Theses Doctoral

Work and Worship: Inari Shrines in Japan’s Commercial and Industrial Landscape, 1673-1864

Tsuneishi, Norihiko

With the figure of fox as the emblematic emissary, Inari—arguably the most popular Shinto deity in Japan—is often deemed polytheistic due to its diverse blessings, whether agricultural, commercial, or industrial, or all of these at once. In the common historical account, Inari worship began as an agricultural ritual and, affected by the soaring monetary economy from the seventeenth century onward, it attained other predicates. Through two main studies on Inari shrines, this dissertation refutes that limited narrative and demonstrates that the agricultural attribute was in turn accentuated with the monetary economy. One study revolves around the Mimeguri Shrine, enshrined in Tokyo at the turn of the eighteenth century by the magnate Mitsui family for their commerce. The other study deciphers the concatenation of the Coal Mountain Tutelary Shrine and Tōka Shrine, originally established in the late eighteenth century by the local feudal administration, Miike-han, for their coal production in the current Fukuoka prefecture. With these shrines, the respective commercial and coal enterprises were rendered agricultural as though contained within the dominant Tokugawa order, which idealized the rice-based economy. Nurturing in effect the profit of the Mitsui family and the extra revenue of Mike-han—constituting a surplus, as this dissertation argues—the Inari worships of the merchant and the regional administration produced labor times. The presence of those shrines in this study serves as the metonymy of a contradictory process whereby even a deity was “alienated” under the command of money as if were fooled by its own emissary, the fox.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Tsuneishi_columbia_0054D_15644.pdf Tsuneishi_columbia_0054D_15644.pdf application/pdf 2.96 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Scott, Felicity Dale
Harootunian, Harry
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 16, 2020