Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies: E-journal, Vol 2.2, Carter

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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 2.2 (2019): 1–30;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and Business: South and East Asian Perspectives)

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Adding Value (with Limits): Pilgrimage and Women’s Exclusion in Japan’s Sacred Mountains

Kyushu University, Faculty of Humanities

Keywords: Buddhist mountain pilgrimage, temple economics, women’s exclusion, nyonin kekkai, nyonin kinsei, Mount Togakushi, Mount Fuji

Abstract: This article examines competing interests over pilgrimage and women’s exclusion at numinous mountains in early modern Japan. Developing new forms of ritual and practice, Buddhist clerics encouraged pilgrimage to mountain temples as a source of revenue. Many of these temples, however, simultaneously increased the exclusion of women from certain areas of their premises. What explains this seeming contradiction? Through the case of Mount Togakushi (Nagano prefecture), this article explores the historical coincidence of pilgrimage growth with discriminatory policies targeting women in early modern Japan. It builds from research in the fields of pilgrimage and women’s studies, offering insight into how pilgrimage and women’s exclusion often intersected among competing interests within regional mountain communities.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.