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Zimmermann, Ineke (2017): Online-Angebote und -Ratgeber zu mizuko kuyō zwischen Marketing und Lebenshilfe. Master Thesis, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
(Munich University Japan Center Graduation Theses) [PDF, 1MB]

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The religious spectrum of contemporary Japan offers a variety of ritual services. Among those there is hardly any ritual but mizuko kuyō 水子供養 which has received that much attention on a public as well as an academic level. This ritual, which is mostly carried out as some kind of memorial service by people mourning over the loss of an aborted child, has been approached by researchers from religious, historical, sociological or psychological viewpoints. The considerations about the implications of mizuko kuyō have culminated in an ethical debate, questioning specific offering institutions and their advertising strategies and economic interests. More recent research has considered mizuko kuyō to be a complex phenomenon and has also dealt with it in a less emotionally charged manner from a business perspective, especially with the utilisation of the internet as an advertising platform. Yet still there seems to be little consensus about the contemporary significance of this ritual.

This paper aims at providing insight into current self-representations of offering institutions. How is mizuko kuyō displayed, what strategies of communication with potential pracitioners are visible and how can a general understanding of the ritual and its implications be derived from this procedure? To answer these questions, this thesis focuses on the analysis of an online service called 'mizuko kuyō navigation' which advertises several Buddhist temples that are offering the service of mizuko kuyō in the Kansai and Kantō area of Japan, and also provides its own consulting service for practitioners.

The first part provides a brief outline of mizuko kuyō and its academic reception. After the introduction of the primary online source and an analysis of its self-descriptions, all aspects communicated inside the different mizuko kuyō advertisements are listed. The final part undertakes a comparison of the frequency with which these different types of advertisement appear, thus allowing to draw a conclusion about the predominant contemporary significance of mizuko kuyō.

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