Mortuary Practices, Buddhism, and Family Relations in Japanese Society

Nam-lin Hur, University of British Columbia

Satsuki Kawano, Nature's Embrace: Japan's Aging Urbanites and New Death Rites. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2010. 232 pp. $47 (cloth), $27 (paper).

Mark Rowe, Bonds of the Dead: Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. 256 pp. $91 (cloth), $29 (paper).

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In Bonds of the Dead, Mark Rowe, who focuses on “the grave as the center of the ancestral orbit” in Japanese mortuary practices, observes that, due to the gradual loss of its gravitational pull, “the economic and social bedrock of temple Buddhism in Japan has eroded to the point where even its continued existence is publicly called into question” (222). Here, Rowe speaks to the decline of what is commonly known as the danka system. In contrast, in Nature’s Embrace, Satsuki Kawano finds that the dominance of Buddhist death-related rituals couched in the tradition of the danka system remains by and large intact...