Escaping its past: recasting the Grand Shrine of Ise
Tze M. LOO
ABSTRACT This essay examines how the Grand Shrine of Ise has successfully distanced itself from its prewar and wartime associations with Japanese imperialism and nationalism to become an untroubling site of Japanese cultural identity. Building on Jonathan Reynolds’ essay which traces Ise’s transformation to become a sign of Japanese aesthetics, this essay extends the examination of Ise’s rehabilitation to two other trajectories. First, it examines SCAP’s attempts to dismantle State Shintō and suggests that while Occupation authorities were successful in separating Shintō from the state, they left Ise Shrine uninterrogated which allowed it to escape censure and continue into the postwar relatively intact. The second trajectory is Japan’s involvement in the preservation of World Heritage, which I suggest provides a new, international stage that furthers Ise Shrine’s rehabilitation in entirely new ways.
KEYWORDS: Grand Shrine of Ise, cultural heritage, cultural identity, Shintō
Tze M. Loo is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Richmond.