Teaching Resources

Fieldwork in Tsugaru: Studying Popular Religion

Ellen Schattschneider (Anthropology, Brandeis University)

The Tsugaru region comprises the western half of Aomori Prefecture, the northernmost prefecture of Honshu, Japan's largest island.

I first visited the Tsugaru region of northern Tohoku in 1987, and quickly fell in love with the area. I lived in Hirosaki City, Tsugaru's intellectual and cultural capital, with my husband Mark during my doctoral fieldwork in 1991 and 1992, and have paid return research visits to Tsugaru in 1997, 1999 and 2002. My 1991-92 research concentrated on ritual, ascetic discipline, spirit mediumship and experiences of landscape at Akakura Mountain Shrine, a popular shrine founded by a rural woman in the 1920s. As part of my research I undertook repeated periods of ascetic discipline (shugyo) on the slopes of Mount Akakura, under the supervision of the shrine priest, with guidance from associated spirit mediums and shrine members. This research is the basis of my book, Immortal Wishes: Labor and Transcendence on a Japanese Sacred Mountain (Duke University Press, 2003). I will be conducting research during 2003-04 back in Tsugaru on bride dolls, war memory and memorialization.

My other field research interests in Tsugaru culture and popular religion include:

During my fieldwork in Tsugaru, I have been a research affiliate of Hirosaki University. I am deeply grateful for the extensive assistance and intellectual stimulation I have recieved from colleagues and students at "Hiro-Dai."




Website developed by Ellen Schattschneider (Brandeis University)