Barbara Ambros teaches in the religious department at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her research area is Japanese religions, though she also teaches about religions of East Asia in general. She received her MA in Literature and Ph.D. in Religion from Harvard University.
It is the narrative of movement and pilgrimage of all sorts that led Dr. Ambros to her current topics of research.
Eventually Dr. Ambros was put in touch with the Ohanako Confraternity and they welcomed her to join not only in their pilgrimage to Oyama, their sacred mountain, but in the planning process as well. Her work with the Ohanako group went into Dr. Ambros’ publication Emplacing a Pilgrimage: The Oyama Cult and Regional Religion in Early Modern Japan.
Another project Dr. Ambros worked on was a book on contemporary pet memorial rituals in Japan, Bones of Contention: Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan. In teaching a class at UNC on contemporary Japanese religions, she came across an article
about memorial rights for aborted fetuses, stillborn children and miscarriages. The article mentioned there were also memorial rites for pets. With further research she was surprised no one had written more about the phenomena. In Japan there are around 900 cemeteries as compared to 600 in the much larger United States. About 120 or so are at Buddhist temples and many of the pet cemeteries that are not located at Buddhist temples have a relationship with a Buddhist cleric. These pet cemeteries continue are one way that contemporary Buddhism has changed to meet the needs of the Japanese population.
Produced by Wilson Sayre for the Triangle Center for Japanese Studies