We have less than a week before President Obama and other world leaders come into town for the Ise-Shima Summit 伊勢志摩サミット, and the Chūnichi Newspaper 中日新聞 interviewed me about my thoughts on the holding the summit in this region.
The article first walks you through my visit to Jingū (Ise Shrine; 神宮) from the water purification basin (temizuya 手水舎) to praying at the shrine. Then, I talk about how I think Ise is an interesting place to hold the summit, because it is a city combining some of Japan’s most ancient traditions with modernity, and I think it can serve as inspiration for a lot of other places in the world that are working out how to hang onto what they value about the past, while also trying to embrace the new (in my opinion, people are sometimes too quick to reject traditions, as this New Yorker article recently advocated).
I also talked about how each generation in Japan for the last 1,300 years has been confronted with the choice of carrying on the tradition of rebuilding the religious site at Ise every 20 years, or abandoning it (a solution of sorts to the paradox of Theseus’s ship). The article isn’t quite correct when it suggests that each generation has chosen without fail to maintain the tradition. There have been times in the past, particularly during the Warring States Period (ca. 15th to 16th centuries) that I research, when the shrines were not rebuilt. What I think is notable, though, is that regular people (not only elites) have mobilized resources to restart the tradition, sometimes having to do so despite quite unstable economic and political conditions. There is a little bit about this in the book that I translated earlier this year, A Journey through Time at Jingu (see the section on the Buddhist nun Keikōin 慶光院).
For more about the Ise-Shima area, please check out a guide that Kōgakkan University 皇學館大学 made to facilitate tourism by bringing together a lot of English information about the region into one place.