Laura Miller is the Ei’ichi Shibusawa-Seigo Arai Endowed Professor of Japanese Studies and a professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has published more than 70 articles and book chapters on Japanese culture and language, including topics such as English loanwords in Japanese, girls’ slang, self-photography, elevator girls, and the wizard Abeno Seimei. She is the author of Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics (University of California Press, 2006), and co-editor of three other books. Miller is currently doing research on the Japanese divination industry and on the ancient shaman ruler named Himiko. 


Reifu Talismans in Japan: From secret transmission to commonplace symbol

A reifu (霊符) is a paper talisman with a unique pseudo-script written on it. Normally, reifu are prepared according to procedures passed down through oral transmission between religious practitioners and their adepts. This talk will trace the history of reifu and highlight some of the ways they are being created and used in contemporary Japan. A change in the technology of reifu production has moved their manufacture out of the hands of ritual specialists and into a range of easily accessible public domains. Egalitarian access to reifu through reproduction in books, magazines, manga, and on the internet has shifted control and distribution away from a religious context into new realms. This talk will explore how reifu have been resurrected from their status as a marginal, semi-secret writing practice to become a widely known symbol of the supernatural and the magical in popular culture.

Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs
Robert A. Jones 59 House
148 Hillcrest Road
Middlebury, VT 05753