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Religion, Commerce, And Commodity In Japan's Maternity Industry
Contemporary services for safe childbirth offered by Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines attract large numbers of pregnant women and their families. These institutions generate much income from their services and also work closely with various maternity-related enterprises, such as obstetricians, retail outlets, printing houses, and manufacturers of infant formula. They have also created narratives where issues related to women and reproduction take center stage in their material culture and menu of ritual services, even though Japanese society, in general, held the attitude throughout history that menstrual blood and lochia defiled the Buddhas and the kami and considered women by extension impure. This dissertation offers a challenging, interdisciplinary approach to understanding the various facets of Japan's maternity industry. Through participant-observation, field research, and investigation of documents and archives, I illustrate how rituals for safe childbirth have become integral services for select Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines and demonstrate how the concerns of commodification, secularization, and the reconstitution of customs and folkways are activated. Religious rituals of safe childbirth cannot be researched without consideration of the current social crisis of Japan's low birthrate. This study examines authoritative measures and government policy to manage the reproductive lives of the Japanese that have been in place since the Tokugawa period. Also, the history of gendered devotional practices in Japanese religions concerning life cycle issues must also be included in such a study. In particular, the issues that draw women to appeal to the religious world of miracle and succor and the culturally specific practices that have developed in Japan's folkways and religious organizations are examined. Interestingly, Both topics, although divergent in theme, methodology, and scope, reveal similar issues concerning ideologies of reproduction, gender, and sexuality. This study considers how these ideologies are implicated in contemporary rituals for safe childbirth.
dissertation or thesis