Heritage out of Control : Buddhist Material Excess in Contemporary Japan
Summary, in English
This article investigates how things given to local temples generate material, karmic, and emotional excess in contemporary Japan. What, how, and why people “store” at local Buddhist temple tell a story of a community and how people’s individual material histories become matters of communal concern and local heritage-making practices. While walking a fine line between memory and decommissioning of care, the stories of burdensome inherited materiality map out the material and affective networks of community preservation in Japan’s depopulating regions. By stepping into the shoes of a local Buddhist priest at a True Pure Land Buddhist temple in Hiroshima Prefecture, I focus on the tensions between decommissioning of care and the moral and practical conundrum faced by rural Buddhist temples entrusted with the responsibility of meaningful disposal and safe keeping of inherited things. I thus argue that decommissioning of karmically volatile materiality helps us understand better the fragility of Buddhist care structures and how people strive to maintain and, in turn, make sense of the anticipated decline in their depopulating regional communities.