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In Session: The Care and Management of Religious Organizations in Early Modern Japan
3: Religious Groups Without "Scriptures": What Held an Onmyōdō Organization Together?
Friday, March 26, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Kyoto Women’s University, Japan
This presentation attempts to clarify the compositional logic of a religious organization in early modern Japan that had neither scripture nor doctrine. In contrast to Buddhist and Shinto organizations that entered the early modern period with established organizational paradigms, the Tsuchimikado house had to find a way to gather independent onmyōji (diviners) into a group, with the Tsuchimikado acting as the headquarters of the Onmyōdō religious organization. Researchers have outlined the broad strokes of their work, drawing attention to how the Tsuchimikado monetized Onmyōdō by guaranteeing business rights in exchange for payments. Their struggle with Shugendō and other folk organizations, particularly for control over the right to perform divination rituals, has also been examined. However, insufficient attention has been given to a key question: what held the Onmyōdō organization together and enabled it to distinguish its tradition from others? As this presentation will show, securing revenue and rights was not enough for Onmyōdō to survive in early modern Japan. A key component of their managerial strategy was also to develop their brand by clarifying a system of knowledge and beliefs. The Tsuchimikado established a learning institute in the nineteenth century that aimed to become an authoritative center of knowledge through the publication and dissemination of books. It also sought to eliminate certain religious practices while defining others as orthodox ones. The system of knowledge we know of as early modern Onmyōdō was thus, in part, the result of their managerial skills.