Japanese Modern Buddhism and Music - views from within

ICU Sacred Music Centre 73rd Open Lecture (Zoom)

Japanese Modern Buddhism and Music - views from within

The transmission of 'Buddhist gagaku' in modern Japan - focusing on the traditions of the  Tennōji Gakuso
Saturday, 19 December   2:00pm-5:00pm
Zoom URL:

ID: 953 7318 9276
PW: 535945
 The modernization of Japan that began with the Meiji restoration brought unprecedented qualitative changes to the transmission of gagaku. Gagaku musicians, who had previously transmitted their repertoire in the syncretic temple/shrine religious rituals performed by the three 'gakuso' ensembles in the court in Kyoto (Ōuchi), Osaka (Tennōji temple),  and Nara (Nanto), were reorganized into a single gagaku unit by the Meiji government, and began to serve the new State Shinto world-view that had resulted from the  'Separation of Shinto and Buddhism' (Shinbutsu-bunri) movement. Buddhist elements were removed from court gagaku, while transmission of gagaku in the remaining sites, particularly in Tennōji, faced extinction due to a removal of tradition-bearers. This talk considers the ways in which the Tennōji gakuso transmitted its repertory in the context of the loss of Buddhist elements due to the position of the emperor as the head of State Shinto in a newly modernized Japan, and the reasons that the transmission of a 'Buddhist gagaku' was made possible up to the present.
The introduction of Western music in Japanese Modern Buddhism - focusing on the Pure Land sects
 The Meiji restoration brought profound changes to the world of Japanese Buddhism. In addition to the modernization of Buddhist teachings and the restructuring of Buddhist organizations, musical practices were influenced by the Westernization of Japanese society. Particularly in the Shin Buddhist sects, the acceptance of Western music existed from the Meiji era, and it is not uncommon for Western music to be used today in important services. Why did these foreign musical practices and forms find a home in rituals and faith activities which already used musical traditions such as shōmyō and go-eika? This lecture will examine the social position of Western music within modern Shin Buddhist sects, with particular reference to the 'non excluding culture' which they promoted.