Society for East Asian Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper explores ritual practice that reinforces class distinctions among residents of a former samurai village in Northern Japan. Annual rituals held at a small religious site in the village at once reinforce a sense of belongingness among residents of samurai descent while excluding households of non-samurai descent, who are prohibited from participating in or excluded from leadership in village rituals. However, the context of class relations in the village is complex; members of non-samurai households often hold positions of power in village governance. What emerges is a complex social and geographical space in which mutuality and differentiation are simultaneously reinforced through ritual and other forms of practice as people negotiate personal relationships, a process that is further complicated by the declining population of the village leaving close to 40% of houses empty as older residents have died and their children moved away.