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Watsuji Tetsurō
Pilgrimages to the Ancient Temples in Nara
Translated with an Introduction by Hiroshi Nara

"Although a number of works by the celebrated Japanese philosopher Watsuji Tetsurō (1889–1960) have been translated into English, the publication of his Pilgrimages to the Ancient Temples in Nara (Koji junrei), first published in 1919, now makes available his most accessible and beloved work to an international audience. Written after Watsuji had immersed himself in European philosophy, and written a book on Kierkegaard in 1915, this account of his trips to Nara and the surrounding area serves both as a travelogue and a moving account of the interior spiritual journey of a man who, like so many of his generation, wished to grasp the early roots of his own culture, now so influenced in this century by the Western example. This book remains a perennial favorite among Japanese readers and has never been out of print. A modern classic of Japanese cultural history, Pilgrimages makes absorbing reading in this elegant translation, particularly when accompanied with so many striking photographs of the sites that Watsuji describes. This book is a major contribution to modern Japanese cultural studies and should find a wide audience."
—J. Thomas Rimer, Professor of Japanese Literature, University of Pittsburgh (Emeritus)

Watsuji's Koji Junrei is a book of impressions of a trip Watsuji took with a few of his friends to the city of Nara in 1918, the capital city of ancient Japan, where he saw a number of Buddhist temples. Watsuji was 29 at the time of the trip. By the time he took this trip to Nara, Watsuji had already published influential, groundbreaking books on Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and the book Gūzū saikō (Resurrection of Idols).
            Koji junrei is significant in that it began a modern literary trend (and commercial publications) of "travel writing" about ancient temples and shrines in Japan and elsewhere. While the genre has existed for centuries, it was Koji junrei that almost singlehandedly resurrected this genre. The book still retains a timeless appeal to the Japanese. Even today some travelers visit Nara temples clutching a copy of Koji junrei, ninety years after its first publication. Richly illustrated, its cultural significance cannot be underestimated.

Watsuji Tetsurō (1889-1960) taught ethics at the Kyoto Imperial University beginning in 1925, and taught at Tokyo Imperial University from 1935 to 1949. He wrote a number of important books on Japanese cultural history, religion, and ethics. His prewar work was considered to be very influential in forming the emperor-centric ideology.


Hiroshi Nara is professor and chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. He works in Japanese linguistics and interwar Japanese intellectual history. His best-known work is The Structure of Detachment (2004), which includes an English translation of The Structure of 'Iki'.

2012 235 pages photos index
ISBN 978-1-937385-10-1 $35.00 pbk
ISBN 978-1-937385-11-8 $65.00 cloth