Accepted Paper:

From Buddhism to spiritual care? Memorialization and the recreation of everyday life in post-3/11 Japan  


Tim Graf (Tohoku University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper provides perspectives on mourning, memorialization and recovery in post-3/11 Japan through the lens of Buddhist practices for recreation and new approaches to spiritual care.

Paper long abstract:

Based on fieldwork in Tohoku and other areas, this paper explores aspects of memorialization and recovery in post-3/11 Japan through the lens of ludic practices for this-worldly benefits and spiritual care. I will begin by outlining the historical and doctrinal dimensions of Buddhist practices in care for victims of catastrophic disasters and, more broadly, crises. I will then turn to a discussion of Buddhist relief efforts in the wake of the 11 March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. In doing so, I hope to show that the commemoration of ancestral spirits and Buddhist funerals, which have formed the backbone of most Buddhist temples in Japan over centuries, are complementary to less well-known Buddhist practices for this-worldly benefits (genze riyaku) and recreation. Ludic elements and material culture, as shall be shown, provide an important arena for conversations about loss and depression, or for rituals in commemoration of disaster victims, and are therefore important for us to understand the ways in which individuals grieve and cope with trauma.

Part two of my presentation will contextualize "traditional" Buddhist practices for memorialization and salvation with new concepts of spiritual care in post-3/11 Japan, using the example of Kokoro no Sodanshitsu ("spirit counseling center"). I argue that within this trans-religious network, unprecedented collaborations between religious specialist, medical doctors and scholars have shaped concepts of care that may challenge our understanding of Japanese Buddhism, representations of Buddhism in the post-3/11 media, and the role of religion in the healthcare sector.

Panel P118
Mourning, memorialization and recovery in post-disaster contexts