An Introduction to Shinto and Gagaku: Japan’s Traditional Religion and Music

Jennings Hall
Room 001
1735 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210

September 24, 2018 5:15 PM - 7:00 PM
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meiji priests and gagaku

Many in contemporary Japan enjoy the occasions of Halloween and Christmas while the patterns of their daily life honor the traditions of Buddhism and Shintoism.  Indeed, Japan is best known to the rest of the world for its Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, especially in the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara, together with cultural legacies such as Zen practices, gardens and other forms of art.   Today’s presentation will focus on Shinto and gagaku music that goes with Shinto ceremonies.  


Shinto is Japan’s indigenous religion that long predates the arrival of Buddhism in the sixth century via China and Korea.  To this day, a vast majority of Japanese people visit Shinto shrines on seasonal and auspicious occasions throughout the year.  Unlike most organized religions, however, Shinto has no original founder, no formal doctrines, and no holy scriptures. One of the best ways to learn about Shinto is to attend a presentation, and to experience some aspects of it first-hand, by those who practice it. 


For today’s presentation, three priests from Meiji Jingu¸ one of the best known shrines to both Japanese and foreigners, will discuss the relationship among Shinto, nature, and the way of Japanese life.  The three priests will also perform gagaku, Japan’s traditional music, which can transport the audience in the echo of time and space from the ancient to the present.   Three wind instruments --sho (harmonica), hichiriki (piccolo), and fuye (flute) that form part of a larger gagaku orchestra – will be featured.  Following their short recital, the priests will provide a hands-on workshop allowing members of the audience to try these three instruments. 


This event is cosponsored by University Libraries and the OSU Institute for Japanese Studies 


Photo of Ann Marie Davis Ann Marie Davis
Japanese Studies Librarian