Report: third session of the seminar “ Secularization, Religion, State”

20 May, 2009 HANEDA Masashi, Secularization, Religion, State

On May 18 2009, we held the third session of the seminar “Secularization, Religion, State” .

In this session, Ms. Junko Taguchi, graduate student at the Graduate School of Engineering, introduced and summarized Shunya Yoshimi’s The “Dramaturgie” of a City: Social History of Tokyo’s Busiest Parts [Toshi no Doramaturgī: Tokyo-Sakariba no shakaishi](Tokyo: Kobundo, 1987).

In this work the author discusses the “modernization” of Tokyo and the semantic divergence of its construction through the analysis of the “Sakariba”— the busiest parts of the town or the amusement quarters. Ms. Taguchi, who was the presenter for this session, focused on that part of the book that is related to our seminar. She would like to evaluate the processes of modernization and secularization through the investigation of space and architecture. For example, the dissolution of temple cities in modern Japan.

Yoshimi’s work emphasizes that in the “Sakariba” , it is very difficult to distinguish between ‘players’=, namely people who are seen by other people, ” and ‘audiences’= , namely people who see others. After discussing this point, we proceeded to investigate the neighborhoods of Ueno and Asakusa, both of which were “Sakariba” that originated in the temple city of the Edo era.
Ueno with its Kan’eiji temple, which was erected in 1625 by the order of the Shogun in order to protect Edo, was recognized as a sacred place in the Edo period.
On the other hand, after the great fire in Meireki in 1657, the government set up the fire defense in Ueno, where many amusement houses were constructed some years later. However, in the beginning of the Meiji era, these amusement houses were removed, and Ueno became the place for the “Interior Exhibition”, which was the symbol of Japan’s modernization. Although the Meiji Government demanded “ a modernized critical analysis” from the audiences who came to this “Interior Exhibition”, we found that those people watched the exhibition with only “pre-modern curiosity”.
Asakusa, the most famous “Sakariba”, was the amusement quarter in Meiji era, , In the Edo period it attracted visitors through the exhibition of Buddhist images in Sensouji Temple. On the other hand, behind the Sensouji temple there were many whorehouses , people lying by the roadside, and foundlings.
After the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese government drastically rearranged Asakusa . In Asakusa. Many amusement facilities were constructed, for example Asakusa Fuji mountain ( a 12th story building resembling Mount Fuji), where visitors could view Tokyo from above. The four features of “Asakusa” were thus, first, strong assimilation, second, being ahead of its time, third, its variety, forth, its collaboration.
Ms. Taguchi pointed that some arguments in this book regarding “place” were contradictory. She put strong emphasis on investigating and re-conceptualizing the divergence of the spatial order of “sacred” and “secular” after the Meiji Restoration.

After the presentation, one of the participants mentioned that the author’s perspective on “Duramaturgie”, the theory of drama, is so westernized and modernized that he lost the perspective of pre-modern drama.
The most exiting discussion in this session was concentrated on the investigations of meaning of “sacred”. The author of this monograph used this term somewhat carelessly. We had learned from another article that the meaning of the term “sacred” was gradually established in Europe after the Modern era. This problem was closely related to our program’s main topics of “secularization” and “religion”. During the discussion, other participants referred to the importance of the investigating the meaning of the term “sacred” in the pre-modern context in each particular region. From this exciting discussion, we realized again that this process would reach the reconsideration of the “imported humanity” in Japan and other non-western countries, which is the main goal of our COE Program.

(reported by Naofumi ABE)

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