may, 2023

17may15:0016:00Religion, tourism and heritage in contemporary Japan: state promotions, religious problems and constitutional questions15:00 - 16:00 Veröld – hús Vigdísar, 2. hæðEvent Type :Event

Event Details

Ian Reader, Professor Emeritus of Japanese studies at the University of Manchester, gives an open talk titled “Religion, tourism and heritage in contemporary Japan: state promotions, religious problems and constitutional questions”, in Veröld – House of Vigdís on 17 May at 15:00-16:00.


This talk (based on my book in press) discusses how religious sites, notably Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, are increasingly portrayed by Japanese state and tourist authorities as tourist attractions- a process in which religious institutions are also engaged, if often reluctantly.  Factors behind this ‘turn to tourism’ include the problems Japanese religious institutions face of falling support, and government policies to stimulate the economy and revitalise depopulated rural regions through tourism.  I will illustrate this process via one example: the Shikoku henro, the 88-temple pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku. Once seen as a marginal practice done by poor people, it is now a key element in state and regional government plans to promote tourism in Shikoku and is promoted by political agencies as an emblem of Japanese heritage and tradition and as a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status.  Since the state is constitutionally prohibited from promoting or privileging religion, promoting a pilgrimage (or any religious site) in such ways has legal ramifications, while being presented as a tourist attraction causes concerns for temple priests who fear that tourism will undermine the religious dimensions of their pilgrimage.

My talk will outline how state agencies and religious professionals in different ways deal with these dilemmas and will comment on the implications this has for religion in Japan today.

Ian Reader is Professor Emeritus at the University of Manchester and previously Professor of Japanese Studies there. His most recent books are Pilgrims Until We Die: Unending Pilgrimage in Shikoku  (smellið hér til að skoða í opnum aðgangi) (co-authored with John Shultz, Oxford University Press 2021) and Religion and Tourism in Japan: Intersections, Images, Policies and Problems (Bloomsbury, in press 2023).


(Wednesday) 15:00 - 16:00


Veröld – hús Vigdísar, 2. hæð