Narratives of Sorrow and Dignity: Japanese Women, Pregnancy Loss, and Modern Rituals of Grieving

ISBN : 9780199942138

Bardwell L. Smith
416 Pages
162 x 240 mm
Pub date
Jul 2013
Oxford Ritual Studies
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Bardwell L. Smith offers a fresh perspective on mizuko kuyo, the Japanese ceremony performed to bring solace to those who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion. Showing how old and new forms of myth, symbol, doctrine, praxis, and organization combine and overlap in contemporary mizuko kuyo, Smith provides critical insight from many angles: the sociology of the family, the power of the medical profession, the economics of temples, the import of ancestral connections, the need for healing in both private and communal ways and, perhaps above all, the place of women in modern Japanese religion. At the heart of Smith's research is the issue of how human beings experience the death of a life that has been and remains precious to them. While universal, these losses are also personal and unique. The role of society in helping people to heal from these experiences varies widely and has changed enormously in recent decades. In examples of grieving for these kinds of losses one finds narratives not only of deep sorrow but of remarkable dignity.


PART ONE: Approaching the Worlds of Mizuko
1. Mizuko Kuyo: Memorial Services for Child Loss in Japan
2. Architectural, Iconographic, Doctrinal Features of Mizuko Kuyo
3. Situating the Rites of Mourning: Two Temples and a Variety of Visitors
4. The Phenomena of Mizuko Kuyo: Responses to Pregnancy Loss
PART TWO: Deciphering the Worlds of Pregnancy Loss: Women, Men, and the Unborn
5. Japanese Woman as Housewife, Mother, and Worker: Patterns of Change and Continuity (1868-2010)
6. Ancestors, Angry Spirits, and the Unborn: Caring for the Dead on the Path to Ancestorhood
7. Mothers, Society, and Pregnancy Loss: Rethinking the Meaning of Nurture
PART THREE: Relating Mizuko Rei to the Larger Worlds of Profound Loss
8. The Revival of Death, the Rebirth of Grieving, and Ways of Mourning
9. Rituals of Affliction
An Invitation to Sobriety
1. Adashino Nenbutsuji, English language text of Mizuko kuyo service
2. Yvonne Rand, Jizo: Protector of Travelers into and out of Life
3. Sai-no-kawara text, tr. of Manabe Kosai. Jizo-bosatsu no kenkyu [Research on Jizo Bodhisattva]. Kyoto: Sanmitsudo shoten, 1960.
4. Yasuo Sakakibara, Economic Development and Temple Economics in Japan

About the author: 

John W. Nason Professor of Asian Studies (Emeritus), Carleton College

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