- continued -


Thus BOLLNOW outlines systematically in five chapters an anthropology of space, habitation and building, which clearly gives priority to settlement, and in which tectonics, in elementary or developed form, becomes the semantic component of a fundamentally topological and ecological interpretation of the human spatial orientation system.

This leads to the development, in general terms, of new ‘comparative culture’ research perspectives. Concrete research into settlement - ethnographic, historic and prehistoric - gains an important new significance. The elaboration of ethno-(pre)historic settlement continua becomes important. <11> Space is materially and qualitatively restricted, it must be researched inductively, bearing in mind all its specific conditions. We must for instance be acquainted with the precise details of a settlement’s topographic characteristics and social activities if we want to make any assertions about its sacred (or profane) space.


Metaphysical Classification

Briefly, we have worked out a set of theoretical instruments which can be applied to Japan. Questions arise such as: do space relationships remain in Japan, based on specific cultural-historical conditions, to prove Bollnow’s principal theories? Is there an understanding of space, in the ontological sense also, to be seen in Japan, which is closely linked to settlement conditions? First however a few notes on the religious aspect are required.

The expression ‘sacred space’ is used in the West when speaking about the history of religion or in religious studies. This western view implies a double reduction. Space is seen today in terms of the empty homogeneous continuum of physics, but when used with ‘sacred’, space is interpreted metaphysically. Religion sees ‘sacred space’ as part of a religious system which is taken for granted, based on history and deriving all its phenomena from historical sources. Priority is given to highly idealised abstract terms, such as ‘spirit’, ‘God’, ‘gods’, ‘ancestral souls’ etc., and on the human side, psychic and abstract elements like ‘faith’, ‘perception’, ‘ideas’ etc. In this context worship becomes ‘adoration of God’, sacred buildings become ‘the house of a deity’ (historically occupied). Viewed in a strictly scientific sense, it is however a question of a eurocentrically moulded deductive value system, which in the field of historically based ‘high religions’ and (primitive) ‘popular belief’ originates from spiritual absolutes, and can often be used to describe the material world and its plurality only in a degraded sense.

In Japanology these methodical approaches can be taken for granted, and are for the most part shared by the Japanese without criticism. Where it is a question of assessing the facts of Shintô though, this approach only remains valid by being strictly limited to the priority of historical sources. Conversely, this means at the same time the complete suppression of an ethnologically understood, immense source of material gathered as part of Japanese folklore and published over the last five or six decades in Japan.<12> This archive is, if only for its success as a means of description, one of the most valuable available. <13>

In the field of sacred customs in particular, this archive, arranged roughly according to administrative district, gives quite a different picture of Shintô (BUNKACHô BUNKAZAI HOGOBU 1971ff.; BUNKAZAI HOGO I-INKAI 1955ff.). Other anthologies are devoted to particular types of cult (field worship, forest worship, rice planting festivals) in different regions (BUNKAZAI HOGO I-INKAI 1966f.). There are numerous monographs relating to specific localised cults (KONDô 1972, HAGIWARA H.1977; ôKAWA 1984, SUGANUMA 1975) often well illustrated with photographs (HAGA 1959, ISHIKAWA 1980; YANAGITA 1955, 1977). The important ones are the topographies of village Shinto worship in all or parts of Japan (HAGIWARA T. 1965; IRIE, MAEKAWA and YAMADA 1974; MIYAMOTO 1962). The variety of Japanese religious customs is also reflected in the terminology found in encyclopaedias and dictionaries (MINZOKUGAKU KENKYěSHO 1955; NIHON MINZOKUGAKU KYOKAI 1952, NISHITSUNOI 1958, SAKAMOTO 1957, WAKAMORI et al. 1971, 1976, YANAGITA 1951, 1963). <14>

This huge archive describes an enormous wealth of religious practices which are quite different from the formal ceremony of the central shrine system. In its variety of widely differentiated local details it is inconsistent with any idea of a unified religious culture. These sources have not received enough attention in western japanology. The small amount of material available in German is prejudiced in its interpretation as mentioned above (eg. EDER 1951, 1956,1957a, b, 1978 <15>; NAUMANN 1963, TAKEDA 1949 among others). One pioneering work on the other hand is KREINER’s study of the religious organisation of the Japanese village (1969). This was the first western ethnological local history study based on research in the field which gives equal weight to Japanese folklore.

Large and small traditions: The two layers of Shintô

Starting from these critical (and positive) points, we must for the time being consider Shintô in two distinct layers <16>. In this sense we shall now discuss the two layers of Shintô. This picture separates the ‘central’ or ‘historic Shintô’ of the great shrine system common to all regions, from the ‘traditional’ or ‘village Shintô’ of rural areas. What we traditionally understand by the term ‘Shintô’ is therefore a restricted, historically-based layer, which, having been for a long time in close contact with continental Buddhism (Ryôbu-Shintô), has taken on a certain form and spread from the centre into agricultural villages <17>. Alongside this can be seen an agrarian layer from the villages handed down from the original inhabitants, which straight away shows quite different characteristics <18>. The parallel aboriginal layer is, for the most part, only superficially overlaid with aspects of the centralised Shintô. The different basic essence of regional worship remains to be investigated. <19> Ethnographic research, for example into the general culture of such localised forms of worship, indicates clearly that in these local forms an older layer of Shintô survives, rooted in prehistoric agrarian society.

Seen from an ethnological and methodological viewpoint, important expressions in cultural discussion, such as ‘diffusionism’ and ‘parallelism’, or ‘tradition’ and ‘history’, become fundamentally theoretical when transferred to the realms of ethnography, where they are remarkably fertile <20>. Thus we can see that in village Shintô, already where the concept of gods is concerned, two different levels are at work, firstly the system of historically named gods connected with the traditional central shrine system, which are not however relevant to the more deeply rooted village Shinto. Then there are the “nameless gods” as HARADA calls them. The nameless local deity, the ujigami-god, is closely interwoven into the social structure of the village (ujigami, ujiko), home and family units (ie, dozoku). It remains today a part of local politics, and also played an important role in the extended family in earlier times. The ujigami system’s origin is moreover linked with the similarly structured class of homely gods (yashikigami), and in a wider sense with the worship of “earth gods” which are familiar under a variety of names (ji no kami, ubusunagami, etc.). This view is essentially based on HARADA (1942, 1960), and his emphasis on the territorial aspects in his theories on the origins of the Japanese village. “The village community would be inconceivable without the land” (HARADA 1962, quoted by KREINER 1969:50). The approach which we are about to outline, based on the genesis of settlements, also refers back to HARADA (1961b) in so far as it clearly incorporates a semantic element: the continuum of placemarkers and shrines as the demarcations of a sacred territorial right.

The anthropological or settlement-genesis approach

We shall begin with three particularities. In defining space according to the settlement-genesis or anthropological method, the emphasis is on the significance of localised living space. According to BOLLNOW’s interpretation, space corresponds with that 'settlement space' which he has specifically examined. The term “sacred” is relieved of its eurocentric construction and given a distinctive meaning, as by the local population, of “centred on that which is of the highest value” (distinct ontology). In other words, in the sacred spaces we are examining, contrasted with secular spaces in relation to a particular settlement, the principal values of the local culture are expressed. The expression of this high regard is not seen primarily in outlook, but in worship. This worship becomes the fundamental source of data about the specific meaning of structures and activities. The tradition of worship, closely linked to the culture, is the relatively constant factor, as opposed to the verbally expressed spiritual tradition (belief) which is highly dependent on an element of diffusion (centrally educated priests), and therefore most liable to alteration. These particularities are important, as they free our view from European prejudices.

In support of what has gone before, concrete research must interpret permanent places of worship cartographically within the framework of a ‘sacred topography’<21>, and the same goes for the ‘secular’ living space of a settlement, a district or a number of districts. The precise positions of houses, fields, roads and other topographical features are noted. These precise cartographical details are of great importance in scientific analysis. They make up the relatively constant framework of localised living space, into which variable data are introduced. This enables us, in the first instance, to make subjectively controlled and therefore objective scientific investigations.

The ‘sacred topography’ confirms the territorially representative character of the ujigami shrines. The organisation of villages into hamlets is apparent in the ujigami shrine structures (see below), as is the formation of a country town according to historical town boundaries and earlier village settlements (Omi-hachiman). Dominance is also confirmed. Alongside other, relatively independent systems of worship, such as that of the ‘field deity’ (ta no kami), based on the rice cycle in certain rice fields, with its own established cults varying according to the time of year, the ujigami shrines in the village tend to dominate: they are without doubt the largest and most important structures. Each residential unit generally conducts its annual celebrations in the form of an ujigami festival in front of the shrine. In addition, the ujigami shrines represent for the most part the village layer of ujiko, sustained and controlled by the old established families or their representatives. (cf. HARADA 1942).

Let us stay with village Shinto for the time being: an important general sacred (or ontological) dimension can be seen which is closely linked to the social and territorial structure of the settlement and its history.

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Illustrations and Figure Captions
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