Art & Design

Carmen Blacker Lecture 2017 – The archaeology of Ritual Sites and the Origins of Japanese Shrines and Festivals, with Mamoru Saso

17 July 2017, London

For this year’s Carmen Blacker Lecture we are delighted to welcome Mamoru Saso, Professor of Japanese Archaeology and History of Japanese Religion at the Kokugakuin University and Director of the Kukugakuin University Museum.

The Carmen Blacker Lecture Series honours the memory and scholarship of Carmen Blacker (1924-2009) and is organised jointly by the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures and the Japan Society. Each year a senior scholar is invited to speak on a theme related to Blacker’s research in the area of Japanese religion and folklore.


Shinto shrines are places of worship for many in Japan. Considered sacred, pilgrims visit shrines to commune with the tutelary spirits. Rituals and festivals are held regularly to maintain harmony between people and nature.


This talk will focus on Omiwa Shrine, the oldest surviving shrine in Japan, and Munakata Grand Shrine and the associated ritual sites on the island of Okinoshima. Through images of landscapes and excavated artefacts, Professor Mamoru Saso will discuss the formation of ritual sites during the fourth and fifth centuries and the relationship between the environment and the kami spirits nurtured through festivals. He will also explore how ritual practices played an important part in state formation and in the development of Japanese mythology.


Mamoru Saso received his PhD in Religious Studies from Kokugakuin University in 2006. Since 1985, he assumed various roles for the Board of Education at Chiba Prefectural Government, including Senior Researcher for Awa Museum and Head of Cultural Education and Properties Division, Department of Educational Promotion. In 2009 he became Associate Professor at Kokugakuin University and then Professor in 2010. In 2015, he was appointed Director of Kokugakuin University Museum. His recent publications include Nihon Kodai no Saishi Kokogaku (Archaeology of Ritual and Religion in Ancient Japan, Yoshikawakobunkan, 2012) and Kami to Shisha no Kokogaku (Archaeology of Kami and the Dead, ed., Yoshikawakobunkan, 2016). He won the Society of Shinto Studies Award in 2004.


To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email


This lecture will also be given on Thursday 20 July under the auspices of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in the Weston Room, Cathedral Hostry, Norwich. To book for the Norwich lecture please click here.


Co-organised by:

17 July 2017, 6.45pm

The Swedenborg Society , 20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St), London WC1A 2TH

Tel: 020 3075 1996

The Japan Society, SOAS University of London