Orion Klautau and Hans Martin Krämer, "Buddhism and Modernity: Sources from Nineteenth-Century Japan" (U Hawaii Press, 2021)

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Buddhism and Modernity: Sources from Nineteenth-Century Japan (University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2021) is a welcome new collection of twenty sources on modern Japanese Buddhism, translated and with introductions. The editors (Hans Martin Krämer and Orion Klautau) and translators have curated a diverse array of materials focusing on the struggles of Japanese Buddhism to come to terms with, accommodate to, and find its way in modernity from the mid-nineteenth century into the early decades of the twentieth. The book is helpfully divided into five thematic sections: Sectarian Reform, the Nation, Science and Philosophy, Social Reform, and Japan and Asia. Each contains works by important and influential Buddhist thinkers, such as Inoue Enryō, Shimaji Mokurai, and Shaku Sōen.

Overall, Buddhism and Modernity sketches out a picture of Japanese Buddhism negotiating a new sense of nation, “religion,” empire, Asia, and the “proper” shape of society in a period in which Japan’s Buddhist traditions were facing novel and complex internal and external challenges. This book will be of interest to scholars of religion and Japan, of course, but the translators’ introductions to each selection and the length of those selections make it suitable for classroom use as well. The selections we will be discussing today were (in order) translated by Hoshino Seiji, Kaneyama Mitsuhiro and Nathaniel Gallant, Ryan Ward, Iwata Mami and Stephan Kigensan Licha, and Michael Mohr.

Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese and East Asian history in the Graduate School of Humanities, Nagoya University.

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