Photo archive of Japanese Religions

Go to the Main Gallery

The Nanzan Institute has prepared an open-source collection of visual images related to Japanese religions, based on a donation of over 800 slides from Ian Reader, professor at Lancaster University. All images may be downloaded free of charge in two formats: one suitable for multimedia presentations and the other at high-resolution suitable for printing.

How to use

  • Select an album from the Main Gallery.
  • You will be brought to a page with thumbnails of all the images in that album. There are two options here:
    (1)  Clicking on any image will bring up a page with that image and related data.
    (2)  Clicking on Slow slideshow will run you through the entire set of pictures. You can click on the circled images at the bottom to select another slide.
  • The menu bar at the top right of the Slideshow gives you options for pausing and downloading. Clicking on the top left on the menu bar brings you back to the album’s main page.
  • The search function in the menu bar covers all the data included in the descriptions.


When using an image for printed material, we ask that you add the following acknowledgement: “From the Photo Archives of the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nagoya, Japan.”

Additional comments on the dates of the photos (by Ian Reader)

The items in the galleries were all originally either slides or negatives that I made into slides, and were mostly taken in the 1980s in the pre-digital era. Apart from a very few they were taken between 1985 and January 1989, when I had a decent camera (and before I dropped and wrecked it) and when I was working for a Japanese university and was able to access ‘research funds’, which I spent on travelling around Japan taking photographs of things that interested me. A small number of the pilgrimage slides were taken in a later visit to Japan in autumn 1990 and March 1991.
Where I was clear about the dates these are noted within the text – for example in the Agonshū gallery it says that the Hoshi Matsuri photos were taken in 1986 and 1987. Where I had a clear, specific date for the slides it was also noted in the text (e.g. for specific rituals such as at Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine and Fushimi Inari). I am afraid some are undated and I have no clear date recollection, for example on which visit to Shikoku or Shōdoshima between 1985-1988 I took them.
The slides in many ways represent my interests and obsessions in that era (1985-1989), some of which made it into publications: pilgrimage, rituals, ema, yutate (though I never got round to writing all that research up), and what appeared to me to be fascinating and perhaps slightly odd things I saw, or what I thought might be useful to show to students later. There are some historical items in there that cannot be seen any more, such as the “mummified mermaid” (yes, there really is one…) in the pilgrimage gallery, which was photographed in 1987 but no longer exists as it was burnt in a fire in the 1990s.
I used the slides in teaching over the years but two factors stopped this: (i) I stopped teaching courses on religion in Japan and (ii) my slide projector broke and the university went digital, and stopped maintaining its projectors. For a while I just left the slides in a drawer but after a while realized that unless I did something with them, they would gradually lose their colour and be wasted. I felt that if they could be of some help to anyone else ‘out there’ I would like to get them online and, since I was involved in a project with the Nanzan Institute I mentioned this to colleagues there. The result was that they found the funds to get them digitized and I worked to this end with Paul Swanson and with Jim Heisig (who deserves particular thanks for doing a huge amount of the work in setting up the site and helping me get the commentaries online).
I had a lot of fun taking these pictures and hope they might be of some use to others, and useful also for showing what things looked like in the 1980s.
* The Osorezan gallery differs from the others in that it was taken in September 2003, the last pre-digital slides I ever took. This set was of interest to me because of its contrast with my memory of my first visit there in 1981, when it had virtually no facilities, the temple had no gate and none of the tourist facilities and ice cream stalls on view, existed.

Submitting new material

Users who are interested in the possibility of submitting further material for this photo archive, please contact the Nanzan Institute indicating the nature and extent of the materials you wish to make available for open access. Submissions require careful selection of photos and additional detailed annotation. If approved, we will get back to you with precise instructions on how to proceed.