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In Session: The Care and Management of Religious Organizations in Early Modern Japan
4: Temple Towns in the Capital: Higashi Honganji's Temple Town in Early Modern Kyoto
Friday, March 26, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Gifu University, Japan
Many of the temple towns (jinaichō), which are generally associated with Pure Land temples in the late medieval period, took on new roles as rural towns (zaigo machi) in the early modern period and lost their unique privileges in the process. However, because the two temple towns of Higashi and Nishi Honganji in Kyoto did not follow this trend, they provide insight into how temples interacted with the communities around them. The two neighboring towns were established as a result of the policies of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, and as self-governing communities that developed in early modern Kyoto, they were run autonomously by their respective religious organizations. Yet, they were also close in proximity to the head temples, housing various merchants and traders who supplied the temples with goods. People from all over Japan came to apply for memorial services and make other requests, study, and visit the temples, so lodgings were established to accommodate them. Each of the temple towns thus supported the administration of their respective head temples and religious organizations. However, because the merchants and traders also pursued their own profits, they worked with the monks of branch temples, and this activity disrupted the internal order of the religious organization. Drawing upon cases of merchants who dealt with clerical vestments in Higashi Honganji's temple town, this presentation argues that the residents' activities affected the internal dynamics of the Buddhist organization.