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From the City to the Mountain and Back Again: Situating Contemporary Shugendô ("Japanese mountain asceticism") in Japanese Social and Religious Life

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From the City to the Mountain and Back Again: Situating Contemporary Shugendô ("Japanese mountain asceticism") in Japanese Social and Religious Life

McGuire, Mark Patrick (2013) From the City to the Mountain and Back Again: Situating Contemporary Shugendô ("Japanese mountain asceticism") in Japanese Social and Religious Life. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines mountain ascetic training practices in Japan known as Shugendô (The Way to Acquire Power) from the 1980s to the present. Focus is given to the dynamic interplay between two complementary movements: 1) the creative process whereby charismatic, media-savvy priests in the Kii Peninsula (south of Kyoto) have re-invented traditional practices and training spaces to attract and satisfy the needs of diverse urban lay practitioners, and 2) the myriad ways diverse urban ascetic householders integrate lessons learned from mountain austerities in their daily lives in Tokyo and Osaka. This thesis argues that the creation of condensed mountain entry rituals such as the overnight Lotus Ascent of Mount Ômine, a successful campaign to designate sacred training grounds in the Kii Peninsulaa UNESCO World Heritage cultural landscape and creation of an “eco-pilgrimage” in Kumano are best understood as creative strategies by Shugendô priests to maintain financial solvency, relevancy and market share while providing direct access to the transcendent in a competitive and uncertain time.

Though Shugendô priests and UNESCO designation served as gateways into this research, the experiences of urban lay ascetics are emphasized throughout. Two questions
animate the thesis: Why does rebirth during a grueling, twenty-six kilometer overnight mountain ascent imagined as ritual death and re-entry into the Tantric Womb become necessary? How might urban ascetics' initial motivations and subsequent integration of mountain learning resonate with broader concerns about employment, environment, family, health and well-being, rising suicide rate, memory and commemoration during the recessionary and zero-growth period known as Japan's "Lost Decade(s)” (1990s - present)?

Reflections upon the attempt to represent this place and these practices in an accessible documentary film will be one element of a self-reflexive, collaborative and participatory research methodology informed by participant-observer fieldwork, interviews, focus groups and historiographical examination of the relevant primary, secondary and theoretical works.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Religion
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:McGuire, Mark Patrick
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Religion
Date:22 April 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):des Jardins, Marc and Joseph, Norma and Penney, Matthew and Ambros, Barbara and Ikeda, Satoshi
Keywords:Shugendô, Shugendô Now, Japanese mountain asceticism, mountain pilgrimage, eco-pilgrimage, religion and ecology, religion and nature, environmental remediation, commemoration, UNESCO World Heritage, Japanese civil society, Kinpusenji, Sangakurin, Kii Peninsula, Kumano, lay practice, urban lay practitioners, Lost Decades, contemporary religion, religious entrepreneurs, participatory filmmaking, collaborating filmmaking.
ID Code:977162
Deposited By:MARK MCGUIRE
Deposited On:18 Jun 2013 07:49
Last Modified:18 Jun 2013 07:49
Additional Information:See the documentary film Shugendô Now (www.shugendonow.com) on which this research is based.
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