Sacred High City, Sacred Low City: A Tale of Religious Sites in Two Tokyo Neighborhoods

ISBN : 9780199861446

Steven Heine
240 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Dec 2011
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  • A case study of religion in modern Tokyo
  • Gives general reflections on Japanese religiosity in light of secularism
  • Contains original fieldwork research on temples and shrines

In Sacred High City, Sacred Low City, Steven Heine argues that lived religion in Japan functions as an integral part of daily life; any apparent lack of interest masks a fundamental commitment to participating regularly in diverse, though diffused, religious practices. The book uses case studies of religious sites at two representative but contrasting Tokyo neighborhoods as a basis for reflecting on this apparently contradictory quality. In what ways does Japan continue to carry on and adapt tradition, and to what extent has modern secular society lost touch with the traditional elements of religion? Or does Japanese religiosity reflect another, possibly postmodern, alternative beyond the dichotomy of sacred and secular, in which religious differences as well as a seeming indifference to religion are encompassed as part of a contemporary lifestyle?


Introduction. Japanese Religious Context in Traditional and Contemporary Perspectives
Part One: Sacred and Secular
Chapter I. Sacred Space is Alive and Well, and Living in Japan
Chapter II. Tokyo, City of...Temples?
Part Two: Living and Dying
Chapter III. Akasaka in the High City: Born Shinto...Live Inari...Die Buddhist
Chapter IV. Inaricho in the Low City: Im-Practical Worldly Benefits
Japanese Glossary

About the author: 

Steven Heine, Professor and Director of Asian Studies at Florida International University, is an authority on Japanese religion and society, especially the history of Zen Buddhism and its relation to society in China and Japan. He has published over twenty books and dozens of articles, and has lectured extensively on these and related topics.

"These nuanced refinements to broadly accepted scholarship are without doubt a courageous and important contribution to the field of Japanese religions....This book is undoubtedly an important contribution to scholarship on Japanese religiosity, and will provide food for thought for both researchers and students of Japanese studies, but it will also appeal to the general public." - Japan Review

"The contributions of Sacred High City, Sacred Low City cannot be overstated. Taking a significant step in moving Western scholarship beyond the gaze upon the Japanese other, Heine has offered a shift in paradigm that will change the direction of this field for years to come. Undergraduate and graduate courses on Japanese cultural and religious studies or on the confluence of contemporary religious practice and material consumption would be well served by adding this text to required reading." - Philosophy East and West

"Interesting... a fruitful reexamination of the conventional wisdom of what religion is and does in contemporary Japan." - Religious Studies Review

"Highly engaging and accessible... this is a significant contribution the the study of contemporary Japanese religiosity—particularly, but not exclusivley, urban religiosity...Sacred High City is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Japanese religions, sociology of religion, ritual spaces, or religion and modernization." - Journal of Ecumenical Studies

"Heine questions the notion of 'born Shinto...die Buddhist,' a widely accepted understanding of Japanese religiosity. He proposes a new notion, 'Born Shinto...live Inari...die Buddhist,' adding that 'the use of the phrase 'live Inari,' refers to customs or practices habitually carried out within a worldview of myth and magic found in both Buddhist and Shinto contexts." - Religion Watch

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