The shaman hunts and the postwar revival and reinvention of Okinawan shamanism

Allen, Matthew (2016) The shaman hunts and the postwar revival and reinvention of Okinawan shamanism. Japan Forum, 29 (2). pp. 218-235.

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Abstract

In the 1930s and 1940s shaman hunts (yutagari) were conducted by the Japanese Special Higher Police in Okinawa, Japan's most southern and remote prefecture. This was not the first time that attempts had been made to remove these women from Okinawan society. The fact that the yuta were hunted down and incarcerated, driven underground, and in some cases executed says much about how influential and threatening Japanese authorities perceived them to be. At the end of the Battle of Okinawa, more than one quarter of all Okinawan civilians were dead, and in many cases their remains were unrecoverable due to the extent of the destruction. The absence of appropriate mortuary rituals and religious specialists to perform these rituals, many of whom had been removed by authorities, led to severe spiritual dislocation for many Okinawans. In the chaotic postwar environment a path was opened for the revival of the previously hunted shamans to treat those who had suffered physical, family and spiritual loss, through providing help for these clients in dealing with settling the unsatisfied dead. It also led to the emergence of the 'new' yuta, those shamans who followed different routes to becoming religious advisors. This paper first outlines some of the circumstances that led to the shaman hunts, and then assesses the role of the Battle of Okinawa and its aftermath in rehabilitating shamanism in postwar society.

Item ID: 44708
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1469-932X
Keywords: Okinawa, shamans, Battle of Okinawa, yuta, religion, US bases in Okinawa, postwar Japan, mortuary rituals
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2016 23:51
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210302 Asian History @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2102 Curatorial and Related Studies > 210202 Heritage and Cultural Conservation @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950303 Conserving Collections and Movable Cultural Heritage @ 10%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950502 Understanding Asias Past @ 60%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950306 Conserving Pacific Peoples Heritage @ 30%
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