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In Session: Connections, Networks, and Ties that Bind: Rethinking Centers and Peripheries in Medieval and Early Modern Japan
4: The Expansion of Provincial Temple and Shrine "Branch Offices" in Edo
Thursday, March 25, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Yale University, United States
Much recent scholarship on early modern Japanese urban history has focused on exploring both the characteristics of individual social status groups as well as the relationships between them in order to understand the diversity and complexity of urban society during the Edo period. This paper tries to improve our understanding of these multi-faceted aspects of urban society in Tokugawa Japan by examining the "branch offices" (shukubō or yakusho) established in Edo by provincial Buddhist temples and Shintō shrines during the second half of the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). From the late 18th century onward, provincial temples and shrines substantially expanded their ties to urban society in Edo through these branch offices. Famous temples and shrines like Narita-san, Enoshima and Akiba-san built branch offices in the commoners’ area of Edo for the convenience of their adherents. At the same time, the Yoshida family in Kyoto, who administered Shintō priests throughout the country, also set up an office for making contact with the shogunate’s Magistrate of Temples and Shrines and for facilitating their control over priests in Edo. Studying branch offices helps us understand the relationships between status groups of the same religion or sect that crossed the rural-urban divide. This paper will also show how shogunal officials involved in urban and religious administration coped with the emergence of branch offices, particularly in relation to the problem of how to properly register and account for religious practitioners in commoner areas.