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Bernard Faure, D. Max Moerman, and Gaynor Sekimori, eds., Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie, N° 18, 2009: Shugendo: l'histoire et la culture d'une religion japonaise [Shugendo: The History and Culture of a Japanese Religion] Paris: École française d'Extrême-Orient, 2009. 304 pages. Paperback, 40.00/$60.00/¥6000. isbn 978-2-85539-123-6.
This collection of essays on Shugendo is a special topical issue of the Cahier d'Extrême-Asie, published by the École française d'Extême-Orient Centre in Kyoto, but it is better to acknowledge it as a monograph rather than "just" an issue of an academic journal. It is the most up-to-date collection of academic studies on the topic in non-Japanese languages, and a milestone for Shugendo studies in the West. The essays are based on papers given at "the first large-scale symposium devoted to Shugendo outside Japan," which brought together the top specialists in the field at Columbia University in April 2008. The conference was dedicated to Carmen Blacker of the University of Cambridge, a pioneer (or shall we say sendatsu) who "opened the mountain" for such studies in the West.
The papers are all in English (with translation of essays originally in French and Japanese), with each essay opening with a summary in French. The translation and editing is of the highest quality, resulting in very readable prose even for essays of quite technical content. In fact, the inclusion and translation of so many essays by many important Japanese scholars is one of the most significant contributions of this collection. I shall briefly introduce each essay and comment on their significance.
"Introduction," Gaynor Sekimori & D. Max Moerman
A brief history and outline of the study of Shugendo in Japan and "abroad," showing how it is an area that has been relatively neglected in academic studies, but which has been drawing more attention recently. Finally, they point out that that essays have been organized under the themes "Towards a Definition of Contemporay Shugendo (Bouchy, Sekimori), "Shugendo in History" (Miyake, Sato, Sekiguchi, Rambelli), and "The Culture of Shugendo" (Suzuki, Ouchi, and Suzuki).
Anne Bouchy, "Transformation, Rupture and Continuity: Issues and Options in Contemporary Shugendo" (trans., Jessica Hackett and Katelyn Aronson)
The opening essay by Bouchy is a strong attempt to redefine the meaning of "Shugendo." Her comment could serve as a summary of the theme of the collection as a whole: "It is clear today that Shugendo is in fact a complex tapestry interweaving its religious, symbolic, and ritual elements with many others: social, economic, political, institutional, ideological, historical, geographical, technical, psychological, and human. Failing to acknowledge the interdependence of all of these elements, or favoring one element above the rest, gives only a partial and biased vision of Shugendo" (19). Bouchy also takes a concrete look at contemporary Shugendo by considering the "spectacularization" and use of secrecy, and the historical ban of women as well as the increasingly active participation of women today.
Gaynor Sekimori, "Defining Shugendo Past and Present: The 'Restoration' of Shugendo at Nikko and Koshikidake."
A look at the historical development and recent revival of ritual practices at two traditional Shugendo centers, underscoring the religious role of lay people.
Miyake Hitoshi ... "Japanese Mountain Religion: Shrines, Temples, and the Development of Shugendo") (trans., Miyabi Yamamoto and Gaynor Sekimori)
Miyake is already famous as a giant in Shugendo studies, and here provides a succinct outline of the history of Shugendo, with a focus on "mountain temples and shrines " (shaji, . …