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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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Akasaka in the High City: Born Shinto … Live Inari … Die Buddhist

Akasaka in the High City: Born Shinto … Live Inari … Die Buddhist

(p.100) (p.101) 3 Akasaka in the High City: Born Shinto … Live Inari … Die Buddhist
Sacred High City, Sacred Low City

Heine Steven

Oxford University Press

The third chapters examines the wide variety of shrines in Akasaka, including Sannō Hie Jinja, Toyokawa Inari, Nogi Jinja, and Hikawa Jinja, which are all dedicated to Inari, at least in part, although each has its own distinctive areas of religious and cultural significance. The Yamanote neighborhood of Akasaka also contains the Aoyama Cemetery as well as dozens of smaller Buddhist temples, most of which function as graveyards while tucked away in alleys or street-side openings. When seen collectively as a network of sacred sites and associations in the social context of the High City, an examination of this area at once confirms and calls for a reassessment of the notion that Shinto exclusively represents rites for living and Buddhism only represents rites for dying. This chapter focuses attention on an underlying level of folk religiosity that sustains both institutional structures. This chapter weaves together a descriptive analysis of the historical and cultural background as well as contemporary functions and atmosphere of some of the main sacred sites in the neighborhood of Akasaka with a critical discussion of Japanese religious institutional structure. By examining a variety of shrines and temples that are prominent and not-so-prominent (but in their own way equally important for understanding the role of sacred space), this chapter explores the conundrum involving the particular type of religious pluralism whereby almost everyone in Japan considers themselves affiliated with both Buddhist and Shinto traditions, but very few acknowledge feeling much loyalty or commitment to a particular institution.

Keywords:   Assimilation, Avatar, Gen. Nogi, Ryōtei politics, State Shinto, Shinbutsu bunri

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