Updated on 2024/05/26


Faculty of International Research and Education, School of International Liberal Studies
Job title
Ph.D. ( Kyoto University )
Master's Degree ( Kyoto University )
Master's Degree ( Ghent University )

My research focuses on the history of Esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyō) in Japan, in particular on the interaction between Esoteric Buddhism and Shinto in the premodern period. In the past few years, I have examined various beliefs and practices related to dragon deities and established their primary position, both in terms of doctrine and practice, in medieval Shingon Buddhism. My current research project involves a reassessment of medieval Shinto from the point of view of Esoteric Buddhist dragon cults. Apart from this research, I also investigate the relationship between Buddhist thought and Japanese traditional arts.

Research Experience

  • 2014.04

    Hiroshima University   Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences   Associate Professor

  • 2013.04

    Kyoto University   Hakubi Center   Hakubi Fellow

  • 2010.09

    Kyoto University   Institute for the Promotion of Excellence in Higher Education   Specially Appointed Associate Professor

  • 2008.10

    Kyoto University   Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies   JSPS Research Fellow

  • 2006.04

    Kyoto University of Foreign Studies   Faculty of Foreign Studies   Lecturer

Education Background

  • 2000.04

    Kyoto University   Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies   Social Cultural History  

  • 1994.09

    Ghent University   Faculty of Letters   Department of Oriental Languages and Cultures  

Research Areas

  • Religious studies / Chinese philosophy, Indian philosophy and Buddhist philosophy / Japanese history

Research Interests

  • Medieval Shinto

  • History of Japanese Buddhism

  • History of Japanese Religions



  • The Black Jewel of Shingon Tradition: A Historical Examination of Its Emergence, Characteristics, and Associated Rituals

    Steven Trenson

    The Eastern Buddhist. Third series   3 ( 1 ) 27 - 66  2023.07  [Refereed]


  • Rice, Relics, and Jewels: The Network and Agency of Rice Grains in Medieval Japanese Esoteric Buddhism

    Steven Trenson

    Japanese Journal of Religious Studies   45 ( 2 ) 269 - 307  2018  [Refereed]



  • “Shingon Divination Board Rituals and Rainmaking.”

    Steven Trenson

    Cahiers d’Extrême Asie   21   107 - 134  2013  [Refereed]

  • Buddhism and Martial Arts in Premodern Japan: New Observations from a Religious Historical Perspective

    Steven Trenson

    Religions   13 ( 440 ) 1 - 23  2022.05  [Refereed]



  • Review of: Gaétan Rappo, Rhétoriques de l’hérésie dans le Japon médiéval et moderne: Le moine Monkan (1278–1357) et sa réputation posthume

    Steven Trenson

    Japanese Journal of Religious Studies   47 ( 1 ) 177 - 182  2020.12


  • Review of: "Gods of Medieval Japan: Vol. 1, The Fluid Pantheon; Vol. 2, Protectors and Predators by Bernard Faure"

    Steven Trenson

    The Journal of Japanese Studies   44 ( 1 ) 173 - 181  2018.01


  • “Heike-nōkyō kyōbako ishō no ichikōsatsu: Daigoji no ryūjin shinkō no shiza yori”

    Steven Trenson

    Ningen bunka kenkyū   9   1 - 20  2017

  • “Cutting Serpents: Esoteric Buddhist Dimensions of the Classical Martial Art of Drawing the Sword.”

    Steven Trenson

    Analecta Nipponica   4   31 - 51  2014

  • “Une analyse critique de l'histoire du Shōugyō-hō et du Kujakukyō-hō: rites ésotériques de la pluie dans le Japon de l'époque de Heian.”

    Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie   13   455 - 495  2003

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Books and Other Publications

  • Buddhist Encounters and Identities Across East Asia

    Ann Heirman, Carmen Meinert, Christoph Anderl( Part: Contributor, Chapter 4 "A Study on the Combination of the Deities Fudō and Aizen in Medieval Shingon Esoteric Buddhism" (pp. 108-136))

    Brill  2018 ISBN: 9789004366152

  • Kiu, hōju, ryū: Chūsei Shingon mikkyō no shinsō

    Steven Trenson( Part: Sole author)

    Kyoto Daigaku Gakujutsu Shuppankai  2016 ISBN: 9784814000197

  • Girei no chikara: Chūsei shūkyō no jissen sekai

    Dolce, Lucia, Matsumoto, Ikuyo( Part: Contributor, Chapter 7 "Daigoji ni okeru kiu no kakuritsu to Seiryūshin shinkō" (pp. 231-270))

    Hozokan  2010.04 ISBN: 9784831876706

  • Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū: The Iai Forms and Oral Traditions of the Yamauchi Branch

    Yamakoshi Masaki, Tsukimoto Kazutake, tr. Steven Trenson

    Maruzen Kyoto Shuppan Sābisu Sentā  2004 ISBN: 4944229488


  • Divine Mothers and Consorts: A New Perspective on Royal Consecration Rituals in the Shingon Esoteric Buddhist Tradition of Daigoji

    Steven Trenson

    EAJS 2023 Conference. August 17-20, 2023. Ghent University, Belgium. 

    Presentation date: 2023.08

  • 聖王と玉女―醍醐寺の法流に伝わる即位灌頂儀礼(即位法)への新視点



    Presentation date: 2023.08

  • The Dragon and the Kami: Exploring the Connections Between the Esoteric Buddhist Tradition of Daigoji and Medieval Shinto

    Steven Trenson

    XIXth Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (IABS). August 15-19, 2022. Seoul National University, South Korea. 

    Presentation date: 2022.08

    Event date:
  • The Divine Mother and Consort: A New Perspective on Medieval Japanese Esoteric Buddhist Visions of Sacred Kingship

    International Symposium "Objects, Texts, and Rituals: Multi-Disciplinary Approaches to the Transmission of Esoteric Buddhism," November 18-19, 2021, National Chengchi University, Taiwan (Online) 

    Presentation date: 2021.11

  • The Dragon and the Emperor: Rainmaking and Divine Kingship in Medieval Japanese Esoteric Buddhism

    Steven Trenson

    AAS 2021 Virtual Annual Conference, March 21-26, 2021 

    Presentation date: 2021.03

  • Relic, Ritual, and Enlightenment: The Establishment of Jewel Rituals in Medieval Shingon Buddhism and the Role of Relics in the Realization of Bodily Buddhahood

    Steven Trenson

    International Conference on "Esoteric Buddhism and East Asian Society," March 7-8, 2020, University of British Columbia, Vancouver 

    Presentation date: 2020.03

  • The Quest for Truth and Invective Behavior in a Medieval Japanese Buddhist Context: Original Enlightenment Thought as a Form of Postmodern Relativism

    Steven Trenson

    Workshop "Insults, Hate Speech, and Denigration: Invective Communication and the Dynamization of Social Order," February 3 & 4, 2020, Université libre de Bruxelles 

    Presentation date: 2020.02

  • The Question of “Perverse Teachings” (Jakyō) in Medieval Shingon Discourse: Focusing on Sexual Symbolisms in the Daigo and Ono Lineages

    Steven Trenson

    The 3rd EAJS Conference in Japan, September 14-15, University of Tsukuba 

    Presentation date: 2019.09

  • “Kome, shari, hōju: Chūsei Nihon no Mikkyō ni okeru kometsubu no ējenshī to nettowāku.”

    Steven Trenson

    Public Seminar organized by the Research Center of International Japanese Studies at Hōsei University  (Tokyo)  Research Center of International Japanese Studies at Hōsei University

    Presentation date: 2018.11

  • "Rice, Relics, and Stūpas: The Sacredness of Rice Grains in Medieval Japanese Esoteric Buddhist Practice."

    Steven Trenson

    15th EAJS International Conference  (Lisbon)  EAJS, New University of Lisbon

    Presentation date: 2017.08

  • “The Universe Inside a Rice Bowl: Prolegomena to the Sacredness of Rice Grains in Medieval Japanese Esoteric Buddhism.”

    Steven Trenson

    Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture workshop “Rites, Rice, and Rokuji Myōō”  (Tokyo)  Sophia University

    Presentation date: 2016.07

  • “‘Dhatu-hō kudenshū’ jō chū ge”

    Steven Trenson

    International Workshop “Buddhist Ceremonies and Space”  (Kyoto)  Kyoto University

    Presentation date: 2015.10

  • “Chūsei Shingon mikkyō kiuhō no shari/hōju shinkō to chūsei shintō to no kankei wo megutte.”

    Steven Trenson

    “Tabunya fukugō no shikaku kara mita Nihon bukkyō kokusaiteki kenkyū” [International research on Japanese Buddhism from a multi-disciplinary perspective]  (Tokyo)  Waseda University

    Presentation date: 2015.01

  • “The Concept of the ‘Mother of All the Buddhas’ in Medieval Shingon Esoteric Buddhism: Some Universal and Particular Aspects.”

    Steven Trenson

    International Conference “Bouddhisme et universalisme – Bukkyō to fuhen shugi”  (Kyoto)  EFEO Kyoto Office

    Presentation date: 2014.10

  • “‘Living Buddhas’: The Story of the Self-mummifying Ascetics at Mount Yudono.”

    Steven Trenson

    International Conference “The Processes of Dying in the Ancient Greek World”  (Kyoto)  Kyoto University

    Presentation date: 2014.09

  • “A New Perspective on the Historical Emergence of the Tripartite Wish-fulfilling Jewel Cult in Medieval Shingon Buddhism.”

    Steven Trenson

    The 14th International Conference of EAJS  (Ljubljana)  University of Ljubljana

    Presentation date: 2014.08

  • “The Place and Significance of the Esoteric Rain Ritual in Medieval Shingon Tradition.”

    Steven Trenson

    Workshop "New Directions in Medieval and Early Japan Studies"  (Los Angeles)  University of Southern California

    Presentation date: 2014.04

  • “Chūsei Shingon mikkyō ni okeru sanzon keishiki no shari/hōjuhō no kigen ni tsuite.”

    Steven Trenson

    Society of the History of Buddhism  (Kyoto)  Ryūkoku University

    Presentation date: 2014.02

  • “On the Roots of the Non-dualism of Aizen and Fudō in Medieval Shingon Buddhism.”

    Steven Trenson

    International Conference "Network and Identity: Exchange Relations between China and the World"  (Ghent)  Ghent University

    Presentation date: 2013.12

  • “Cutting Serpents: Esoteric Buddhist Dimensions of the Classical Martial Art of Drawing the Sword.”

    Steven Trenson

    International Conference "Japanese Civilization: Tokens and Manifestations"  (Krakow)  Manggha Museum

    Presentation date: 2013.11

  • “Interpretations and Transformations of ‘the Mother of all the Buddhas’ in Medieval Shingon Buddhism.”

    Steven Trenson

    (London)  SOAS

    Presentation date: 2013.03

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Research Projects

  • A Research Study of Medieval Shinto Texts Archived at the Shinpukuji Temple

    Japan Society for the Promotion of Science  Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research

    Project Year :


  • Research on the History of Esoteric Buddhist and Shinto Interactions in Medieval Japan

    Japan society for the Promotion of Science  Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research

    Project Year :


     View Summary

    This research project focused on the history of esoteric Buddhist and Shinto interactions in medieval Japan from the viewpoint of dragon cults. During the medieval period, kami cults combined with esoteric Buddhist thought in various ways, which resulted in the formation of a number of medieval Shinto lineages. However, there are still many unsolved issues regarding the historical processes behind the establishment of medieval Shinto. The current scholarly consensus is that medieval Shinto first emerged in the area around the Ise shrines and then from there spread to other places such as Mount Muro and Mount Miwa. The present research, however, started out from the observation that medieval Shinto is largely founded on dragon beliefs and therefore reconsidered a number of medieval Shinto issues from the perspective of Daigoji's dragon cult. As a result, it was clarified that Daigoji's esotericism had an important influence on the development of medieval Shinto




Internal Special Research Projects

  • 中世日本即位灌頂儀礼の再検討―『瑜祇経』の視点から―


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  • 中世神道の源流に関する一考察ー大嘗祭と鎮魂祭を手掛かりとしてー


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