Sacred Gender Exclusion: A Study of Cultural Heritage and Religious Tradition in Modern Japan

01 October 2018 → 30 September 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Study of Buddhism
Cultural Heritage Gender Area studies Religion History
Project description

This project concerns the practice of excluding women or men from religious sites and religious
practices in Japan, and the complex interconnections among religion, traditions, and cultural
heritage in the modern period (1868 to the present). Three Japanese sites recognized as UNESCO
World Cultural Heritage (WCH) have historically banned-or currently ban-women's access as a
condition of "religious tradition." A fourth Japanese WCH site formerly banned men's access on
similar grounds. Differentiation based on gender is or was regarded as a key element of religious
tradition at these four sites, and many discussions boldly present gender exclusion as a special
determinant of the religiosity of the place. WCH documentation written by the Japanese
government greatly diminishes or deletes altogether the fact of gender exclusion. Breaking with
previous scholarship that presents women's exclusion as an ancient and unchanged fact of Japan's
religious and cultural landscape, this project of historical and ethnographic research will examine
the conflicting assessments and interpretations of religious gender exclusion at various levels of
authority and at selected times throughout history. In addition to fostering a more nuanced
understanding of Japanese religions, the project will create new data and provide fresh
perspectives for understanding the formation of social structures (religion, gender, heritage,
tradition, etc.) in Japan and in other countries-indeed, in all societies.