Bones of ContentionAnimals and Religion in Contemporary Japan

Bones of ContentionAnimals and Religion in Contemporary Japan

Barbara R. Ambros

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824836269

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract

Since the 1990s the Japanese pet industry has grown to a trillion-yen business and estimates place the number of pets above the number of children under the age of fifteen. There are between 6,000 to 8,000 businesses in the Japanese pet funeral industry, including more than 900 pet cemeteries. Of these about 120 are operated by Buddhist temples, and Buddhist mortuary rites for pets have become an institutionalized practice. This book investigates what religious and intellectual traditions constructed animals as subjects of religious rituals and how pets have been included or excluded in the necral landscapes of contemporary Japan. Pet mortuary rites are emblems of the ongoing changes in contemporary Japanese religions. The book sheds light on important questions such as: Who (or what) counts as a family member? What kinds of practices should the state recognize as religious and thus protect financially and legally? Is it frivolous or selfish to keep, pamper, or love an animal? Should humans and pets be buried together? How do people reconcile the deeply personal grief that follows the loss of a pet and how do they imagine the afterlife of pets? And ultimately, what is the status of animals in Japan?