A Social History of the Ise Shrines

Divine Capital

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Mark Teeuwen, John Breen
Bloomsbury Shinto Studies
  • New York, NY: 
    Bloomsbury Academic
    , February
     320 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Alexander Sogo forthcoming.


The Ise shrine complex is among Japan's most enduring national symbols, and A Social History of the Ise Shrines: Divine Capital is the first book to trace the history of the shrines from their beginnings in the seventh century until the present day. Ise enshrines the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, the imperial ancestress and the most prominent among kami deities, and has played a vital role in Japan's social, political and religious history. The most popular pilgrims' attraction in the land from the sixteenth century onwards, in 2013 the Ise complex once again captured the nation's attention as it underwent its periodic rebuilding, performed once every twenty years.

Mark Teeuwen and John Breen demonstrate that the Ise Shrines underwent drastic re-inventions as a result of on-going contestation between different groups of people in different historical periods. They focus on the agents responsible for these re-inventions, the nature of the economic, political and ideological measures they took, and the specific techniques they deployed to ensure that Ise survived one crisis after another in the course of its long history.

This book questions major assumptions about Ise, notably the idea that Ise has always been defined by its imperial connections, and that it has always been a site of Shinto. Written by leading authorities in the field of Shinto studies, this is the essential history of Japan's most significant sacred site.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Mark Teeuwen is professor of Japanese studies at Oslo University, Norway. He has published widely on the history of Japanese religious, with a special focus on Shinto. His books include A New History of Shinto (2010), co-authored by John Breen, and Buddhism and Nativism: Framing Identity Discourse in Buddhist Environments(2013), co-edited by Henk Blezer.

John Breen is professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Japan, and editor of Japan Review. He has published widely on the imperial institution and issues of religion and stage in modern Japan. His books include A New History of Shinto (2010), co-authored by Mark Teeuwen, and Shinto monogatari: Ise no kindaishi (2015).


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