Organized Panel Session
The complexity of political and religious relationships in medieval and early modern Japan has always proved difficult to describe. During these centuries, political authority was shared by the imperial court, warrior governments, and at times, major temples, while affiliations between “head” temples and their branches further complicated religious ties. Perhaps because of these multi-layered, overlapping structures, prior scholarship tended to focus on either central institutions or on local society and culture in the “periphery,” but rarely both. This panel’s scholars, however, reach for new ground in drawing attention to the relationships between both sides – that is, between centers and peripheries in pre-modern Japan’s political and religious realms.
Kikuchi opens by applying archaeological and political tools to the study of early medieval religious objects known as itabi, challenging older views to show that these stone stele accompanied trade routes to form multiple centers with complex trade networks. Horikawa then overturns the traditional understanding of the Muromachi bakufu’s relationship with its own hinterlands by demonstrating the ways both sides relied on each other to maintain power. Huang explores longstanding assumptions about sectarian ties among late medieval Buddhist temples, highlighting how Tōji’s successful fundraising among non-Shingon temples helped to reintegrate the local society. Lastly, Takenouchi looks at a “reverse” center-periphery relationship in which provincial temples and shrines set up “branch” offices in the capital city of Edo for pilgrims’ lodging. Together, all four papers help us rethink long accepted ideas about centers and peripheries across five centuries of Japanese history.