Japan

Organized Panel Session

1 - Omens, Epidemics, and Eruptions: Fuji in the Eyes of Heian-Period Elites

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Thurgood Marshall South, Mezzanine

Today Mt. Fuji is commonly viewed as a stable and even timeless symbol of Japan, but this was far from the case from the 8th to the 12th centuries, when its frequent and violent eruptions inspired fear among Japanese elites.  To them the volcano was an easily angered deity who wreaked destruction not only by spewing lava and tephra but also by spreading disease.  In fact, epidemics were the greater concern for Heian courtiers who lived far to the west of Fuji and therefore beyond its immediate destructive reach.  Focusing in particular on the omens and rituals surrounding the massive Jōgan eruption of 864-66, this paper situates Fuji ‘s volcanic activity within a broader culture of fear that shaped the politics and everyday lives of Heian-period elites.  In doing so, it challenges more typical narratives of Fuji’s history that take certain pieces of evidence (especially poems) out of historical context to project the mountain’s current status as a beloved symbol of Japan deep into the Japanese past.

Andrew Bernstein

Lewis & Clark College, Oregon

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1 - Omens, Epidemics, and Eruptions: Fuji in the Eyes of Heian-Period Elites



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