The first comprehensive English translation of a foundational work on Japanese asceticism and folk religion


This volume of essays is the first comprehensive publication in English of the work of Miyake Hitoshi, a distinguished scholar of Shugendō (mountain asceticism) and one of the foremost researchers on Japanese folk religion. Miyake defines folk religion as “religion that merges from the necessities of community life.” In Miyake’s systematic methodological and theoretical approach, Shugendō is a classic example of Japanese folk religion, for it blends many traditions (shamanism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Shinto) into a distinctive Japanese religious worldview and is typical of Japanese religion generally.The first part of this book is devoted to Shugendō’s history, organization, ritual, austerities, thought, and cosmology. Related subjects include exorcism and the exclusion of women. The second part of the book provides research and reflection on Japanese folk religion, including essays on the idea of nature, worldly benefits, new religions, death and rebirth, and the structure of folk religion. Shugendō: Essays on the Structure of Japanese Folk Religion clarifies much of the logic behind Japanese religious syncretism. It is essential reading not only for those interested in Japanese history, culture, and religion but also for those studying world religions and folk culture.

Miyake Hitoshi, formerly of Keio University, teaches at Kokugakuin University. He is the author Shugendō soshiki no kenkyu (A study of the organization of Shugendo, 1999). H. Byron Earhart has collaborated with Professor Miyake ov

“A rich source for the study of folk religion in Japan, and Shugendo in particular . . . This collection is most welcome.”
—Paul L. Swanson, in Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

“This elite religion, and Miyake’s exposition of it, is rich and learned.”
—George J. Tanabe, Jr., in the Journal of Asian Studies