From a ‘good death’ to a ‘calm heart’: Buddhist retailing and self-care in contemporary Japan
Hannah Gould (PhD Candidate, School of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Melbourne)
This paper investigates how retailers and artisans of Buddhist goods (butsugu), which are traditionally associated with death and funerary rites, are venturing into the alternative spirituality, wellness, and home décor markets in contemporary Japan. In this analysis, I apply John Nelson’s framework of “experimental Buddhism” (2013), focusing on commercial Buddhist actors outside the temple nexus. I introduce the theoretical tools of affect and affective economies to understand the trend toward manufacturing products that generate healing (iyashi) and a calm heart (kokoro). Noted Buddhist retailers now seek to re-orientate their services from caring at acute moments of grief to caring for everyday conditions of loneliness and stress, thereby defending their market share and social relevance in the context of heightened precarity (Allison 2013). However, such efforts are still nascent, and religious industries face significant challenges navigating the subtle contradictions of their role in a rapidly secularizing spiritual market.
Japan, Buddhist economics, spirituality, affective labour, power-stones