Global Asia Lecture Series 2022 - 2023

The Malleable Nature of Early Modern Japanese Rituals: the Case of the Shogunal Pilgrimage to Nikko (Nikkö shasan)

Photo credit: Nikko gosankei jitori zukan, 1843.
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Global Asia Lecture Series: The Malleable Nature of Early Modern Japanese Rituals

by Daniele Lauro, Teaching Asst Professor, Asian History, SHPRS, ASU

Date & Time: Friday, February 17, 2023, at 11:00 AM

Location: Durham 240 & Zoom


Lunch will be provided for those who attend in person. Please RSVP for in person attendance by January February 14, 2023.



This talk examines the political uses and significance of rituals of the Tokugawa shogunate,
the military regime that ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Far from being empty performances
detached from the real business of governing, rituals were malleable tools through which
Tokugawa rulers constructed, displayed, and legitimized their authority and the social order.
To illustrate this argument, my talk focuses on the Tokugawa shoguns' pilgrimages to Nikko, a
mountainous locale some ninety miles north of Edo, where the founder of the Tokugawa
regime was buried and worshiped in a majestic mausoleum. As a large-scale event that
required the collaboration of virtually all sectors of society, the Nikkö pilgrimage benefitted not
only its main performers, the Tokugawa shoguns, but also other individuals who were involved
in its implementation with secondary roles. By drawing on a diverse array of sources including
shogunal and temple records, travelogs, visual materials, and artifacts, this talk discusses the
malleable nature and diverse meanings of the Nikko pilgrimage and shows that rituals played
an essential role in Tokugawa politics and society.