Departmental Bulletin Paper Envisioning and Observing Women's Exclusion from Sacred Mountains in Japan

Dewitt, Lindsey E.

1pp.19 - 28 , 2016-03 , Kyushu University, School of Letters, Graduate School of Humanities, Faculty of Humanities
A tenth-century Chinese travelogue, Yìchǔ liùtiě 義楚六帖 (Jpn. Giso rokujō), states that women cannot climb Ōminesan 大峰山 in Nara prefecture and enumerates specific conditions for men's access. This paper explores the disjuncture between the modern reconstruction of ancient practices and the actual practices that take place at the mountain today. First, women's exclusion is conceived as having occurred in the past and is actively observed in the present, yet mention of it is completely absent from World Heritage literature pertaining to the mountain. Second, the modern vision of austerities undertaken by men in ancient times is difficult to reconcile with present-day practices, which permit any man to climb the sacred peak without restriction. These discordances call into question the standard interpretive model of ascribing women's exclusion from sacred mountains an unquestioned (and unquestionable) place in Japan's religious landscape.

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