Research Exchanges with South Korea’s National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage: A Comparative Study of Buddhist Rituals
A second round of research exchanges between the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Folkloric Studies Division of South Korea’s National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage began based on an agreement concluded last November. During the first year of exchanges, Takakuwa visited South Korea for 2 weeks from May 18th to study Buddhist rituals. Buddhism plays a great role in both Japan and South Korea, but there are a number of differences in rituals and observances since Buddhism has developed in forms particular to each country.
In South Korea, April 8th on the lunar calendar is Buddha’s birthday and a national holiday, and the Nento Festival or the Paper-lantern Festival is gaily celebrated 1 week prior to the Buddha’s birthday, even attracting tourists from abroad.
Buddhists in South Korea, 90 percent of whom follow the Jogye order of Zen, worship Buddha every morning, noon, and night. This practice is similarly followed by Japanese Buddhists, but South Korea Buddhists appear to be more enthusiastic, with believers participating in overnight retreats and praying with monks.
In addition, religious ceremonies are considered “religious acts” and are not designated as important intangible cultural properties in Japan. In South Korea, however, religious ceremonies are treated quite differently, as exemplified by the Yeongsan-jae ritual of the Taego order that has been inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage List of UNESCO. This comparative study of Buddhist rituals also revealed differences in Japanese and Korean perceptions beyond the Buddhist religion.