Un/Mapping Sacrality in Kamakura: Towards a (Meaningful) Spiritual Cartography

James Thurgill


This short auto-ethnographic paper seeks to examine the tension between meaning and encounter in the spiritual experience. Taking Japan’s historic coastal capital of Kamakura as a site for analysis, I problematise the practice of mapping sacred sites for economic gain and argue for the importance of counter methods in seeking out individual attachments to place. Whilst mapping and walking play a significant role in the touristic experience of Kamakura, with both actively promoted by the local government, the scale of visitation at the city’s sites of spiritual interest further complicates the potential to have meaningful encounters with place. This article works to demonstrate a process of un/mapping, whereby the identification and navigation of cartographic absences can lead to a more enriched experience of place and a redefining of its spiritual attributes. 

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