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1 Beaverton World History- Japan
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Modern Passings: Death Rites, Politics, and Social Change in Imperial Japan (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia Un)

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Modern Passings: Death Rites, Politics, and Social Change in Imperial Japan (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia Un) Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

What to do with the dead?

In Imperial Japan, as elsewhere in the modernizing world, answering this perennial question meant relying on age-old solutions. Funerals, burials, and other mortuary rites had developed over the centuries with the aim of building continuity in the face of loss. As Japanese coped with the economic, political, and social changes that radically remade their lives in the decades after the Meiji Restoration (1868), they clung to local customs and Buddhist rituals such as sutra readings and incense offerings that for generations had given meaning to death. Yet death, as this highly original study shows, was not impervious to nationalism, capitalism, and the other isms that constituted and still constitute modernity. As Japan changed, so did its handling of the inevitable.

Following an overview of the early development of funerary rituals in Japan, Andrew Bernstein demonstrates how diverse premodern practices from different regions and social strata were homogenized with those generated by middle-class city dwellers to create the form of funerary practice dominant today. He describes the controversy over cremation, explaining how and why it became the accepted manner of disposing of the dead. He also explores the conflict-filled process of remaking burial practices, which gave rise, in part, to the suburban "soul parks" now prevalent throughout Japan; the (largely failed) attempt by nativists to replace Buddhist death rites with Shinto ones; and the rise and fall of the funeral procession. In the process, Bernstein shows how today's "traditional" funeral is in fact an early twentieth-century invention and traces the social and political factors that led to this development. These include a government wanting to separate itself from religion even while propagating State Shinto, the appearance of a new middle class, and new forms of transportation.

As these and other developments created new contexts for old rituals, Japanese faced the problem of how to fit them all together. What to do with the dead? is thus a question tied to a still broader one that haunts all societies experiencing rapid change: What to do with the past? Modern Passings is an impressive and far-reaching exploration of Japan's efforts to solve this puzzle, one that is at the heart of the modern experience.

Review:

"Bernstein has marshaled an impressive array of facts and ordered them to present a history of Japanese attitudes toward dissolution and its celebration." Donald Ritchie, Japan Times

Review:

"Bernstein explores the invention of a 'traditional' Japanese way of death in modern times in this fascinating and challenging work. He elucidates the complex dynamics of the process with careful, balanced attention to the interactions among the state, organized religions, the funeral industry, and individual families. The writing is crisp, in places lyrical. The book is a pleasure to read and offers much to ponder." Andrew Gordon, Harvard University

Review:

"Bernstein presents an incisive and fascinating look at a process that — like it or not —l touches us all." David L. Howell, Princeton University

Review:

"[B]oth comprehensive and highly original, based on wide reading in the secondary and primary sources. The writing is excellent — witty and free of jargon. Highly recommended." Anne Walthall, University of California, Irvine

Book News Annotation:

After a review of earlier funerary rituals in Japan, Bernstein (history, Lewis and Clark College, Oregon) shows how diverse premodern practices from different regions and social strata were homogenized with those generated by middle-class city dwellers to create the form of funerary practice dominant today. Among the controversies he describes are cremation, suburban soul parks, nativist Shinto rites, and the funeral procession. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Book News Annotation:

After a review of earlier funerary rituals in Japan, Bernstein (history, Lewis and Clark College, Oregon) shows how diverse premodern practices from different regions and social strata were homogenized with those generated by middle-class city dwellers to create the form of funerary practice dominant today. Topics include cremation, suburban soul parks, nativist Shinto rites, and the funeral procession. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

What to do with the dead?

In Imperial Japan, as elsewhere in the modernizing world, answering this perennial question meant relying on age-old solutions. Funerals, burials, and other mortuary rites had developed over the centuries with the aim of building continuity in the face of loss. As Japanese coped with the economic, political, and social changes that radically remade their lives in the decades after the Meiji Restoration (1868), they clung to local customs and Buddhist rituals such as sutra readings and incense offerings that for generations had given meaning to death. Yet death, as this highly original study shows, was not impervious to nationalism, capitalism, and the other isms that constituted and still constitute modernity. As Japan changed, so did its handling of the inevitable.

Following an overview of the early development of funerary rituals in Japan, Andrew Bernstein demonstrates how diverse premodern practices from different regions and social strata were homogenized with those generated by middle-class city dwellers to create the form of funerary practice dominant today. He describes the controversy over cremation, explaining how and why it became the accepted manner of disposing of the dead. He also explores the conflict-filled process of remaking burial practices, which gave rise, in part, to the suburban "soul parks" now prevalent throughout Japan; the (largely failed) attempt by nativists to replace Buddhist death rites with Shinto ones; and the rise and fall of the funeral procession. In the process, Bernstein shows how today's "traditional" funeral is in fact an early twentieth-century invention and traces the social and political factors that led to this development. These include a government wanting to separate itself from religion even while propagating State Shinto, the appearance of a new middle class, and new forms of transportation.

As these and other developments created new contexts for old rituals, Japanese faced the problem of how to fit them all together. What to do with the dead? is thus a question tied to a still broader one that haunts all societies experiencing rapid change: What to do with the past? Modern Passings is an impressive and far-reaching exploration of Japan's efforts to solve this puzzle, one that is at the heart of the modern experience.

About the Author

Andrew Bernstein is assistant professor of history at Lewis and Clark College.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780824828745
Author:
Bernstein, Andrew
Publisher:
University of Hawaii Press
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Death
Subject:
Death, Grief, Bereavement
Subject:
Japan
Subject:
Death / Grief / Consolation
Subject:
Japan Social life and customs 1912-1945.
Subject:
Japan Social life and customs 1868-1912.
Subject:
Self-Help; Grief
Copyright:
Series:
Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia Un
Publication Date:
20060231
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
242
Dimensions:
9.00x6.38x.89 in. 1.17 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Self-Help » Grief
History and Social Science » Asia » Japan » Ancient and Tokugawa to 1868
History and Social Science » World History » General
History and Social Science » World History » Japan

Modern Passings: Death Rites, Politics, and Social Change in Imperial Japan (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia Un) Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$11.95 In Stock
Product details 242 pages University of Hawaii Press - English 9780824828745 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Bernstein has marshaled an impressive array of facts and ordered them to present a history of Japanese attitudes toward dissolution and its celebration."
"Review" by , "Bernstein explores the invention of a 'traditional' Japanese way of death in modern times in this fascinating and challenging work. He elucidates the complex dynamics of the process with careful, balanced attention to the interactions among the state, organized religions, the funeral industry, and individual families. The writing is crisp, in places lyrical. The book is a pleasure to read and offers much to ponder."
"Review" by , "Bernstein presents an incisive and fascinating look at a process that — like it or not —l touches us all."
"Review" by , "[B]oth comprehensive and highly original, based on wide reading in the secondary and primary sources. The writing is excellent — witty and free of jargon. Highly recommended."
"Synopsis" by , What to do with the dead?

In Imperial Japan, as elsewhere in the modernizing world, answering this perennial question meant relying on age-old solutions. Funerals, burials, and other mortuary rites had developed over the centuries with the aim of building continuity in the face of loss. As Japanese coped with the economic, political, and social changes that radically remade their lives in the decades after the Meiji Restoration (1868), they clung to local customs and Buddhist rituals such as sutra readings and incense offerings that for generations had given meaning to death. Yet death, as this highly original study shows, was not impervious to nationalism, capitalism, and the other isms that constituted and still constitute modernity. As Japan changed, so did its handling of the inevitable.

Following an overview of the early development of funerary rituals in Japan, Andrew Bernstein demonstrates how diverse premodern practices from different regions and social strata were homogenized with those generated by middle-class city dwellers to create the form of funerary practice dominant today. He describes the controversy over cremation, explaining how and why it became the accepted manner of disposing of the dead. He also explores the conflict-filled process of remaking burial practices, which gave rise, in part, to the suburban "soul parks" now prevalent throughout Japan; the (largely failed) attempt by nativists to replace Buddhist death rites with Shinto ones; and the rise and fall of the funeral procession. In the process, Bernstein shows how today's "traditional" funeral is in fact an early twentieth-century invention and traces the social and political factors that led to this development. These include a government wanting to separate itself from religion even while propagating State Shinto, the appearance of a new middle class, and new forms of transportation.

As these and other developments created new contexts for old rituals, Japanese faced the problem of how to fit them all together. What to do with the dead? is thus a question tied to a still broader one that haunts all societies experiencing rapid change: What to do with the past? Modern Passings is an impressive and far-reaching exploration of Japan's efforts to solve this puzzle, one that is at the heart of the modern experience.

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