SOAS University of London

Centre of Buddhist Studies

Buddhism and Political Power in Mediaeval Japan: The Rituals of Consecration of the Emperor

Dr. Ikuyo Matsumoto (Yokohama City University)

Date: 20 February 2018Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 20 February 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: MB116

Type of Event: Lecture


In November of next year an enthronement ceremony (sokui girei) will be held for the new emperor of Japan. The ceremony is composed of a sokui shiki, a ceremony that publicly displays the enthronement of the emperor, and a daijôsai, a rite that positions the emperor as a figure of mythical origin. These rites are claimed to have continued from ancient times, but in fact they were different in pre-modern Japan, when they were conducted in Buddhist fashion: borrowing from tantric practice, the enthronement of an emperor implied his Buddhist consecration (abhiseka). The enthronement ritual in medieval Japan was not only to convey the new emperor's ascension, but also to give the emperor legitimacy though ritual. In this lecture, I will explore the Buddhist worldview underpinning the ceremony. I will clarify how the ceremony, used in conjunction with such religious worldview, sought to define time and space as the emperor's domain. I will further discuss how this understanding of the enthronement ceremony changes our image of the emperor in medieval Japan.


Ikuyo Matsumoto is Associate Professor of Japanese Cultural History and Medieval Japanese History at Yokohama City University. Her current research interests address the development of a culture of religious secrecy in medieval Japan as expressed through visual images and texts. 

Dr. Matsumoto has published widely on medieval Buddhist rituals, including: Chûsei ôken to sokui kanjô: Shogyô no naka no rekishi jujutsu (“Royal Authority in Medieval Japan and the Enthronement Initiation Ritual: Historical Evidence from Buddhist Scriptures”), Tokyo: Shinwasha, 2005; Ten'nô no sokui girei to shinbutsu (“The Emperor's Ascension Rituals and the Kami and Buddhas”),Tokyo: Yoshikawa kobunkan, 2017; Girei no chikara: Chûsei shûkyô no jissen sekai (“The Power of Ritual: The World of Religious Practice in Medieval Japan”),co-ed., Kyoto: Hozokan, 2010. Other publications include Fûzoku kaiga no bunkagaku ("Cultural Studies of Genre Paintings"), 3 vols, co-ed., Kyoto: Shibunkaku, 2009, 2012, 2014 and a database of classical maps from the archives of Yokohama City University, which includes some Bonreki (Buddhist calendar) Maps.


Organiser: SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies & Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions

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