Matsuri: Festival and Rite in Japanese Life
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Japan has often been described as avid in absorbing information from other countries, but more reticent when it comes to disseminating information about Japan overseas. The area of academic research has been no exception to this truism. There remains a terrible imbalance between the large volume of foreign research translated into Japanese and the small number of Japanese studies translated into other languages. While in several of the natural sciences it is no longer unusual to find work by Japanese scholars published in Western languages, the same remains all too rare when it comes to the social sciences and humanities.

Whatever the reason for this state of affairs, what is needed now are dedicated, recurrent attempts to rectify that situation.

One of the founding purposes of the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics at Kokugakuin University was the promotion of academic cooperation with overseas institutions and scholars. While we are aware that perhaps not much can be done with a limited staff and budget, we still feel it our duty to attempt to contribute, in whatever small way, to a correction of the historical imbalance in "data collection and distribution" noted earlier. Since its founding in 1955, members of the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics have been engaged in research and materials collection, particularly in the fields of religious studies, Shinto studies, and folklore studies. In 1985, a new project was initiated, aiming at the systematic introduction of Japanese academic research from these subject areas to overseas students of Japanese culture and society. In specific, it was decided to select a topic of interest, then choose previously published Japanese research papers on that topic, translating one of the papers in each edition of the Institute's Transactions over a three-year period. It was further decided that, following the three-year period, the individual translations would be compiled within a single volume for publication.

The topic of matsuri[Glossary: matsuri] was selected as the theme for our first series. Research by Japanese scholars on the topic of matsuri has been undertaken from numerous perspectives, including those of the sociological, folkloristic, and religious-studies orientations. In addition to having an important significance within Japanese religion, matsuri has been the subject of numerous new studies in recent years, dealing, for example, with the vicissitudes in matsuri itself which have accompanied modern social changes, or with matsuri as one manifestation of the more general category of ritual. The range covered by such research is merely hinted at by the essays translated here.

Work has already begun on the second in the Institute's series of translations, focused on the topic of the Japanese new religions. The subject of the new religions forms one of the most vigorous areas of study in modern Japan. Especially noteworthy is the large number of younger scholars involved in research in this area, a fact which makes us believe that we will be able to compile a series of essays each of which demonstrates significant new perspectives on research. Themes for the third and following series have not yet been selected, but we hope to take into consideration the desires of overseas scholars in the eventual choice of topics.

The Institute's translation project is currently overseen by Ueda Kenji, Norman Havens, and myself, but we would also like to acknowledge the cooperation of other members of the Institute's staff. Needless to say, we wish to express our appreciation to the authors of these papers for their permission to translate the articles into English.

Finally, as we begin work on the second and later series of translations we hope to make continual improvements in the appearance, format, and contents of our work, to which end we invite the comments of all readers.

Inoue Nobutaka
June 1988

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$Date: 1999/03/09 02:00:44 $
Copyright © 1988, 1997 Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University. All rights reserved.