May 27, 2014/ 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM

UCLA, Faculty Center Hacienda Room Los Angeles CA

Tales of Ise

The rites and patrons of Ise Shrine in postwar Japan


"A remarkable event took place in Ise in October last year. Amaterasu, the sun goddess, abandoned her shrine - her abode of just twenty years - and made a dramatic entry into the human world. Accompanied by throngs of priests, she progressed through the night to an adjacent plot just 300 metres away. There, awaiting her arrival, stood a brand new shrine, identical to the one she had just left. Into this new structure, Amaterasu withdrew. The shrine that was abandoned will soon be dismantled and, twenty years from now, a new shrine will be erected and back she will progress. Every twenty years or so, for well over a millennium, the sun goddess has been progressing back and forth from one site to the other. In this talk, I use Amaterasu’s progresses in 1953, 1973 and 1993 as a technique for exploring the shifting relationship of the Ise shrines to the state, the imperial court and the nation in postwar Japan."

Speaker Biography:

John Breen is Professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto. Previously, he taught Japanese at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He did his undergraduate study and postgraduate research at Cambridge University. He has published widely in English and Japanese on issues relating to the imperial institution and Shinto. Among his recent publications are the books, A New History of Shinto (co-authored with Mark Teeuwen, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) and Girei to Kenryoku: Tenno no Meiji Ishin ("Ritual and Power: The Emperor and the Meiji Restoration," Heibonsha, 2011). His other recent work include the article, “The Nation’s Shrine: Conflict and Commemoration at Yasukuni, Modern Japan’s Shrine to the War Dead,” in The Cultural Politics of Nationalism and Nation-Building: Ritual and Performance in the Forging of Nations, (ed. Tsang and Woods, Routledge, 2014), and “Shinto Monogatari: Meiji-ki no Ise” ("Tales of a Sacred City: Ise in the Meiji Period") in Kindai Nihon no Rekishi Toshi: Koto to Joka Machi, (ed. Takagi, Shibunkaku, 2013). He is presently completing a book on the modern history of Ise Shine.

Kelly Zuniga

Sponsor(s): , Asian Languages & Cultures