Session Abstract: The complexity of political and religious relationships in medieval and early modern Japan has always been difficult to describe. During these centuries, political authority was shared by the imperial court, warrior governments, and at times, major temples, while affiliations between "head" temples and their branches further complicated religious ties. Perhaps because of these multi-layered, overlapping structures, prior scholarship tended to focus on either central institutions or on local society and culture in the "periphery," but rarely both. This panel's scholars, however, reach for new ground in drawing attention to the relationships between both sides - that is, between centers and peripheries in pre-modern Japan's political and religious realms.
Kikuchi opens by applying archaeological and political tools to the study of early medieval religious objects known as itabi, challenging older views to show that these stone stele accompanied trade routes to form multiple centers with complex trade networks. Gilbert argues that intermediaries developed unofficial routes for negotiation among disputants in Fushimi, located in the periphery of Kyoto. Huang explores longstanding assumptions about sectarian ties among late medieval Buddhist temples, highlighting Joge'in's successful fundraising as well as ritual normalizations among Pure Land Buddhist temples in Echizen Province. Lastly, Takenouchi looks at a "reverse" center-periphery relationship in which provincial temples and shrines set up "branch" offices in the capital city of Edo for pilgrims' lodging. Together, all four papers help us rethink long accepted ideas about centers and peripheries across five centuries of Japanese history.
Paper Presenter: Hiroki Kikuchi – University of Tokyo
Paper Presenter: Megan Gilbert – Princeton University
Paper Presenter: Xiaolong Huang – University of Tokyo
Paper Presenter: Masato Takenouchi – Yale University