Research Trip Report, 3rd Unit

Fieldwork in Japan: A Fact-Finding Survey on Multicultural Harmonious Co-existence Seen in Religious Events of Kyoto and Nara, and an Interview Survey with Priests, 3rd Unit


  Watanabe Shougo (IRCP Researcher) and Horiuchi Toshio (IRCP Research Associate) conducted fieldwork in Japan from December 30, 2014 to January 2, 2015. They sought to further advance the 3rd Units research on multicultural harmonious co-existence, specifically in regards to Shinto-Buddhist amalgamation. The fieldwork can be generally summarized as follows: To interview people responsible for three Buddhist temples regarding the idea of co-existence and the modern religious consciousness of Japanese people. To attend traditional Shinto and Buddhist New Year’s events in Kyoto and Nara, in order to gather facts about multicultural harmonious co-existence as observed from religious ceremonies.

  On December 30, they held a one-hour interview with Head-Priest Mano Ryukai (Shojoke-in, Head Temple of the Jodo School). Mano explained that a significant aspect of the idea of co-existence stems from the tomo-iki (共生co-existence, living toghether) movement, which was started by Shiio Benkyou. Shiio organized the tomo-iki movement to encourage gan-gu-sho-shu-jo 願共諸衆生, which means to whish to be reborn [in the Pure Land] with all beings. According to Mano, the Sanskrit word for living beings (sentient and non-sentient) is sattva, and the etymological interpretation (nirukti) of the word is sahatva, where saha means “co-” and tva means “being.” Mano explained that this is actually the site of the origin of tomo-iki or co-existence.

  On December 31, 2014, Watanabe and Horiuchi visited Chisaku-in, the Head Temple of the Chisan School, and held interview with Mr. Sugimoto. Topics discussed in the interview included requiring Buddhism to address the various issues in modern life, as well as the initiatives of the interfaith rally, in which the Japan Buddhist Federation participates. That evening, the researchers held an interview with Director Nakajima Tomohiko of the education department (Manpuku-ji, the Head Temple of the Obaku Zen School). Nakajima discussed how the sutra readings partly contain Chinese intonations, because the founder of temple was the Chinese priest Ingen. Watanabe and Horiuchi then observed a year-end memorial service, in addition to a ceremony beginning at midnight, during which priests took turns reading from 600 volumes of the “Great Perfection of Wisdom” sutras.

  At 5:00 pm on January 1, 2015, Watanabe and Horiuchi observed the Okerasai, a Shinto event occurring at the main hall (honden) of the Yasaka Shrine. On the same day, they observed the Shusho-e Kichijo-keka Hoyo ceremony in the main hall (kondo) of Yakushi-ji Temple. This ceremony was followed by a New Year sermon delivered by Head Priest Yamada Hoin, which hundreds of visitors attended. Watanabe and Horiuchi also visited the nearby Toshodai-ji Temple. Thereafter, they planned to observe the Chona-hajime ceremony at Koryu-ji Temple on January 2, 2015, but the event was cancelled due to heavy snowfall. Due to this modification of plans, they instead travelled to Daikaku-ji Temple in Sagano, where they surveyed ceremonies and materials, including a Heart sutra handwritten by Emperor Saga, as well as an eshingyo (Heart sutra rendered in pictorial form) housed in the temple’s heart sutra hall.

  Through this fieldwork, researchers were able to take part in a variety of dialogues with temple priests. Those from the Buddhist side were also shown responses pertaining to the needs of modern peoples, who suggested future developments for the field of conceptual research on co-existence.2