Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hiraizumi and Yanaginogosho

Why UNESCO dropped Yanaginogosho off Hiraizumi as the world heritage site?

According to the professor I discussed this matter with, he said the people in charge of selecting world heritages chose only the religion connected sites for Hiraizumi. The religion is Buddhism and Yanaginogosho was the palace for one of the Fujiwara families that ruled the north of Japan for one hundred years.

The problem is without Yanaginogosho, there was no Buddhist temples or gardens. Yanaginogosho was the center and the accumulation of the culture which was unique to that region. The professor seemed to regret that the Japan side committee brought up "Pure Land Buddhism" into this argument. I read the UNESCO site as follows and understood why he said that: 

I think the Japanese official out of desperation trying to include Yanaginogosho to the world heritage piped the uniqueness using the term “Pure Land Buddhism.” The term sounds magical but I’m not impressed. How Japanese live with religions is different from the western standards. And Buddhism is quite different religion from Christianity and other western religions.

I think if we can, it’s more important to raise awareness of the difference than just to have Yanaginogosho included to the world heritage site. I know that's really tough, but after all, if UNESCO is the world standards, it cannot remain the western centric forever. What do you think?


ZACL said...

I am not clear about the reasoning for the change of status; there seem to be fine subtleties which make for very difficult consideration of the subject claim. From what you say, greater clarity would be desirable. Perhaps another application/supplication can be made about this. I was not aware that the awards for World Heritage status were European-centric.

Sadly, some ancient world heritage sites in the Middle East have recently been destroyed by warring parties, who filmed themselves undertaking the destruction process. Ancient religious shrines and cultural artefacts have been obliterated.

Interesting post.

keiko amano said...


Thank you for adding your comment to this post. As you know, I've been writing to fill the gap between the European-centric thinking and ours, but it's been extremely difficult. Even the Japanologists with 20, 30 years of living in Japan seem not really understanding the way we think.

I've been reading the Japanese section of "Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples" by Hajime Nakamura. I recommend all Westerners to read it.

ifeel Edu said...

it was nice post, we cant do sessions on this topic

Linda said...

Beautiful photo; nice post.