Book Announcement: Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan

Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan

Kuroda Studies in East Asian Buddhism
University of Hawaii Press, 2017
Author: Bryan D. Lowe

Ritualized Writing takes readers into the fascinating world of Japanese Buddhist manuscript cultures. Using archival sources that have received scant attention in English, primarily documents from an eighth-century Japanese scriptorium and colophons from sutra manuscripts, Bryan D. Lowe uncovers the ways in which the transcription of Buddhist scripture was a highly ritualized endeavor. He takes a ground-level approach by emphasizing the activities and beliefs of a wide range of individuals, including scribes, provincial patrons, and royals, to reassess the meaning of scripture and reevaluate scholarly narratives of Japanese Buddhist history.

Copying scripture is a central Buddhist practice and one that thrived in East Asia. Despite this, there are no other books dedicated to the topic. This work demonstrates that patrons and scribes treated sutras differently from other modes of writing. Scribes purified their bodies prior to transcription. Patrons held dedicatory ceremonies on days of abstinence, when prayers were pronounced and sutras were recited. Transcribing sutras helped scribes and patrons alike realize this- and other-worldly ambitions and cultivate themselves in accord with Buddhist norms. Sutra copying thus functioned as a form of ritualized writing, a strategic practice that set apart scripture as uniquely efficacious and venerable.

Lowe employs this notion of ritualized writing to challenge historical narratives about ancient Japan (late seventh through early ninth centuries), a period when sutra copying flourished. He contends that Buddhist practice fulfilled a variety of social, political, and spiritual roles beyond ideological justification. Moreover, he demonstrates the inadequacy of state-folk dichotomies for understanding the social groups, institutions, and individual beliefs and practices of ancient Japanese Buddhism, highlighting instead common organizations across social class and using models that reveal shared concerns among believers from diverse social backgrounds.

Ritualized Writing makes broader contributions to the study of ritual and scripture by introducing the notion of scriptural cultures, an analytic tool that denotes a series of dynamic relationships and practices involving texts that have been strategically set apart or ritualized. Scripture, Lowe concludes, is at once a category created by humans and a body of texts that transforms individuals and social organizations who come into contact with it.

“Bryan Lowe offers a richly textured account of early Japanese Buddhist manuscript cultures and their associated ritual practices. Through careful analysis of scriptural colophons as well as materials from the Shōsōin archive, Lowe demonstrates the importance of ritualized writing for rulers, aristocrats, scribes, and ‘good friends’ of the Buddhist Dharma across the Japanese islands. In so doing, he provides a compelling new account of contemporaneous understandings of merit, kingship, deities, religious identity, and a host of other issues that resonated within Japanese religious culture for centuries.” (Michael Como, Columbia University)

“Bryan Lowe’s ground-breaking book is extraordinary for its insights into an era and topic that have long been ignored in the West: the Nara Period and the copying of scriptures. Lowe uses an interdisciplinary approach that includes political, economic, ritual, and ethical aspects in an exemplary fashion. His examination of the Indian, Central Asian, and Sinitic backgrounds of the subject extends his discussion to almost all of Buddhist Asia.” (Paul Groner, professor emeritus, University of Virginia)

Here is the link to the UH Press page:

Kindle editions at a significantly reduced price are also available via Amazon:

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Workshop: 2017 Early Modern Japan Summer Workshop: Reading Kuzushiji

The Center for East Asian Studies Committee on Japanese Studies at the University of Chicago is pleased to announce the 2017 Early Modern Japan Summer Workshop: Reading Kuzushiji. The workshop will meet from June 12th to June 17th.   This year’s workshop will feature two tracks. Professor Ken’ichiro Aratake of Tohoku University’s Northeast Asia Center will instruct the intermediate group in the reading of manuscript materials from the Tokugawa and early Meiji period, while Dr. Nobuko Toyosawa (former UofC postdoctoral fellow, now Fellow at the Czech Republic’s Oriental Institute) will lead a two-day introductory workshop focusing on print materials.  Participants in Dr. Toyosawa’s group will be prepared to join the intermediate group from day 3 of the workshop.  The workshop will conclude with a symposium on Saturday, June 17th that features presentations by participants on their research projects.

The workshop is open to faculty, graduate students, librarians, and curators.  Please note that the workshop will be conducted in Japanese and participants should have a working knowledge of classical grammar and some familiarity with hentaigana.  There is a $100 program fee that covers copy costs and lunch each day.

Modest funds are available to assist faculty and graduate students coming from institutions unable to offer support.

Applications can be submitted online at

Modest funds are available to assist faculty and graduate students coming from institutions unable to offer support.

Additional inquiries can be directed to the workshop organizer, Professor Susan Burns (  The application deadline is May 1, 2017.

Participants are responsible for making their own housing arrangements.  In the past, participants have used airbnb and to identify inexpensive lodging options.  In addition, housing is available in guest houses in Hyde Park with a listing available here.

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Award: Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize 2017

The Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University is pleased to announce the 2017 prize honoring the life and work of our colleague, Kyoko Selden. The prize will pay homage to the finest achievements in Japanese literature, thought, and society through the medium of translation. Kyoko Selden’s translations and writings ranged widely across such realms as Japanese women writers, Japanese art and aesthetics, the atomic bomb experience, Ainu and Okinawan life and culture, historical and contemporary literature, poetry and prose, and early education (the Suzuki method). Recognizing the breadth of Japanese writings, classical and contemporary, and with the aim of making such materials more widely available, we ask that prize submissions be of unpublished translations. Collaborative translations are welcomed. In order to encourage classroom use and wide dissemination of the winning entries, prize-winning translations will be made freely available on the web. The winning translations will be published online at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

Prize selections will take into account both the quality of the translation and the significance of the original work. In cases where a text already published in English is deemed worthy of retranslation, new translations of significant texts are accepted (please provide date and place of earlier publication). Applicants should submit the following to the Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize, Department of Asian Studies, 350 Rockefeller Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853:

  • Three copies of an unpublished translation
  • Three copies of a statement of up to 1,000 words explaining the significance of the text. Although we do not require that the translator has already obtained permission to publish the translation from the copyright holder (in the case of works not in the public domain), please include in the statement information about whether preliminary inquiries have been made.
  • One printed copy of the original Japanese text
  • A brief c.v. of the translator
  • Electronic copies of all the above sent as attachments to

The maximum length of a submission is 20,000 words. In case of translation of longer works, submit an excerpt of up to 20,000 words. Repeat submissions are welcomed. Please note that the closing date for the prize competition this year will be August 1, 2017. For the 2017 competition, one prize of $1,500 will be awarded in two different categories:

1) to an already published translator; 2) to an unpublished translator. The winners will be announced by November 1, 2017.

Contact Info:

Department of Asian Studies

Contact Email:

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Book Announcement: Happiness and the Good Life in Japan

Manzenreiter, W. and Holthus, B. eds. 2017.

Happiness and the Good Life in Japan. London/New York. Routledge.

About the book: 

Contemporary Japan is in a state of transition, caused by the forces of globalization that are derailing its ailing economy, stalemating the political establishment and generating alternative lifestyles and possibilities of the self. Amongst this nascent change, Japanese society is confronted with new challenges to answer the fundamental question of how to live a good life of meaning, purpose and value. This book, based on extensive fieldwork and original research, considers how specific groups of Japanese people view and strive for the pursuit of happiness. It examines the importance of relationships, family, identity, community and self-fulfilment, amongst other factors. The book demonstrates how the act of balancing social norms and agency is at the root of the growing diversity of experiencing happiness in Japan today.

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Fun Link Friday: 100 Years of Japanese Animation

This has been making it around the internet in the last couple weeks, so perhaps everyone has already come across it, but the Smithsonian and a number of other outlets have reported on the fantastic Japanese Animated Film Classics (日本アニメーション映画クラシック) site.

This project, which was recently launched in Japanese and English to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Japanese animated film (the first being created in 1917), brings together all kinds of animated works, from short art films to propaganda pieces.

The films can be explored through a variety of categories and genres or can be navigated by titles or author. The English version of the site is still in progress, but there are subtitles on many of the films and the content is amenable to using Google translate. Give it a spin and see what you find!

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Call for Papers: Hate Speech in Korea, Japan, and France: A Comparative Approach

International Workshop


Jan. 17(Wed) – 18(Thu), 2018
Ritsumeikan University, Japan

Asia Center,
Seoul National University, Korea
Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations,
Université Paris Diderot (Paris 7), France
Institute of International Language and Culture Studies,
Ritsumeikan University, Japan

In recent years, hatred or instigation of discrimination has increased against foreigners, immigrants or various religious, ethnic and sexual minorities in different developed societies. Hate speech has more and more become a fatal problem to the social, cultural and political life of contemporary democracies. How should democratic societies respond to such persistent problem as well as to the broader forms of “othering” that motivate hate speech? How can we prevent it? It seems to us that neither the cause of nor cure for this pernicious phenomenon is well appreciated in the context of today’s globalized world. Societies in Europe and East Asia present ample occasions for examining the various dimensions of hate speech phenomenon. Many of the cases show that hate speech involves a complex web of historical injustices, economic inequalities, religious tensions, socio-political ideologies and emerging democratic challenges, as well as divergent legal constructions.

This project seeks to illuminate the national, regional and global dynamics of hate speech from diverse viewpoints that include the political, legal, historical, ideological and religio-cultural perspectives. To this end, it focuses on the cases of hate speech in the three countries of Korea, Japan and France. We will examine the contours of hate speech in the Korean, Japanese and French contexts; explore the historical, ideological or religio-cultural background of hate speech production and dissemination in each society that is globalized; and evaluate the cases and provide policy proposals from a human rights perspective. This research project is intended not only to show similarities in this global phenomenon observed beyond the political and geographical boundaries, but also to distinguish differences in the historical, legal and cultural foundation of each nation-state that cause and maintain the expression and structure of the discrimination. The comparative nature of this collaborative research will help fill in blind spots and lead to better informed and more sophisticated and practical recommendations for the prevention of hate speech in many Eastern and Western societies.

We invite paper proposals from different approaches such as communication, media studies, history, sociology, anthropology, political science, legal studies, religious studies that examine, but not restricted to, the following questions:

  • What are the current contours of hate speech in Korea, Japan and France?
  • How can we best respond to the challenges presented by hate speech in ways that promote a just and peaceful society?
  • What are alternative strategies for managing the public sphere against hate speech?
  • How is hate speech defined and delimited in law and public policy in the three societies?
  • What are the differences and similarities in the phenomenon of hate speech between Europe and East Asia?
  • What are the legal and discursive characteristics of Korea, Japan and France in dealing with hate speech?
  • What are the most urgent issues regarding hate speech in Korea, Japan and France?
  • How is mass media, especially the Internet, employed in expressing hatred against different minorities?
  • In what forms do ethnic, sexual or religious differences play a role in provoking hate speech in the three societies?
  • Why do ethnicity, sexuality or religion act as flashpoints in hate speech?

We are pleased to provide presenters with partial subsidies for accommodation and travel expenses depending on funding availability and on participant’s needs. We intend to publish selected papers from the workshop as a journal special issue and/or an edited volume with a reputable academic press. We also plan to hold the second workshop at Université Paris Diderot (Paris 7) in the second half of 2018.


  1. Deadline:Please submit your proposal with a title, an abstract of not more than 500 words and a list of references, together with your name, position, institutional affiliation and email address by June 30, 2017.
  1. Submission method:Send in MS Word via email
  1. Final papers:Paper presenters are requested to submit full papers byDecember 31, 2017.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for any questions regarding this workshop.


Professor Jaejin LEE, Hanyang University, Kore
Professor Myungkoo KANG, Seoul National University, Korea
Professor Wooja KIM, Ritsumeikan University, Japan
Professor Rivé-Lasan MARIE-ORANGE, Université Paris Diderot, France
Dr. Kyuhoon CHO, Seoul National University, Korea

Contact Info:

If you have any questions, please contact at Sojeong Park(, a research associate of this workshop, or Dr. Kyuhoon Cho(, a convener of this workshop.

Contact Email:


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Job Opening: Researcher / Assistant Correspondent (full-time) Mainichi Shimbun

Position: Researcher / Assistant Correspondent (full-time or part time)

General Description:

The Mainichi Newspapers Los Angeles Bureau seeks a full time Researcher / Assistant Correspondent. The Mainichi Newspapers is a major daily Japanese newspaper printed in Japan with over 4 million readers.  Founded in 1872, It is the oldest national daily newspaper in Japan.


  • Coordinating with Japanese news correspondent in gathering news and developing articles.
  • General proofreading.
  • Researching and gathering news, conducting interviews, developing and maintaining news sources, covering press conferences and other events including taking photos.
  • Administrative duties are included.

Job Requirements:

  • Must have a keen interest in and understanding of U.S. current events.
  • Must be a native English speaker able to speak and write effectively in English.
  • Must have excellent interpersonal and communication skills, and good instincts.
  • Must be detail oriented and research savvy.
  • Must be highly motivated in journalism and bring up ideas for news reporting.
  • Ability to analyze news stories to see what is interesting and newsworthy.
  • Persistent in achieving goals and objectives under deadlines.
  • Must be available to work on weekend and/or irregular hours if needed.
  • Must have B.A. minimum. Research experience is crucial.

Preferred Skills:

  • Japanese-speaking applicants and/or those familiar with Japanese culture and media.
  • Knowledge of law/criminal justice.
  • Interest or experience in sports.
  • Rapid typing for taking notes and typing transcripts.
  • Ability to start in early July 2017.


$2,500/month (negotiable) after all applicable federal and state deductions and withholdings

Please email resume and a cover letter (as an attachment) to

  • Location: Brentwood in Los Angeles
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