Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


The Birth of Shizenso (Scattering of Ashes)
as Rejection of Japanese Modernity

KIM Satbyul

(The Graduate University of Advanced Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies, Department of Comparative Studies)

Key words:

Japan, modernity, death ritual, shizensō, scattering of ashes, grave-free-promotion society

This article investigates the meanings given to shizensō in a Japanese socio-cultural context. During the 1990s, new and alternative systems of death rituals appeared in Japan, mainly due to social changes such as urbanization, dissolution of family structures, etc. One of these new rituals is the scattering of cremation ashes, shizensō. I argue that the meanings given to shizensō and the practice thereof are connected with the rejection of modernity in Japan. Practitioners of shizensō who had experienced World War II and the student movement in the late 1960s and 1970s, described themselves as persons who had suffered oppression during these historical events. They expressed rejection of the traditional family structure which had been used as a model for the state and the ideology of militarism. Moreover, practitioners of shizensō who were brought up in the era of globalization, and could experience foreign culture directly, developed a feeling of opposition and strong criticism to group consciousness and the closeness of Japanese society. They considered these to be the side effects of Japanese modernity and expressed their rejection in choosing shizensō. I conclude that the adoption of shizensō is a way of breaking away from the constraints of Japanese society. This resulted in the birth of shizensō.