Andrea Castiglioni

Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer
Ph.D. Columbia University
Japanese religions, religious anthropology, Shugendō
HSSB 2230


I research Japanese religious traditions from Japan’s early-modern period (1600–1868), with a focus on Shugendō (mountain asceticism) and on religious mountain sites and the devotional practices associated with them. I have conducted extensive fieldwork on Mt. Yudono in northern Japan (Yamagata Prefecture), and written on this mountain’s religious institutions, devotional practices and social organization. I focus in particular on the mummification of deceased ascetics, the funerary rituals for the resultant mummies, and the use of these mummies as icons that were regarded as living buddhas. In addition, my research is characterized by an emphasis on the material culture of Mt. Yudono (e.g., talismans, carved stelae, devotional paintings).

My second research project address the significance of religious practices performed by specific groups of itinerant holy-men (hijiri), including those in charge of cremation (sanmai hijiri), sculptors of religious statuary (sabutsu hijiri), holy-men devoted to chanting religious incantations (nenbutsu hijiri), and the so-called wood-eating holy-men (mokujiki hijiri). More recently, I have begun to research lay confraternities (kō), particularly those associated with mountain cults. By highlighting the activities of religious actors who operated at the extreme margins of the established Buddhist clerical hierarchy and yet exerted a pervasive influence on early-modern Buddhist thought and practice, this research reveals the way in which examining liminal figures allows us to develop a more accurate understanding of how early-modern Japanese religion actually functioned and was able to provide powerful hermeneutic discourses to various social strata.

Selected Articles:

  • Forthcoming (2018), “Religious and Economic Strategies of Recognition of the Authority of Yudono Ascetics in the Edo Period.” Asian Ethnology, vol. 77.

  • Forthcoming (2017), “Bungaku kara mita Yudono.” In Nihon bungaku tenbō wo hiraku, edited by Komine Kazuaki. Tōkyō: Tōshindō.

  • Forthcoming (2017), “Edo jidai no Yudonosan shinkō to issei gyōnin no sokushinbutsu.” Tōyōgaku kenkyū, vol. 54.

  • Forthcoming (2016), “Mount Yudono and its Ascetics During the Tokugawa Period.” Center for the Study of Japanese Religion Newsletter 28-29, University of London (SOAS).

  • 2007 “The Power of Ritual: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Medieval Religious Practices.” Center for the Study of Japanese Religion Newsletter 14-15, University of London (SOAS), 4-7.

  • 2006 “Issa delle rane [Issa of Frogs].” Prismi: quaderno di cultura 9, no. 1. Consorzio Artigiano (L.V.G.)): 185–206.

  • 2005 “L’asceta e la fiamma [The ascetic and the Flame].” Prismi: quaderno di cultura 8, no. 1. Consorzio Artigiano (L.V.G.)): 167–178.

Courses Taught:

  • Introduction to Japanese Religions – Fall 2016
  • Buddhist Visual Culture – Winter 2017
  • Shintō: Concepts and Practices in History – Spring 2017