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Transitional Worlds: Household, Temple and Change in a Rural Japanese Town

Walker Kuroki, Amy V (2015) Transitional Worlds: Household, Temple and Change in a Rural Japanese Town. MPhil thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Rural Japan is generally regarded as behind, and peripheral to, a constantly changing urban centre and excluded from discourses of globalisation and change. However, this anthropological study argues that the rural area is already engaged with global flows, and negotiates micro-currents particular to local society. In order to illustrate this, the contemporary contexts of lay and clerical households – connected through historical policies to a neighbourhood temple – are explored through participant observation, interviews and oral narratives.This research is the first ethnographic example of a transnational Buddhist temple in a ‘Shinto’ area significant in history and mythological narratives. Furthermore, it addresses unstable factors or ‘outside’ elements within society, exploring the experience of single mothers returning from the urban sphere to their natal households in the countryside, and the narrative of non-heterosexual clerics, neglected by academic inquiry to date. Through ethnographic examples it argues that despite secularism, and a negative perception of the temple in national public discourse, Buddhist (ancestral) ritual remains a key technique in the local area, which reproduces, protects and perpetuates the temple and associated households. Although both household and temple appear to remain unchanged on the surface, underneath, a myriad of transitions are taking place that create uncertainty in a world of flux; and ritual is a tool that engenders control and autonomy for local people, creating and producing the temple and its priests in the process. Thus, the ways in which people are negotiating the dichotomy between continuity and change is the focus of the thesis. Accordingly, its aim is to transcend the dominant narrative of secularism and modernity, which predicts that societies evolve in a linear direction. Instead, it argues that there is a shared, concurrent co-existence between binaries of rural/urban, traditional/modern, sacred/secular, and local/global in the contemporary context: as an outcome of our transitional world.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Keywords: Rural Japan, Anthropology of Japan, Japanese Religion, Japanese Ritual, Japanese Buddhism
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of East Asian Studies (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Mrs Amy V Walker Kuroki
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2015 10:53
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2015 10:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8057

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