Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Onmyodo in Japanese History

Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Onmyodo in Japanese History

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: Foreign text omitted.)

Onmyodo ..., the so-called "Way of yin-yang," is a relatively new field of study when compared to the more familiar Buddhism, Shinto, or even Shugendo, and academic articles or monographs on this sub- ject are hitherto quite scarce. The publication of Murayama Sh?ichi's Nihon Onmy?d?shi s?setsu in 1981, in which he attempted to draw a global picture of the history of Onmy?d?, sparked interest in pursuing research in this area. Ten years later, Onmy?d? scholarship acquired a solid ground for further develop- ment with the publication of Onmy?d? s?sho (1991--1993), a four-volume collec- tion edited by Murayama and others that gathered most of the articles already published on this topic at that time. Prior to this, if a student wished to write a graduation thesis dealing with Onmy?d?, most Japanese advisors would have disapproved due to a lack of previous scholarship or documentation. However, since the publication of Onmy?d? s?sho, it has become possible to write a thesis, or even a PhD dissertation, on Onmy?d?. The guest editors of this issue of the JJRS, having themselves obtained PhDs dealing with early modern Onmy?d? and divination respectively, are very grateful for this collection of articles.

Readers should keep in mind that Onmyodo has not only gathered momen- tum as a field of study by scholars East and West, but it has also become popular in novels, manga, and films. Aramata Hiroshi's Teito monogatari novels (1985-- 1987), or Yumemakura Baku's Onmy?ji series (1988--ongoing) are bestsellers in their genre. Okano Reiko's manga, Onmy?ji (1993--2005), loosely based on Yumemakura's novels, received the Tezuka Osamu manga prize, and has built a strong following among young readers. All these works were developed into mov- ies, and even television dramas featuring an onmy?ji as their main protagonist were produced around the end of the 1990s. The social significance of this "Onmyodo boom" from the 1980s to the beginning of the twenty-first century has yet to be researched by sociologists, and we can only hope that such a survey will eventu- ally appear. Meanwhile, we cannot help but notice that Aramata lists Murayama's Nihon Onmyodoshi s?setsu as a reference, and that Okano was taking advice from Yamashita Katsuaki, a scholar whose authority on ancient Onmyodo can hardly be disputed. Thus, it seems that the academic and popular trends are not totally unre- lated, and might even be a deeply-intertwined social phenomenon.

Scholars should be delighted to see that words such as Onmyodo or onmy?ji, thanks to manga and films, have become widely known among the general pub- lic. However, the very word Onmyodo is not, by far, free from all ambiguity. Its reading, for instance, is still subject to debate. Should it be read on'y?d? or Onmyodo, or even in'y?d?? We can exclude the latter because when Onmyodo appeared in Japan, Chinese characters were read in their go-on pronunciation. It seems that the original reading was indeed on'y?d?, which later evolved to become Onmyodo. Although some scholars argue we should revert to the "origi- nal" reading, the editors have decided, for the sake of convenience and clarity, to stick to the better-known Onmyodo reading.

There is no real consensus among scholars about the nature of Onmyodo: does it pertain to the category of "religion," or should it be considered as belong- ing to the "traditional arts"? Specialists of ancient and medieval Onmyodo mostly advocate the latter classification. Some scholars stress the transition of Onmyodo in the Heian period from a "technique" to a "religion," whereas others insist that the "technical" aspect of Onmyodo never disappeared and continued without any transformation. On the other hand, scholars working on early modern Japan use the label onmy?ji to refer to "folk-religious" (minkan sh?ky?sha ?????), and therefore tend to consider Onmyodo as pertaining to the field of religion. The ubiq- uitous nature of Onmyodo through the ages thus requires that scholars give careful attention to their terminology, and often prompts the need to resort to era-specific definitions, like "court Onmyodo," "medieval Onmyodo," or "popular Onmyodo. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.