Carmen Blacker Lecture 2015 – Amaterasu’s progress: the Ise shrines in the public sphere of postwar Japan, with John Breen
20 July 2015, London
In 2013, the Inner and Outer shrines in Ise were rebuilt at vast expense. On 2 October 2013 Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, abandoned her old, and somewhat worn, shrine to progress to her new abode, located a matter of metres away on an adjacent site. Her old shrine was duly dismantled. This was the latest event in a remarkable tradition of vicennial rebuilding that extends back to the 7th century AD. In twenty years, when a new building takes shape, Amaterasu will be on the move again. In this lecture, I explore the ritualized rebuilding of the Ise shrines in postwar Japan as a technique to highlight the shrines’ constant negotiation with the realms of politics, economy and society. Out of this negotiation has come change for the private religious charity that is Ise. I propose here that the dominant trajectory of change is best understood in terms of “de-privatisation” or the re-emergence of the Ise shrines into the public realm.
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