Sacred High City, Sacred Low City: A Tale of Religious Sites in Two Tokyo Neighborhoods Book

Heine, S. (2012). Sacred High City, Sacred Low City: A Tale of Religious Sites in Two Tokyo Neighborhoods . 1-240. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195386202.001.0001

cited authors

  • Heine, S



  • Many observers have commented on what appears to be a fundamental contradiction concerning the ways that traditional religions function in Japan. On the one hand, the presence of temples and shrines is pervasive throughout most countryside and urban areas, which means that there are countless examples of festivals and rituals on display creating a sense of vibrancy and involvement. At the same time, observers often get the impression that neither Buddhism nor Shinto is as spiritually dynamic an institution as might be expected. In reality, however, religion functions as an integral part of daily life from cradle to grave, so much so that it is probably taken for granted by Japanese themselves. Any level of apparent disinterest masks a fundamental commitment to participating regularly in diverse though diffused religious practices. "Sacred High City, Sacred Low City" uses case studies of religious sites at two representative but contrasting Tokyo neighborhoods as a basis for reflecting on this apparently contradictory quality in order to examine a variety of issues regarding how contemporary Japanese society regards the role of traditional religion. In what ways does Japan continue to carry on and adapt tradition, and to what extent has modern secular society lost touch with the traditional elements of religion? Or, does Japanese religiosity reflect another, possibly postmodern alternative beyond the dichotomy of sacred and secular, in which religious differences as well as a seeming indifference to religion are encompassed as part of the contemporary lifestyle? The aim of the book is to use the micro-level of analyzing sacred sites in particular Tokyo neighborhoods as representative case studies that constitute a vehicle for probing and reevaluating the macro-level regarding the overall meaning and significance of religiosity in contemporary Japan. Considering the two conundrums of religious structure and motivation in tandem helps answer the overriding question about sacred space: What makes religiosity "tick" in an increasingly secular environment that would seem to detract from and cause it to deteriorate?

publication date

  • January 19, 2012

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 240