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Sacred High City, Sacred Low CityA Tale of Religious Sites in Two Tokyo Neighborhoods$
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Steven Heine

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195386202

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195386202.001.0001

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Tokyo, City of … Temples?

Tokyo, City of … Temples?

(p.66) 2 Tokyo, City of … Temples?
Sacred High City, Sacred Low City

Heine Steven

Oxford University Press

The chapter begins by asking why Tokyo has been selected for this study, since other locations in Japan are far more renowned for their sacred sites. Is Tokyo a city of temples? By looking at the two neighborhoods in light of the social history of the capital, it shows that neither area is monolithic in its religious context and that both represent a mixture of sacred elements that support the interplay of Shinto and Buddhism as part of the fundamental level of folk religions. The challenge underlying this question brings us face-to-face with the polarities of sacrality and secularity, and tradition and modernity that occupy the urban setting. As a commentators notes about the role of temples in Tokyo, unlike the case of Kyoto where many of the temples tend to be rarified sites in the peripheral hillside away from and not really affecting the flow of everyday activity, Asakusa and other Tokyo shrines and temples are very much an integrated part of the fabric of ordinary life and yet are also able to stand out as something special and interesting. This is crucial for understanding the role of sacred space in Tokyo and the importance of examining religious locations which reflect seemingly commonplace everyday concerns and habits.

Keywords:   Asakusa, Bridge of Tears, Daimyō, “Floating World”, San'ya, Shichifukujin

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