

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    Contains forty-five brief chapters, each of which features a passage from a nonconventional (i.e., usually nondoctrinal) primary source translated and introduced by a prominent scholar in the field. Undergraduate instructors may want to choose a handful of passages from this volume to help students see and consider disjunctions between doctrine and practice.

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Doctrinal and Monastic Works

Translations of Bankei (Bankei 1984) and Shinran (Shinran 1997) work well in undergraduate courses. For additional Zen sources, see the Sōtō Zen Text Project (cited under Digital Resources). Hakeda 1972, Hōnen 1998, and Nichiren 1996 are more difficult, and narrower in scope. They are more appropriate for upper-level courses, or for graduate students. Hakeda 1972, Astley-Kristensen 1991, and Giebel and Todaro 2004, all translations of major Shingon works, will appeal to scholars interested in esoteric Buddhism.

  • Astley-Kristensen, Ian, ed. and trans. The Rishukyō: The Sino-Japanese Tantric Prajñāpāramitā in 150 Verses (Amoghavajra’s Version). Tring, UK: Institute of Buddhist Studies, 1991.

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    Translation and Study of the Rishukyō, an important esoteric Buddhist text still used on a daily basis in Shingon temples. The author draws on his knowledge of ten extant versions of the text, including a Khotanese-Sanskrit version, three Tibetan versions, and six Chinese versions.

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  • Bankei. Bankei Zen: Translations from the Record of Bankei. Edited by Yoshito Hakeda. Translated by Peter Haskel. New York: Grove, 1984.

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    Translated sermons from the popular Zen teacher Bankei (b. 1622–d. 1693), who urged lay followers and monastic disciples alike to focus not on zazen or kōan, but rather on “the Unborn Buddha-mind.” Great for contesting idealized and overly intellectualized portrayals of Zen.

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  • Giebel, Rolf W., and Dale A. Todaro, eds. and trans. Shingon Texts. BDK English Tripitaka 98-I–VII. Tokyo: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation & Research, 2004.

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    This long-awaited set of translations includes five works by Kūkai (b. 774–d. 835) and two by Kakuban (b. 1095–d. 1143).

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  • Hakeda, Yoshito S., ed. and trans. Kūkai and His Major Works. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.

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    First major English translation of Kūkai’s works. Also contains a detailed biography of Kūkai, though Ryūichi Abe’s work on Kūkai now surpasses the biography presented here.

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  • Hōnen. Hōnen’s Senchakushū. Edited and translated by the Senchakushū English Translation Project. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1998.

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    Complete English translation of the Senchakushū, which is widely regarded as the most influential work of Jōdo-shū (Pure Land School) founder Hōnen (b. 1133–d. 1212). Also contains a fifty-five-page introduction and chapter summary, plus an extensive glossary and bibliography.

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  • Nichiren. Letters of Nichiren. Edited by Philip B. Yampolsky. Translated by Burton Watson, et al. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

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    Translations of more than seventy letters written by the iconoclastic priest Nichiren (b. 1222–d. 1282). Also contains a short introduction (18 pages) to Nichiren and his teachings. Readers may also want to consult Yampolsky’s Selected Writings of Nichiren (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990).

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  • Shinran. The Collected Works of Shinran. Translated by Dennis Hirota, et al. 2 vols. Kyoto: Jodo Shinshu Hongwangji-ha, 1997.

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    English translations of Shinran’s (b. 1172–d. 1263) major works, including the Kyōgyōshinshō and the Tannishō. Taitetsu Unno’s stand-alone translation of the Tannishō (Tannishō: A Shin Buddhist Classic, Buddhist Study Center, 1984) is recommended for classroom use.

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Biographical Works

Myōdō 1993, a translation of Satomi Myōdō’s autobiography, works well in undergraduate courses on Buddhism, Japanese religions, and gender. Miura 1996 is also recommended for the classroom. Hirota 1998 is one of the few English-language works on the life of Ippen; similarly, Tanabe 1992 is one of the most substantial English-language works on the life of Myōe. They would work well in an upper-division course on Japanese Buddhism or Japanese religions.

  • Hirota, Dennis, ed. and trans. No Abode: The Record of Ippen. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1998.

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    Annotated translation of the early 18th century Ippen Shōnin Goroku, a hagiographical account of celebrated Ji Sect founder Ippen (b. 1239–d. 1289).

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  • Miura, Kiyohiro. He’s Leaving Home: My Young Son Becomes a Zen Monk. Translated by Jeff Shore. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1996.

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    This brief, partially autobiographical work won the Akutagawa Prize in 1988. Written in a simple prose style, it is highly accessible and would be appropriate for lower-level undergraduate courses.

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  • Myōdō, Satomi. Journey in Search of the Way: The Spiritual Autobiography of Satomi Myōdō. Translated by Sallie B. King. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

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    Spiritual autobiography of Satomi Myōdō (b. 1896–d. 1978), who engages in a number of different religious practices and traditions before studying under a Zen master. Excellent primary source for teaching about lay Buddhism in modern Japan, Buddhist influence in the New Religions, and the role of neo-Confucian social values in the Buddhist discourse of modern Japan.

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  • Tanabe, George Joji, ed. and trans. Myōe the Dreamkeeper: Fantasy and Knowledge in Early Kamakura Buddhism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard East Asian Monographs, 1992.

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    English translation and study of the dream diary (Yume no ki) penned by the celebrated Kegon and Shingon monk Myōe (b. 1173–d. 1232).

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Vernacular Literature

Dykstra 1994–2003, Kamens 1988, Kyōkai 1997, and Morrell 1985 all treat major collections of vernacular Buddhist literature, much of which was used for the education of laypeople. Dykstra 1976 and Tyler 1990 offer translations of miracle tale collections focused on the Hasedera Kannon and Kasuga deities, respectively. Moore 1986 and Childs 1991 focus on medieval narratives of renunciation. For translations of engi, or origin tales, see Grapard 1986 and Andreeva 2010 (both cited under Site-Specific Studies).

  • Childs, Margaret Helen. Rethinking Sorrow: Revelatory Tales of Late Medieval Japan. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 1991.

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    Translation of four late medieval zangemono, or stories in which monks and nuns reveal their reasons for renouncing householder life. The narrative titled “Seven Nuns” is especially useful for those interested in late medieval views of female monastics.

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  • Dykstra, Yoshiko K. “Tales of the Compassionate Kannon: The Hasedera Kannon genki.” Monumenta Nipponica 31.3 (1976): 113–143.

    DOI: 10.2307/2384457Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Partial translation of the Hasedera Kannon genki (early Kamakura period), a collection of miracle tales used in preaching.

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  • Dykstra, Yoshiko K., ed. and trans. The Konjaku Tales. 5 vols. Osaka, Japan: Kansai University of Foreign Studies Publications, 1994–2003.

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    Partial translation of Konjaku monogatari (early 12th century).

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  • Kamens, Edward. The Three Jewels: A Study and Translation of Minamoto Tamenori’s Sanbōe. Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies 2. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 1988.

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    Translation of the Sanbōe, a collection of narratives aimed at introducing Princess Sonshi (b. c. 966–d. 985) to basic Buddhist teachings and practices. Also contains a lengthy introduction (2 chapters, pp. 3–87). Full text available through the Center for Japanese Studies Publications.

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  • Kyōkai. Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition: The Nihon Ryōiki of the Monk Kyōkai. Translated by Kyoko Motomochi Nakamura. London and New York: Curzon, 1997.

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    Translation and study of the Nihon Ryōiki, the earliest collection of didactic tales in Japan. Kyōkai, the monk-compiler of the collection, interprets the stories as examples of the workings of karma.

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  • Moore, Jean. “Senjūshō: Buddhist Tales of Renunciation.” Monumenta Nipponica 41.2 (1986): 127–174.

    DOI: 10.2307/2384663Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduction to the Senjūshō, a collection of 121 stories that dates to the Kamakura period, and translation of selected narratives. Like many vernacular narrative collections, the Senjūshō presents insightful examples of “combinatory” practices that draw on both Buddhist ideas and those associated with Kami cults.

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  • Morrell, Robert, ed. and trans. Sand and Pebbles (Shasekishū): The Tales of Mujū Ichien, a Voice for Pluralism in Kamakura Buddhism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985.

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    Full translation of Book I from Mujū Ichien’s (b. 1226–d. 1312) setsuwa collection Shasekishū. Also includes summaries of the subsequent nine books, plus a sixty-eight-page introduction to Mujū and his times.

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  • Tyler, Royall. The Miracles of the Kasuga Deity. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

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    Translation and study of the Kasuga Gongen genki (early 14th century). Also contains a useful historical overview of the relationship between court politics and the Kasuga shrine-temple complex in the Heian and Kamakura periods.

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Poetry

Kamens 1990 was written for a scholarly audience, while LaFleur 2003 was published with a Buddhist press and for a broader audience.

  • Kamens, Edward, ed. and trans. The Buddhist Poetry of the Great Kamo Priestess: Daisaiin Senshi and Hosshin Wakashū. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 1990.

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    Translation and study of Hosshin Wakashū, a cycle of fifty-five poems composed by Daisaiin Senshi (b. 964–d. 1035), who served as the priestess of Kamo Shrine for over fifty years. Her poetry addresses, among other concerns, her feelings of being torn between her duty as a shrine priestess, on the one hand, and her devotion to Buddhist teachings, on the other.

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  • LaFleur, William, ed. and trans. Awesome Nightfall: The Life, Times, and Poetry of Saigyō. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2003.

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    LaFleur’s deep knowledge of Saigyō (b. 1119–d. 1190) is evident throughout this work, which contains translations of over two hundred of Saigyō’s poems, plus a seventy-page introduction to the monk-poet and his times.

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Modern and Contemporary Buddhism

Two topics have dominated the study of contemporary Japanese Buddhism in recent years: Temple Buddhism, or the religious practices centered at local “parish” temples, and funerary practices. Covell 2005 introduces these topics in an accessible way. Reader and Tanabe 1998 is also a must-read for those interested in contemporary Japanese Buddhism, as it explains the place of Buddhism within the larger religious landscape of postwar Japan. The remaining studies are narrower in scope. Hardacre 1984 examines lay Buddhist practice in the context of Reiyūkai, a new religious organization. Harding 2008 and Porcu 2008 are both aimed at correcting earlier biases in the field, and Borup 2008 offers a case study of a particular Rinzai temple in contemporary Japan. Readers interested in contemporary Japanese Buddhism should consult recent issues of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, available through the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture (see Digital Resources).

  • Borup, Jørn. Japanese Rinzai Zen Buddhism: Myōshinji, a Living Religion. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004165571.i-314Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of the Kyoto temple Myōshinji, which represents the largest branch of the Rinzai sect, offers a thorough introduction to postwar and contemporary Rinzai Buddhism. Although the book reads like a dissertation in places, students of contemporary Japanese Buddhism will undoubtedly find useful its detailed presentation of data.

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  • Covell, Stephen Grover. Japanese Temple Buddhism: Worldliness in a Religion of Renunciation. Topics in Contemporary Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2005.

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    Covell’s ethnographic study of Tendai temples challenges the notion that Buddhism has degenerated into a corrupt and lifeless tradition in contemporary Japan.

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  • Hardacre, Helen. Lay Buddhism in Contemporary Japan: Reiyūkai Kyōdan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

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    Well-received study of Reiyūkai, a new religion based in Nichiren Buddhism that focuses not on daimoku chanting, but rather on ancestor veneration and filial piety.

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  • Harding, John S. Mahayana Phoenix: Japan’s Buddhists at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.

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    Thoughtful study of the Japanese Buddhist delegation at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions held in Chicago. Considers, among other issues, why the event appealed to Meiji Buddhists facing persecution at home; the relationship between nationalism, diplomacy, and religious representation; and the construction of Buddhism as a “religion of science.”

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  • Porcu, Elisabetta. Pure Land Buddhism in Modern Japanese Culture. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004164710.i-263Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Against the long-entrenched notion that Japanese arts now considered classical are rooted primarily in the teachings of Zen Buddhism, Porcu illustrates how Jōdo Shin Buddhism has shaped—and continues to shape—Japanese culture. She focuses on literature, visual arts, and the tea ceremony in particular.

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  • Reader, Ian, and George Tanabe Jr. Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1998.

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    Insightful exploration of Japan’s “common religion,” a diverse set of sacred practices, which, though common in everyday life in Japan, do not necessarily take place within the confines of particular religious institutions and are seldom identified as “religious” by those who perform them.

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Monastic Leaders and Institutions

Early studies in the field tended to focus on the premodern founders of sects prominent in the contemporary period, and on the premodern textual traditions of those sects, especially as configured in the contemporary period. To a certain degree, this legacy is still visible in the field, for the majority of titles focus on the Kamakura period, when many of the sects now dominant in Japan were founded.

Politics and Violence

Adolphson 2000 and Adolphson 2007 explore elite medieval monastic institutions, especially those that came to represent major political and military forces, in transsectarian perspective. Adolphson treats, in particular, the phenomenon of “monastic warriors.” Como 2008 considers the intersection of religion and violence in a much earlier period, and from the perspective of cultural, rather than institutional, history. Tsang 2007 is one of the few English-language studies of late medieval ikki groups, which combined the political and religious interests of the nonelite laity.

  • Adolphson, Mikael S. Gates of Power: Monks, Courtiers, and Warriors in Premodern Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2000.

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    Important elaboration and analysis of Kuroda Toshio’s kenmon “power bloc” thesis as it relates to monastic institutions in late Heian, Kamakura, and early Muromachi Japan.

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  • Adolphson, Mikael S. The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha: Monastic Warriors and Sōhei in Japanese History. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007.

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    Cultural genealogy of sōhei, commonly translated as “warrior monks,” in premodern Japan. Adolphson argues that sōhei, most of whom had not actually trained as monks, engaged in battle not out of loyalty to certain religious doctrines, but rather because temples had hired them to protect their lands and interests.

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  • Como, Michael I. Shōtoku: Ethnicity, Ritual, and Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    One of the first in-depth, English-language studies of how the cult surrounding Prince Shōtoku (b. 573?–d. 622?) came into being. Essential reading for those interested in Japanese religious life from the early 7th through the early 9th century.

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  • Tsang, Carol Richmond. War and Faith: Ikkō Ikki in Late Muromachi Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2007.

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    First substantive study of Honganji ikki groups in late medieval (15th–16th-century) Japan. Important contribution to ongoing studies on the relationship between Buddhist institutions and warfare in premodern Japan.

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Tendai

Groner 1984 and Groner 2002 are the most comprehensive and authoritative works on the institutional history of Tendai Buddhism available in English. Readers interested in the state of Tendai Buddhism during the contemporary period should read Covell 2005 (cited under Modern and Contemporary Buddhism). For works on Tendai esotericism, see Dolce 2010 for an overview, and Saso 1990 for details about specific meditative rites as they are practiced in the contemporary period. Ennin 1955 offers important insights into Tendai’s historical connections with Tang China.

  • Dolce, Lucia. “Taimitsu: The Esoteric Buddhism of the Tendai School.” In Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia: A Handbook for Scholars. Edited by Charles Orzech, 744–767. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

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    Excellent introduction to the esotericism of the Tendai school.

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  • Groner, Paul. Saichō: The Establishment of the Japanese Tendai School. Berkeley: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California, 1984.

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    Landmark study of Saichō, the founder of the Tendai school, which was arguably the most influential Buddhist institution during Japan’s late Heian, Kamakura, and Muromachi periods. Reprinted with a new preface in 2000 by University of Hawai‘i Press.

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  • Groner, Paul. Ryōgen and Mount Hiei: Japanese Tendai in the Tenth Century. Studies in East Asian Buddhism 15. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2002.

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    This lengthy study explores the institutional development of the Tendai through a close study of the priest Ryōgen, who headed the school for nearly twenty years. The book also contains an excellent chapter on nuns in 9th- and 10th-century Japan.

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  • Ennin. Ennin’s Diary: The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law. Translated by Edwin Oldfather Reischauer. New York: Ronald, 1955.

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    This journal of the Tendai monk Ennin’s (b. 794–d. 864) journey to Tang China is essential reading for students of premodern Japan.

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  • Saso, Michael. Tantric Art and Meditation: The Tendai Tradition. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1990.

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    Written by a contemporary scholar-priest, this work introduces four major types of esoteric meditation practice used in the Tendai school.

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Shingon

Abé 1999 explores the broader influence of Kūkai, who is widely regarded as the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. Unno 2004 focuses on Shingon ritual in medieval Japan. For primary sources from the Shingon tradition, see van der Veere 2000 and Hakeda 1972 (cited in Primary Sources in Translation). Snodgrass 1988 and Goepper 1993 examine the relationships between text, ritual, and iconography.

  • Abé, Ryūichi. The Weaving of Mantra: Kūkai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

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    Most authoritative work on Kūkai available in a Western language. Presents Kūkai as the architect of a common doctrinal language that made it possible for the Nara, Tendai, and Shingon schools to create and sustain a shared religious culture.

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  • Goepper, Roger. Aizen-Myōō: The Esoteric King of Lust; An Iconological Study. Artibus Asiae 39. Zurich, Switzerland: Artibus Asiae, 1993.

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    Beautifully illustrated study of the texts and iconographies associated with Aizen-Myōō in Japanese esotericism. Contains translations of many key passages, and dozens of images.

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  • Snodgrass, Adrian. The Matrix and Diamond World Mandalas in Shingon Buddhism. 2 vols. Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 1988.

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    This well-received work of over 840 pages offers a thorough, and well-illustrated, journey through the two major mandalas of the esoteric tradition. Synthesizes earlier scholarship on the meditation rituals used in conjunction with these two mandalas.

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  • Unno, Mark. Shingon Refractions: Myōe and the Mantra of Light. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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    Explores the life and times of Myōe (b. 1173–d. 1232) from a new perspective: that of his role in popularizing the Mantra of Light (Kōmyō Shingon), a ubiquitous esoteric rite. In doing so, it offers an important corrective to doctrine-focused approaches that focus on the commentaries penned by celebrated monks, rather than the rites and liturgies they developed.

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  • van der Veere, Henrick. A Study into the Thought of Kōgyō Daishi Kakuban: With a Translation of His Gorin kuji myō himitsushaku. Leiden, The Netherlands: Hotei, 2000.

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    First English-language study of the important Shingon thinker Kakuban (b. 1095–d. 1144).

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Nara Buddhism

The Buddhist traditions of the Nara capital were long ignored by scholars of Japanese Buddhism, who have tended to focus on the Kamakura period. In recent years, however, they have become the focus of growing scholarly attention. McCallum 2009 is an art-historical study that focuses on the establishment of major Buddhist centers in Nara during the 7th century. Piggot 1987 is an excellent introduction to Nara Buddhism during the capital city’s political peak in the 8th century. Groner 2005 and Ford 2006 focus on particular monks active in the Nara area during the Kamakura period (Jōkei and Eison, respectively). Buijnsters 1999 and Rhodes 2008, a special issue of Eastern Buddhist, also examine the state of Buddhist centers in Nara during the late Heian and Kamakura periods.

  • Buijnsters, Mark. “Jichihan and the Restoration and Innovation of Buddhist Practice.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 26.1–2 (1999): 39–82.

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    This in-depth study brings to light the doctrinal innovations of Jichihan (b. c. 1089–d. 1144), who was both an early architect of the movement to revive the precepts in Japan and an early synthesizer of Pure Land and esoteric doctrines.

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  • Ford, James L. Jōkei and Buddhist Devotion in Early Medieval Japan. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195188141.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First major work in English on Hossō monk Jōkei (b. 1155–d. 1213), whom many histories regarded merely as a prominent opponent of the Pure Land priest Shinran. Ford’s careful study of Jōkei provides important insight into the lives of mainstream monks and their institutions during the early Kamakura period.

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  • Groner, Paul. “Tradition and Innovation: Eison’s Self-Ordinations and the Establishment of New Orders of Buddhist Practitioners.” In Going Forth: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya. Edited by William M. Bodiford, 210–235. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2005.

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    Thorough introduction to the activities and concerns of vinaya revivalist priest Eison (b. 1201–d. 1290).

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  • McCallum, Donald F. The Four Great Temples: Buddhist Archaeology, Architecture, and Icons of Seventh-Century Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2009.

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    One of the few works in English to take on the difficult task of analyzing Buddhist institutions—who built them, and for what purpose—in Nara and pre-Nara Japan. Because few textual accounts remain from this era, he relies primarily on archaeological studies.

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  • Piggot, Joan R. “Tōdaiji and the Nara Imperium.” PhD diss., Stanford University, 1987.

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    This landmark study of Tōdaiji places the monastic complex within the larger political and economic contexts of Nara-period Japan.

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  • Rhodes, Robert, ed. Special Issue: Developments of Nara Buddhism in Kamakura Japan. Eastern Buddhist 39.1 (2008).

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    Articles by James Ford and David Quinter, plus an introduction to relevant methodological issues by Rhodes.

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Pure Land Buddhism

Dobbins 2002 remains the most authoritative study on the origins and early growth of the Jōdo Shin school. Blum and Yasutomi 2006 and Rogers and Rogers 1991 provide a wealth of information about Rennyo, the late medieval architect of early modern Shin Buddhism. Readers interested in Pure Land Buddhism during the modern period should consult Porcu 2008 (cited under Modern and Contemporary Buddhism). Dobbins 2005 and Lee 2007 treat narrower topics in Shin Buddhism: the role of the precepts, and of Shōtoku veneration, respectively.

  • Blum, Mark Laurence, and Shin’ya Yasutomi, eds. Rennyo and the Roots of Modern Japanese Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Collection of ten short essays that examine the life of Shinran’s great-grandson Rennyo (b. 1415–d. 1499), and his role in the institutional expansion of Jōdo Shinshū. Important new work on Buddhism in the late medieval period, a hitherto understudied era in Japanese religious history.

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  • Dobbins, James. Jōdo Shinshū: Shin Buddhism in Medieval Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2002.

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    Classic study of Shinran and the establishment of Jōdo Shin Buddhism in Kamakura Japan.

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  • Dobbins, James. “Precepts in Japanese Pure Land Buddhism: The Jōdoshū.” In Going Forth: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya. Edited by William M. Bodiford, 235–254. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2005.

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    Authoritative historical overview of the precepts in the Jōdoshū tradition.

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  • Lee, Kenneth Doo. The Prince and the Monk: Shōtoku Worship in Shinran’s Buddhism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007.

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    Like Dobbins’s Letters of the Nun Eshinni, this work explores an aspect of Shinran’s religious life that incorporated popular native practices.

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  • Rogers, Minor, and Ann Rogers. Rennyo: The Second Founder of Shin Buddhism; With a Translation of His Letters. Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities, 1991.

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    First English-language book on Rennyo (b. 1415–d. 1499), who led the Jōdo Shin sect to institutional prominence in the late medieval period.

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Zen

Bielefeldt 1988 introduces Dōgen, the founder of Sōtō Zen in Japan, while Bodiford 1993 traces the social and institutional development of the Sōtō Zen school in the centuries following Dōgen’s death. Collcutt 1981 is an innovative study of the institutional and social history of Rinzai Zen in medieval Japan. Bodiford 2005 is a narrower study focused on the use of the precepts in premodern Japanese Zen. Richard and Klein 2007 offers a broad yet nuanced introduction to the arts of medieval Zen. For studies of Zen in the contemporary period, see Borup 2008 (cited under Modern and Contemporary Buddhism), Victoria 2006 and Ives 2009 (cited under Buddhism and the State). For primary sources, see Bankei 1984 (cited under Doctrinal and Monastic Works) and the Sōtō Zen Text Project (cited under Digital Resources), maintained by the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford University. For important challenges to romanticized views of Zen, readers should also consult Williams 2005 (cited under Social and Cultural History) and Levine 2006 (cited under Visual Arts).

  • Bielefeldt, Carl. Dōgen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

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    Highly regarded study of Japanese Sōtō school founder Dōgen (b. 1200–d. 1253) and his understanding of zazen (“just sitting”). Challenges idealized images of Dōgen presented in contemporary Sōtō-sect scholarship.

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  • Bodiford, William M. Sōtō Zen in Medieval Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1993.

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    Comprehensive historical study of the development and spread of the Sōtō Zen sect in medieval Japan. First major English-language study to approach Sōtō Zen in terms of its institutional and social history; earlier studies had tended to focus almost solely on doctrine. Chapters on funerals and ordinations are especially useful.

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  • Bodiford, William M. “Boddhidharma’s Precepts in Japan.” In Going Forth: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya. Edited by William M. Bodiford, 185–209. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2005.

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    Places the development of Japanese Zen precepts in historical context, clarifying the degree to which Zen precept rituals were indebted to Tendai teachings and practices.

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  • Collcutt, Martin. Five Mountains: The Rinzai Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan. Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1981.

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    Institutional history of the gozan (Five Mountains) temples in late medieval Japan. Offers a nonmystical view of Zen in social practice, with greatly detailed accounts of monastic architecture, monastic rule, and the economic life of temples.

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  • Richard, Naomi Noble, and Melanie B. D. Klein, eds. Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan. New York: Japan Society, 2007.

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    Delightfully erudite essays accompany this beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogue.

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Combinatory Practices

As Allan Grapard has emphasized throughout his work, the religious world of Japan has, according to its earliest records, been “combinatory” in nature. Japanese Buddhist cults, too, have been forged through the amalgamation or combination of diverse ideas, gods, and rites, including those of Indian, Chinese, Korean, and native origin. For an authoritative introduction to the idea of combinatory practices, see Grapard 1999. The combinations visible in Japanese cultic practices were rarely simple, one-to-one associations. Instead, the logic driving these practices was often quite sophisticated and commonly drew on complex doctrinal and linguistic models. Grapard 1987, a study of the Sannō cult, explores one such complex model. Teeuwen and Rambelli 2003 develops this insight further through in-depth studies of honji suijaku (original ground and trace manifestation) discourse in medieval Japan. Teeuwen and van de Veere 1998, which focuses on the foundational text of Ryōbu Shinto, also offers a close analysis of combinatory practices. For more recent work on medieval “Shinto” and its Buddhist elements, see Faure, et al. 2009. Dolce 2006 examines the worship of stars, an important but understudied aspect of Japanese religious practice that spanned numerous traditions and lineages. Faure, et al. 2011 explores Shugendō, a mountain-based combinatory tradition central to both Buddhism and “Shinto.” Guth 1985 offers insight into the important but overlooked Hachiman cult. Works in the following section, “Site-Specific Studies,” will also be of interest to readers wanting to gain a broad grasp of combinatory practices in Japan.

  • Dolce, Lucia, ed. Special Issue: The Worship of Stars in Japanese Religious Practice. Culture and Cosmos: A Journal of the History of Astrology and Cultural Astronomy 10.1–2 (2006).

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    Nine essays, including a state-of-the-field, plus an introduction by guest editor Lucia Dolce. Diverse and excellent set of studies on onmyōdō, Shugendō, esoteric Buddhism, and their roles in Japanese cosmology, from premodern times through the Tokugawa period.

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  • Faure, Bernard, Michael Como, and Nobumi Iyanaga, eds. Rethinking Medieval Shintō: In Homage to Allan Grapard (Repenser le shintō médiéval: 
En hommage à Allan Grapard). Cahiers d’Extrème-Asie 16. Kyoto: École Française d’Extrème Orient, Section de Kyoto, 2009.

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    These fourteen essays, written by leading scholars in the field, represent the most recent research on combinatory practices in medieval Japan. The volume is divided into three main sections: “From Place to Texts,” “Iconology, Buddhism,” and “Theoretical Perspective, Imperial Ideology.”

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  • Faure, Bernard, Max D. Moerman, and Gaynor Sekimori, eds. Shugendō: The History and Culture of a Japanese Religion; In Homage to Carmen Blacker = L’histoire et culture d’une religion japonaise: En hommage à Carmen Blacker. Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie, 18. Kyoto: École Française d’Extrème Orient, Section de Kyoto, 2011.

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    This collective volume contains nine essays, plus an introduction and bibliography. Some of the rare topics addressed in this volume include Shugendō liturgies, suijaku stories about Zaō Gongen, and yudate kagura dances.

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  • Grapard, Allan. “Linguistic Cubism: A Singularity of Pluralism in the Sannô Cult.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 14.2–3 (1987): 211–234.

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    This classic article considers the role of “linguistic games such as puns and metaphors” and “graphic puzzles” in the combinatory practices of Mt. Hiei’s Sannō cult.

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  • Grapard, Allan. “Religious Practices.” In The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol. 2, Heian Japan. Edited by Donald Shively and William H. McCullough, 517–575. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

    DOI: 10.1017/CHOL9780521223539Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Grapard emphasizes the “combinatory” nature of religious life in Heian-period Japan in this excellent overview of Heian-period religion. He focuses, in particular, on the emergence of state institutions and rituals that relied upon combinatory paradigms.

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  • Guth, Christine. Shinzō: Hachiman Imagery and Its Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Asia Center, 1985.

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    This study traces the history of wooden images of the Hachiman Kami from the 9th century through the 14th. Despite its longstanding visibility in the history of Japanese religious life, the Hachiman cult is under-represented in English-language works. In addition to filling an important gap, this study also addresses Hachiman’s place in the “combinatory” culture of Japanese religions.

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  • Teeuwen, Mark, and Fabio Rambelli, eds. Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

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    These ten essays all address the ways in which the Japanese discourse of honji suijaku (“original forms of deities and their local traces”) facilitated the incorporation of local deities into religious, sociopolitical, and cultural frameworks that were Buddhist in orientation. Most comprehensive work on honji suijaku available in English.

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  • Teeuwen, Mark, and Hendrik van der Veere. Nakatomi Harae Kunge: Purification and Enlightenment in Late-Heian Japan. Munich: Iudicium, 1998.

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    Annotated translation and study of the Nakatomi Harae Kunge, which reinterprets the purification rites of onmyōji and shrine priests and places them in a mikkyō framework. The 12th-century Nakatomi Harae Kunge, which represents a broad shift in the relationship between Buddhism and Kami cults in premodern Japan, is essential reading for the study of combinatory practices.

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Site-Specific Studies

Studies in this area have been largely indebted to Allan Grapard (Grapard 1992), who has made the case, both in articles and in his book, for studying Japanese religions in situ. Works in this area have provided a more nuanced view of how Buddhism is practiced on the ground, and of how Buddhist traditions have interacted with other, local traditions, many of which focus on the worship of Kami. Ambros 2008, Andreeva 2010, Moerman 2006, Reader 2006, Thal 2005, and Nicoloff 2007 all focus on sites of pilgrimage: Mt. Ōyama, Mt. Miwa, Kumano, Shikoku, Konpira, and Mt. Kōya. While Moerman 2006 focuses on the medieval period, Ambros 2008 focuses on the early modern period. Reader 2006 and Nicoloff 2007 are broader in historical scope but tend to emphasize the contemporary period. Andreeva 2010 and Grapard 1986 contain translations of origin narratives associated with the important, site-specific cults of the Miwa and Hachiman deities.

  • Ambros, Barbara. Emplacing a Pilgrimage: The Ōyama Cult and Regional Religion in Early Modern Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2008.

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    This study uses the case of Mt. Ōyama (Shizuoka Prefecture) as a lens for considering the roles of regional pilgrimage sites in the religious landscape of early modern Japan. Offers important insights into how the Shingon sect, local yamabushi, and laypeople interacted in regional settings.

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  • Andreeva, Anna. “The Karmic Origins of the Great Bright Miwa Deity: A Transformation of the Sacred Mountain in Premodern Japan.” Monumenta Nipponica 65 (2010): 245–296.

    DOI: 10.1353/mni.2010.0003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Translation and study of the Miwa Daimyōjin engi, which circulated among Saidaiji-affiliate temples during the medieval period. The engi offers useful insights into how combinatory practice was conceptualized in the Miwa cult: it draws on the language of esoteric Buddhism and also utilizes honji suijaku theory, here to promote the Kami Miwa Myōjin as the honji of Amaterasu.

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  • Grapard, Allan. “Lotus in the Mountain, Mountain in the Lotus: Rokugō Kaizan Nimmon Daibosatsu Hongi.” Monumenta Nipponica 41.1 (1986): 21–50.

    DOI: 10.2307/2384778Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study and translation of the Rokugō Kaizan Nimmon Daibosatsu Hongi, an origins narrative for the Hachiman cult centered in Usa, Kyūshū. This work emphasizes the rich combinatory associations forged through the Hachiman cult.

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  • Grapard, Allan G. The Protocol of the Gods: A Study of the Kasuga Cult in Japanese History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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    Examines the religious “multiplex” of Kōfukuji and the Kasuga Shrine as a “sociocosmic” entity. Innovative treatment of the relationship between cult and landscape, the construction of sacred space, and the function of ritual.

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  • Moerman, D. Max. Localizing Paradise: Kumano Pilgrimage and the Religious Landscape of Premodern Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006.

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    Social, political, and cultural history of the Kumano, a long-celebrated pilgrimage site in the Kii Peninsula. The book, which uses the 16th-century Nachi sankei mandala as an organizing framework, will appeal to art historians as well as scholars of religion. Focuses on the Heian, Kamakura, and Muromachi periods but is more thematic than historical in approach.

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  • Nicoloff, Philip. Sacred Kōyasan: A Pilgrimage to the Mountain Temple of Saint Kōbō Daishi and the Great Sun Buddha. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007.

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    Accessible exploration of Mt. Kōya—its founding, history, community, buildings, and rituals—written from the perspective of a highly informed pilgrim-tourist. Although this book was published by an academic press, it is targeted at a broader audience.

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  • Reader, Ian. Making Pilgrimages: Meaning and Practice in Shikoku. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2006.

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    This comprehensive study of the 1,400-kilometer henro route around the island of Shikoku blends first-person accounts of the practice and ethnographic data with comparative studies of pilgrimage. Focuses on the contemporary period but includes historical information as well. Appropriate for students and scholars alike.

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  • Thal, Sarah. Rearranging the Landscape of the Gods: The Politics of a Pilgrimage Site in Japan, 1573–1912. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

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    This local history of the pilgrimage site Konpira in Shikoku considers, among other things, common modes of Buddhist–Kami amalgamation. The book also probes how Meiji efforts to separate Buddhist and “Shinto” deities (shinbutsu bunri) affected local practices at Konpira.

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Intellectual History

Readers interested in the intellectual history of Japanese Buddhism might want to begin by reading the summaries available in Bowring 2005 (cited under General Overviews). From there, one might want to read Faure 1996 and Stone 1999, both of which treat large, foundational discourses in the study of medieval Japanese Buddhism, before studying the essays in the edited volumes listed here. Payne 1998 offers a comprehensive overview of the methodological problems associated with early studies of “Kamakura New Buddhism,” and Scheid and Teeuwen 2006 provides long-awaited analyses of the role that secret transmission practices played in medieval Japanese Buddhism. Payne and Leighton 2006 is less narrowly focused: it contains a range of essays on ideology in medieval Japan.

  • Faure, Bernard. Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

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    In his attempt to reconstruct the mental world (imaginaire) of the Zen priest Keizan (b. 1268–d. 1325), Faure succeeds in deconstructing longstanding assumptions in the study of Zen. Contains important chapters on Buddhist divinities, lineage, death, funerary practice, and religious dreams.

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  • Payne, Richard Karl. Re-visioning “Kamakura” Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1998.

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    Eight essays, plus an introduction, all written by prominent scholars in the field of Japanese Buddhism. Each piece is aimed at challenging the old scholarly paradigm that described defined Heian Buddhism as the “aristocratic” Buddhism of Tendai and Shingon, and Kamakura Buddhism as the more “democratic” Buddhisms of Hōnen, Shinran, Nichiren, Eisai, and Dōgen.

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  • Payne, Richard Karl, and Taigen Daniel Leighton. Discourse and Ideology in Medieval Japanese Buddhism. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    Twelve essays on language and discourse in medieval Japan, all by prominent scholars in the field. Considers a wide range of sects and movements.

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  • Scheid, Bernhard, and Mark Teeuwen. The Culture of Secrecy in Japanese Religion. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    First major work in English to address a basic fact of religious culture in medieval Japan: its privileging of secret transmission practices. Contains fifteen essays in three sections: “Prologue” (which considers the topic of religious esotericism in comparative perspective, and from the view of Indian and Chinese Buddhisms); “Japan’s Medieval Culture of Secrecy”; and “The Demise of Secrecy” (in the Tokugawa period). A must for all students of Japanese religions.

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  • Stone, Jacqueline Ilyse. Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1999.

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    Authoritative study of hongaku (original enlightenment) discourse and its influence—doctrinal, institutional, and cultural—in the history of Japanese Buddhism. Although the book focuses on the Tendai and Nichiren movements in the Kamakura period, its conclusions have implications not only for the study of all Buddhist sects in medieval Japan, but also for the study of religious life in early modern, modern, and contemporary Japan as well.

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Social and Cultural History

Goodwin 1994 and Williams 2005 were groundbreaking in their attention to the social lives of Buddhist monasteries, and to interactions between monks and laypeople. Recent trends in this area include studies of death (Stone and Walter 2008, Gerhart 2009), which also focus on social relationships between laypeople and clergy, and examinations of material culture (Ruppert 2000, Rambelli 2007, Gerhart 2009), which have exposed the role that social uses of religious objects have played in the transmission and endurance of religious ideas and institutions. Tanabe 1989 explores the cultural impact of the Lotus Sutra, arguably Japan’s most beloved sutra.

  • Gerhart, Karen. The Material Culture of Death in Medieval Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2009.

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    First sustained English-language study of late medieval (14th–15th centuries) funerals and memorial rites, and the ritual objects employed in their performance. Draws on a wide range of primary sources, including courtier diaries, and combines a number of disciplinary approaches, including ritual studies, religious studies, and art history.

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  • Goodwin, Janet R. Alms and Vagabonds: Buddhist Temples and Popular Patronage in Medieval Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1994.

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    Engaging study of kanjin (fundraising) campaigns in Kamakura-period Japan.

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  • Rambelli, Fabio. Buddhist Materiality: A Cultural History of Objects in Japanese Buddhism. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.

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    Theoretically sophisticated examination of Buddhist discourses on materiality. Rambelli reveals how Buddhist institutions in Japan have used objects and ideas about objects to expand the Buddhist “sphere of influence.”

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  • Ruppert, Brian. Jewel in the Ashes: Buddha Relics and Power in Early Medieval Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center and Harvard University Press, 2000.

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    Traces the political and religious significance of Buddha relics in premodern Japan. Of interest to those studying material culture, ritual life, and the relationship between Buddhism and political rule in premodern Japan. Contains a sixty-five-page glossary that identifies major figures, texts, institutions, and concepts.

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  • Stone, Jacqueline Ilyse, and Mariko Namba Walter. Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008.

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    Nine essays on the treatment of death in Japanese Buddhism, from the Heian period through the contemporary period. A must for all students of Japanese Buddhism.

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  • Tanabe, George Joji, and Willa Jane Tanabe. The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1989.

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    This conference volume examines how the Lotus Sutra was put to broader social, political, artistic, and literary use in Japan. Most of the essays focus on the premodern period.

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  • Williams, Duncan Ryūken. The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Sōtō Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

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    Aimed at providing a “demystified” portrait of Japanese Zen, this work is essential for students of Zen, and for those interested in the religious landscape of the Tokugawa period.

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Buddhism and the Arts

Although many of the classic works in this area were published nearly two decades ago, interest in Buddhist “vernacular literature” has grown in recent years, as has interest in the visual cultures of Buddhist institutions. Sanford, et al. 1992, though now out of print, remains an excellent introduction to the role that Buddhist concepts have played in the arts of Japan.

  • Sanford, James H., William R. LaFleur, and Masatoshi Nagatomi, eds. Flowing Traces: Buddhism in the Literary and Visual Arts of Japan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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    Contains nine essays that examine the relationship between Buddhism and the arts in premodern Japan. Especially useful for the study of Buddhist themes in medieval painting.

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Literature

LaFleur 1983, an early classic in this field, is broad in scope: it attempts to explain how Buddhist concepts changed the basic epistemological assumptions of writers in premodern Japan. Kamens 1993 and Klein 2002 treat the intersection of waka and Buddhism, and Keller 2008 explores Buddhist narrative literature in late medieval Japan. Readers interested in recent trends in this area should see Keller and Glassman 2009.

  • Kamens, Edward. “Dragon-Girl, Maidenflower, Buddha: The Transformation of a Waka Topos, ‘The Five Obstructions.’” Monumenta Nipponica 53.2 (1993): 389–442.

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    Monumental study of the five obstructions (itsutsu no sawari) as they appear in Heian and early Kamakura-period waka.

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  • Kimbrough, R. Keller. Preachers, Poets, and the Way: Izumi Shikibu and the Buddhist Literature of Medieval Japan. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2008.

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    Important study of otogizōshi and their use in late medieval preaching. Those interested in Buddhist rhetoric on gender will also want to read this book.

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  • Kimbrough, Keller, and Hank Glassman, eds. Special Issue: Vernacular Buddhism and Medieval Japanese Literature. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 36.2 (2009).

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    An introduction plus eight articles, many of which focus on late medieval narrative traditions that draw heavily on Buddhist themes.

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  • Klein, Susan Blakeley. Allegories of Desire: Esoteric Literary Commentaries of Medieval Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2002.

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    In-depth exploration of the ways in which medieval waka commentarial traditions came to incorporate the language, rituals, and methods of esoteric Buddhism.

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  • LaFleur, William R. The Karma of Words: Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

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    Argues that the widespread acceptance of certain Buddhist concepts, such as karma and the rokudō (the six realms of rebirth), led to an epistemic shift in the arts and literature of Japan.

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Visual Arts

Recent work in this area has focused on specific sites (Yiengpruksawan 1998, Fowler 2005, Levine 2006), and on understanding Buddhist statues as “living” objects (Sharf and Sharf 2001, Horton 2007). Bogel 2010 has been highly lauded as a comprehensive introduction to the visual culture of esoteric Buddhism. It is the first work to address this subject in English. Ten Grotenhuis 1999 is the best English-language, art-historical study devoted to mandalas, and Tanabe 1988 is an authoritative study of paintings of the Lotus Sutra. For additional works that focus on the visual arts, see Goepper 1993 and Snodgrass 1988 (both cited under Shingon) and Richard and Klein 2007 (cited under Zen).

  • Bogel, Cynthea. With a Single Glance: Buddhist Icons and Early Mikkyō Vision. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010.

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    Demonstrates how the adoption of esoteric Buddhism forever changed the visual culture of Japan. Recommended reading for students of Japanese religions, Buddhist art, and esoteric Buddhism. The writing is theoretically dense, however, and may not be appropriate for undergraduate students.

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  • Fowler, Sherry. Murōji: Rearranging Art and History at a Japanese Buddhist Temple. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2005.

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    This comprehensive study of Murōji (later called “the female Kōya” because it allowed women access) examines how the temple’s religious affiliations, configurations of art, and narratives of meaning changed over time. An excellent example of the recent trend toward single-site studies. Includes ninety-two illustrations.

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  • Horton, Sarah Johanna. Living Buddhist Statues in Early Medieval and Modern Japan. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230607149Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study explores the ways in which Japanese Buddhists used—and continue to use—Buddhist statues in everyday religious life. Appropriate for undergraduates and scholars alike.

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  • Levine, Gregory. Daitokuji: The Visual Cultures of a Zen Monastery. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006.

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    This innovative study of Kyoto’s Daitokuji does not try to present a complete history of the highly celebrated temple but rather to present slices of Daitokuji history through a series of case studies, most of which focus on the early modern period. Essential reading for students of Zen, and for those interested in the relationship between ritual and art. Methodologically astute.

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  • Sharf, Robert H., and Elizabeth Horton Sharf, eds. Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

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    Each chapter in this edited volume explores the use of images, including portraits, icons, mandalas, and statuary, in premodern Japanese religious practice. Introductory essay by Robert Sharf (“Prolegomenon to the Study of Japanese Buddhist Icons”) is also highly recommended and would be useful in graduate courses on religion and material culture.

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  • Tanabe, Willa J. Paintings of the Lotus Sutra. New York: Weatherhill, 1988.

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    Now out of print, this book received much praise for its beautifully reproduced images of Lotus Sutra frontispieces.

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  • Ten Grotenhuis, Elizabeth. Japanese Mandalas: Representations of Sacred Geography. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1999.

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    In-depth analysis of Japanese mandalas, addressing both their continental precedents and their historical development within Japan. Contains well over one hundred images (with many in color) and is appropriate for undergraduate readers and specialists alike.

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  • Yiengpruksawan, Mimi. Hiraizumi: Buddhist Art and Regional Politics in Twelfth-Century Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 1998.

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    Groundbreaking study of Heian-period Buddhist art and temple building in the northern city of Hiraizumi, far outside the Heian capital. Over one hundred images.

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Liturgy and Performance

Buddhist music and performance in Japan have not yet been studied systematically in English. Those interested in this area should begin with Nelson 2008, which provides a general overview of the history of Buddhist music in Japan. Gülberg 1999 is a groundbreaking study of the important liturgical genre known as kōshiki but is currently available in German only. Kaminishi 2006 is a book-length exploration of etoki, or the explication of pictures, a common type of Buddhist preaching.

  • Gülberg, Neils. Buddhistische Zeremoniale (Kōshiki) und Ihre Bedeutung für die Literatur des Japanischen Mittelalters. Stuttgart: Steiner, 1999.

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    First major Western-language study of kōshiki, a liturgical genre that emerged in the Heian period.

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  • Kaminishi, Ikumi. Explaining Pictures: Buddhist Propaganda and Etoki Storytelling in Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2006.

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    As the first book-length study of etoki available in English, this book represents a major contribution to the field. That said, it lacks nuance in some places and would have benefited from additional editing.

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  • Nelson, Steven G. “Court and Religious Music (2): Music of gagaku and shōmyō.” In The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music. Edited by Alison Tokita and David W. Hughes, 49–76. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Important historical overview of shōmyō, or Japanese Buddhist chant.

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Ritual Studies

Sustained treatments of ritual in Japanese Buddhism are still limited in number and tend to focus on the Zen traditions. Faure 2003 and Heine and Wright 2008 are both anthologies on Zen ritual (Faure 2003 also contains essays on Chan, or Chinese Zen). Hudson and Kaner 1992, a special issue of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies devoted to ritual in Japanese religions, contains a number of useful articles on ritual in Japanese Buddhism as well.

  • Faure, Bernard, ed. Chan Buddhism in Ritual Context. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

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    Collection of eight essays by prominent scholars in the field of Chan and Zen studies. Covers topics such as spirit ordination, the use of portraiture in ritual settings, and the symbolic import of Buddhist robes.

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  • Heine, Steven, and Dale S. Wright, eds. Zen Ritual: Studies of Zen Buddhist Theory in Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Thematically well-rounded study of Zen rituals, including zazen, state-protecting rites, ceremonies performed in honor of the emperor, and preaching rituals, among others. Nine essays, plus an introduction, all by leading scholars in the field.

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  • Hudson, Mark, and Simon Kaner, eds. Special Issue: Archaeological Approaches to Ritual and Religion in Japan. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 19.2–3 (1992).

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    Eight articles plus an introduction. Of special note here are articles by Japanese scholars on meat-eating and funerary practices in the Tokugawa period, and on excavations at Tōdaiji.

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Buddhism and the State

These works all focus on the early modern and modern periods. For work on Buddhism and the political realm in the premodern period, see McMullin 1984, as well as works cited under Monastic Leaders and Institutions. Readers interested in Buddhism and the state in the Tokugawa period should begin with Hur 2007 and continue with Ketelaar 1990. To understand debates surrounding the role of Buddhist institutions in late-19th- and early-20th-century Japanese militarism, begin with Victoria 2006 or Ives 2009 and continue with Heisig and Maraldo 1995 and Jaffe 2010. For studies addressing the relationship between Buddhism and the Japanese emperor system, see Nosco 1990, a special issue of the Journal of Japanese Studies.

  • Heisig, James W., and John C. Maraldo, eds. Rude Awakenings: Zen, the Kyoto School, & the Question of Nationalism. Nanzan Studies in Religion and Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1995.

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    Broad collection of essays examining the Kyoto School of modern Japanese philosophy and its complicity in—or resistance to—nationalism, imperialism, and militarism in wartime Japan. Offers a wide range of approaches and conclusions.

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  • Hur, Nam-lin. Death and Social Order in Tokugawa Japan: Buddhism, Anti-Christianity, and the Danka System. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2007.

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    Most detailed and systematic English-language study of the “funerary patron household” system (danka seido) of the Tokugawa period. Required reading for students of early modern and modern Japanese Buddhism.

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  • Ives, Christopher. Imperial-Way Zen: Ichikawa Hakugen’s Critique and Lingering Questions for Buddhist Ethics. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2009.

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    Balanced and well-written study of the postwar activist Ichikawa Hakugen, who exposed to the Japanese public the degree to which Japanese Zen leaders had collaborated with the architects of Japanese imperialism. The book also contains an important critique of Brian Victoria’s position, and thoughtful discussions of Zen ethics.

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  • Jaffe, Richard, ed. Special Issue: Religion and the Japanese Empire. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 37.1 (2010).

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    Five articles on religion in the Japanese colonies, plus an introductory essay by Jaffe. Most up-to-date discussion of how religious ideas and institutions figured in to Japan’s militarist and colonialist activities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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  • Ketelaar, James Edward. Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

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    Authoritative study of the state’s persecution of Buddhism and forced separation of Buddhism and Shinto during the early years of the Meiji period. Strengths include its careful consideration of the Tokugawa roots of anti-Buddhist sentiment, and its nuanced treatment of how Buddhist groups responded to the oppressive policies of the nascent Meiji state.

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  • McMullin, Neil. Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth-Century Japan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

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    Focuses on Oda Nobunaga (b. 1534–d. 1582) and his success in asserting control over Buddhist institutions in the 16th century. Argues that Nobunaga, in gaining political and economic power over Buddhist institutions, ushered in a “post-Buddhist” age.

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  • Nosco, Peter, ed. Special Issue: The Emperor System and Religion in Japan. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 17.2–3 (1990).

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    Several of the eight essays included in this special issue address the relationship between Buddhism and the tennō.

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  • Victoria, Daizen. Zen at War. 2d ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

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    Landmark study of Zen support for Japanese militarism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries (ending with World War II). Readers may also be interested in Victoria’s Zen War Stories (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003).

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Gender and Sexuality

English-language scholarship on gender and sexuality in Japanese Buddhism has progressed steadily since the 1990s. This section is divided into two subsections: Women’s Practice and Attitudes toward Gender and Sexuality.

Women’s Practice

For an introduction to historical studies of women’s engagement in Buddhist practices, begin with Ruch 2002, which includes many essays by Japanese scholars in translation. Meeks 2010 examines the restoration of women’s monastic communities in medieval Japan; Dobbins 2004 focuses on the life and practice of Eshinni, the wife of Shinran; Morrell and Morrell 2006 examines Rinzai Zen nuns in medieval and early modern Japan; and Arai 1999 treats Sōtō Zen nuns in contemporary Japan. For visual sources, see Nara Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan 2003.

  • Arai, Paula Kane Robinson. Women Living Zen: Japanese Sōtō Buddhist Nuns. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    Fascinating ethnographic study of Sōtō Zen nuns in contemporary Japan. Investigates nuns’ reception and reinterpretation of androcentric Zen teachings, as well as their work for institutional equality with male monks.

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  • Dobbins, James C. Letters of the Nun Eshinni: Images of Pure Land Buddhism in Medieval Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2004.

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    This comprehensive examination of Eshinni, wife of Jodoshinshū founder Shinran, explores the differences between religious doctrine as idealized in texts and religious practice as manifested in everyday life. Also contains accessible explanations of the shōen estate system, medieval epistolary traditions, and premodern marriage practices.

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  • Meeks, Lori. Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monasticism in Premodern Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2010.

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    Institutional and social history of Hokkeji, Japan’s most famous convent, and its role in the medieval resurgence of women’s monastic orders. Also explores the reception of gendered Buddhist ideology among female practitioners.

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  • Morrell, Sachiko Kaneko, and Robert E. Morrell. Zen Sanctuary of Purple Robes: Japan’s Tōkeiji Convent since 1285. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

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    Social and institutional history of the Rinzai convent Tōkeiji (Kamakura). Although the methodological framing of the work is somewhat apologist in tone, the book is rich in facts and details and will be useful to those interested in female monasticism, and in the history of engiri-dera, or “divorce temples.”

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  • Nara Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan. Josei to bukkyō: Inori to hohoemi; Tokubetsuten / Women and Buddhism; Special exhibition. Nara, Japan: Nara Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan, 2003.

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    Exhibition catalogue for a major exhibit on women and Buddhism held at the Nara National Museum. This catalogue sheds light on the diverse ways in which women have encountered and engaged Japan’s diverse Buddhist traditions. Works in the catalogue focus on the premodern period.

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  • Ruch, Barbara, ed. Engendering Faith: Women and Buddhism in Premodern Japan. Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies 43. Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2002.

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    First major work in English to explore women’s contributions to Buddhist institutions and practices in premodern Japan. This anthology, which contains twenty essays written by prominent scholars in Japan and the United States, is over seven hundred pages long.

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Attitudes toward Gender and Sexuality

Those interested in Buddhist rhetoric about women, gender, and sexuality may want to begin with Faure 1998 and Faure 2003, though they should be aware that Faure’s approach to the topic, though innovative, may be more useful in its treatment of overarching themes than in its handling of history. Nakamura 1982, a special issue of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, is quite outdated but is still useful for understanding what questions and issues have been of enduring interest in this subfield. Jaffe 2001, an authoritative study of clerical marriage in the history of Japanese Buddhism, is essential for understanding monastic attitudes toward women. Marra 1993 and Moerman 2009 focus on particular examples of gendered discourse: Marra considers medieval discourses on sexuality and defilement; Kanda 2005 examines kusozu, or paintings of women’s decomposing bodies; and Moerman looks at stories about islands of demonic women.

  • Kanda, Fusae. “Behind the Sensationalism: Images of a Decaying Corpse in Japanese Buddhist Art.” Art Bulletin 87.1 (2005).

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    Authoritative and comprehensive study of the kusōzu (painting of the nine stages of a decaying [female] corpse) genre as it developed over more than five hundred years of Japanese history.

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  • Faure, Bernard. The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

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    Highly creative approach to the cultural history of sexuality in East Asian Buddhism. Focuses in particular on the cultural and discursive practices surrounding sexuality within monastic institutions.

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  • Faure, Bernard. The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

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    Examines constructions of gender and sexuality in Buddhist discourse. As is also the case with Faure 1998, this book draws on the works of numerous Western theorists to interpret anecdotes from the cultural histories of Buddhism in China and Japan.

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  • Jaffe, Richard M. Neither Monk nor Layman: Clerical Marriage in Modern Japanese Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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    Japanese Buddhism is unique in its embrace of marriage among male members of the clergy. This comprehensive study explores the history of this practice and thinks through its many implications.

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  • Marra, Michele. “The Buddhist Mythmaking of Defilement: Sacred Courtesans in Medieval Japan.” Journal of Asian Studies 52.1 (1993): 49–65.

    DOI: 10.2307/2059144Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the process by which Buddhist groups in medieval Japan created new discourses on defilement, purity, sexuality, and salvation.

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  • Moerman, D. Max. “Demonology and Eroticism: Islands of Women in the Japanese Buddhist Imagination.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 36.2 (2009): 351–380.

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    Traces the development of narratives about demonic women, from Buddhist tale literature and sutra illustrations through early modern maps and fiction. Covers the 12th through 19th centuries. Well illustrated.

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  • Nakamura, Kyōko, ed. Special Issue: Women and Religion in Japan. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 10.2–3 (1982).

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    Six articles, plus an introduction by Nakamura. Important for understanding the history of this subfield.

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LAST MODIFIED: 11/21/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0080

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