Reviewed by Alexander Vesey (Meiji Gakuin University)
Published on H-Shukyo (July, 2016)
Commissioned by Orion Klautau
Refining our Understanding of the Tokugawa-era Buddhist Clergy
Hōzawa Naohide, professor at Nihon University’s College of Law, has written numerous articles on the Buddhist clergy’s place within the early modern Japanese social and legal systems. The book under review, Kinsei Bukkyō no seido to jōhō, is not a monograph per se, but rather a compilation of somewhat re-edited studies that he previously published in scholarly journals and anthologies between 2004 and 2013. Added to the mix is new research on the creation and flow of information as well as an introduction and conclusion. Over the course of two distinct sections, Hōzawa delves into specific aspects of early modern Buddhist temple practices. Those who are familiar with Hōzawa’s work will note that in both form and function, this new compilation shares a number of attributes with his first single-author anthology, Bakuhan kenryoku to jidan seido (2004). Indeed, we can think of them as two successive volumes of the same project.
In part 1 of Kinsei Bukkyō no seido to jōhō Hōzawa focuses on Buddhist institutions, starting with a chapter-length discussion of the communal links and practices that influenced the lives of Shingi Shingon clerics in Awa Province (modern Chiba Prefecture). In chapters 2 and 4, he studies methods employed by Buddhist authorities to handle managerial problems arising from vacant (mujū) temples. Along with all of chapter 3, a segment of chapter 4 also assesses the stature and identity of temples that existed outside officially recognized clerical hierarchies (muhonji). Finally, in chapter 5 Hōzawa studies Kansai-area teramoto practices, in which prominent lay families used their rights over the induction of novices and the appointment of abbots to dominate family-sponsored temples.
The second part shifts focus to the danka parishioner system. The key topic herein concerns the evolution of the “one household–one temple” (ikka ichiji) structure, in which every member of a household was expected to register with just one Buddhist temple. Many residents of late Edo society and subsequent generations of scholars have generally assumed that the Tokugawa bakufu and daimyo formally mandated this system. Hōzawa, however, notes that the bakufu never explicitly issued such a code. The question thus becomes one of origins, and Hōzawa argues in chapter 1 that actors such as local samurai officials faced with bothersome civil suits over registration practices, clerics with a vested interest in maintaining control over lay families, and commoner officials all exerted influence over the creation of the one household–one temple registration system. Chapter 2 looks at this issue from the perspective of lay people who tried to cut their danka ties (ridan), while chapters 3 and 4 study legal suits over danka practices that arose in areas where one household might have multiple temple registrars. In the last three chapters (6, 7, and 8) Hōzawa takes a very different angle on this general theme by examining the adoption of two apocryphal regulations into the larger corpus of Tokugawa-era legal knowledge. Central to this discussion is the “Shūmon danna ukeai no okite,” a list of regulations and obligations that clearly defined the clergy’s authority over danka families. Most examples of this text are dated 1613, but scholars have long known that it was created decades later. Based upon his study of a hundred versions now found in archives across Japan, Hōzawa believes it began to spread among Buddhist clerics and regional samurai administrators around the mid-eighteenth century. He further argues that variations in content among the examples and its uneven distribution patterns indicate that there was no effort among Buddhist authorities to coordinate its dissemination. Instead, individual abbots and village leaders took it upon themselves to transcribe copies they might receive into their ledgers of laws and ordinances, and thus the text gradually blended into village-level bodies of legal knowledge and practice. Around the same period, local clerical authorities began to cite clauses from the text in their responses to domain-level queries on religious matters, thereby further infusing it into the legal system of the day. Judging from such data, this important document thus emerged from regional temple practices, and then gradually gained domain acceptance. As for the bakufu, it initially refuted the text’s existence in the mid-eighteenth century, but there is no evidence of continued rejection in later periods. This implicit acceptance is illustrated by the diffusion of the codes within the Tatsuno domain that was governed by the prominent late-eighteenth-century Tokugawa temple and shrine magistrate, Wakizaka Yasutada.
Both clerical institutions and danka systems have long been a staple of early modern Buddhist scholarship, and many of Hōzawa’s chapters reexamine previous assessments of these structures rather than raise entirely new themes. As a result, only specialists who are familiar with previous Japanese scholarship on early modern Buddhism will be able to easily access many of the points in Kinsei Bukkyō no seido to jōhō. Secondly, Hōzawa centers each section on his analysis of primary sources; hence he presents a series of informative vignettes on specific issues. However, since the contents began as independent articles, the book does not quite have the consistent discursive flow between chapters that one would expect with a monograph.
All that said, Hōzawa’s new book does not lack a theoretical framework, or a cohesive scholarly agenda. In the introduction to his 2004 Bakuhan kenryoku to jidan seido, he stressed the importance of developing new interpretations that would provide alternatives to the subordination/formalization/moral degradation model espoused by Tsuji Zennosuke and others of his generation. Among the thematic approaches mentioned therein, Hōzawa pointed out the need for better insights on actual temple practices and the value of regional primary sources to such research. In this respect, he has been influenced by scholars such as Takeda Chōshū, who wrote several prominent histories of early modern rural temples. Hōzawa also stressed the importance of work by social historians such as Tsukada Takashi, Watanabe Takashi, and Fukaya Katsumi, who see early modern villages and town wards as multilayered social entities in which status (mibun) and occupational identities inflected social relationships and legal negotiations between residents of the same community. Along the same lines, Yoshida Nobuyuki’s “spatial structural analysis” (kūkan kōzō bunseki) of Asakusa’s Sensōji revealed the value of temples to our understanding of Edo period urban society. Since the danka system and Buddhist clerical organizations did strongly influence the role of Buddhist clerics in early modern villages, Hōzawa chose to reevaluate both topics from the persectives advocated by these studies.
Kinsei Bukkyō no seido to jōhō continues this project by questioning a continuing assumption in scholarship that the head-branch and danka systems were generally fixed by the end of the seventeenth century. Furthermore, some descriptions have assumed these structures reflected the implementation of consistently developed bakufu and domain policies. In contradistinction to this top-down model, Hōzawa argues that the production of religious regulatory structures emerged from the interplay of actual temple/clerical/danka practices and the sociopolitical goals of the governing samurai. His discussion of the Kaga domain’s one household–one temple registration system in chapter 5 of part 2 is a case in point. In 1968 and 1987, Ōkuwa Hitoshi argued that Maeda house officials gradually instituted this registration scheme to bolster the family structure of their domain’s peasants, and thereby improve agricultural production. While Hōzawa acknowledges the prevalence of this registration scheme, he believes that the Kaga records indicate that the domain’s leadership did not initially have this policy in mind; in fact they did not really care if different temples registered members of the same house. However, multiple registrations often created legal suits between temples that fought to maintain their danka bases, or between temples and lay families. Therefore, the domain gradually imposed the one household–one temple rule to reduce the caseload of its adjudicating administrators. In other words, according to Hōzawa, the system was a reaction to conditions created by other social groups rather than proactive samurai intervention in the domain’s social structure.
New to the 2015 book, Hōzawa also assesses the role of information creation and exchange in the evolution of early modern temple-village practices. Here, too, we see how commonly held Edo-era assumptions about the nature of temple-danka relationships could be fostered by local practices that gradually spread through lateral transfers of knowledge and documents between clerics and villagers. Although the bakufu and domain lords did promulgate codes to govern religious affairs, samurai administrators, including those in domains far from Edo, often relied upon written and verbal advise from clerics and other lay community leaders when formulating policies. As he shows in chapters 6 through 8 of part 2, such circumstances created conditions in which clerics could produce and share among themselves apocryphal texts that eventually became a part of temple practices in rural communities.
Through these discussions of information flow presented in Kinsei Bukkyō no seido to jōhō, Hōzawa sheds light on the influence of non-samurai agency in temple-danka affairs, and the degree of regional differences among temple practices. The importance of such localization is evident in his analysis of the multiple social functions of local Shingi Shingon head-branch associations (part 1, chapter 1). His examinations of variations in temple registration methods (part 2, chapters 2, 3, and 4), and the discussion of unaffiliated temples in the Kansai area also highlight this point (part 1, chapters 3 and 4). Within these studies, lay agency emerges as well, especially in the case of temples controlled by lay families with teramoto rights (many of which existed in Yamato province; part 1, chapter 5).
To sum up, like its 2004 predecessor, Kinsei Bukkyō no seido to jōhō offers a series of studies on very specific issues, and thus readers need at least a general knowledge of Edo-period religious systems to make sense of the data and themes. Although I would hesitate to suggest this volume to those without this background, Hōzawa does raise subtle yet provocative reinterpretations of Buddhism’s place in Tokugawa Japan, from which scholars in the field will gain useful insights. One hopes that Hōzawa will eventually synthesize the results of his research into a monograph that defines his broader vision of early modern Buddhism.
. Hōzawa Naohide, Bakuhan kenryoku to jidan seido (Tokyo: Yoshikawa kōbunkan, 2004).
. My assessment at this point somewhat reflects Ōkuwa Hitoshi's 2005 criticism of Bakuhan kenryoku to jidan seido as a work that provided new details but did not significantly expand the field of early modern Buddhist studies. See “Shohyō: Hōzawa Naohide-cho Bakuhan kenryoku to jidan seido,” Rekishi hyōron, no. 666 (2005): 101-105. Ōkuwa is a professor emeritus of Otani University who has authored numerous books and articles on Japanese Buddhist history.
. Hōzawa, Bakuhan kenryoku, 1-22.
. Yoshida Nobuyuki, “Jisha wo sasaeru hitobito: Sensōji chiiki to jichū shiin,” in Jisha wo sasaeru hitobito, ed. Yoshida Nobuyuki (Tokyo: Yoshikawa kōbunkan, 2007).
. Ōkuwa Hitoshi, “Jidan seido no seiritsu katei-jō,” Nihon rekishi, no. 242 (1968): 23-36, “Jidan seido no seiritsu katei-ka,” Nihon rekishi, no. 243 (1968): 22-33, and “Handanka no rekishiteki tenkai,” Kinsei bukkyō: Shiryō to kenkyū 6, nos. 3-4 (1986).
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-shukyo.
Alexander Vesey. Review of Naohide, Hōzawa, Kinsei bukkyō no seido to jōhō.
H-Shukyo, H-Net Reviews.
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