Nissan Seminar: Raihōshin: Gods, Demons, and Cultural Heritage

Convener(s): Dr Natalia Doan and Professor Sho Konishi

Speaker(s): Professor Michael Dylan Foster, Professor and Department Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Davis

These seminars will occur live and will not be recorded. Unauthorized recording is strictly prohibited.

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Raihōshin: Gods, Demons, and Cultural Heritage

In 2018, “Raiho-shin, ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes” was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The raihōshin designation includes ten “visiting-deity” traditions from eight Japanese prefectures. Based on long-term fieldwork, this talk will introduce two of these rituals, Koshikijima no Toshidon and Oga no Namahage, both of which feature fearsome demon-deities who burst into houses to frighten and discipline children. Critical questions are raised by the elevation of these intensely local practices to an international stage. What are the academic, bureaucratic, and political processes through which distinct local traditions are grouped under the single metacultural label of raihōshin? How does national and international recognition affect small communities in terms of tourism, understandings of “heritage,” and the meanings of tradition?

Michael Dylan Foster is Professor of Japanese at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of The Book of Yōkai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore and Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yōkai. His current project explores tourism and heritage; he recently co-edited Matsuri and Religion: Complexity, Continuity, and Creativity in Japanese Festivals.