Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Brian Bocking
1st Conference of ISASR (Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions)
The First Irish Buddhist Missionary? Charles Pfoundes in Meiji Japan
STudy of Religions Dept., UCC, Cork
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields

Charles J W Pfoundes (1840-1907) was the son of Dr James Baker Pounds, of Glebe, Co. Wexford. The family emigrated to Australia where Charles joined the colonial navy. In 1863, aged 23, he arrived in Japan. For the next four decades Pfoundes divided his time mainly between Japan and UK; he died in Kobe in 1907. As a competent linguist, art collector, entrepreneur, Japanophile and minor author, Pfoundes’ life is quite fully if erratically documented in the West. He was known around London as a regular speaker on Japanese art and culture and was an early contributor to the journal of the Folklore Society, while his columns from the Japan Mail on Japanese curiosities were collected in book form as the popular Fu-so-mimi-bukuro or Budget of Japanese Notes in several editions from 1875 onwards. In Japan, however, Pfoundes was best known for his pro-Buddhist (and anti-Theosophical) activities. He was ordained in the Shugendo (mountain-ascetic) tradition and was the sometime London representative of the worldwide [Shinshu] Buddhist Missionary Society Bukkyo Senkyokai. Drawing on ongoing collaborative research with Laurence Cox, Shin’ichi Yoshinaga and Gaynor Sekimori, this paper explores Pfoundes’ relationship with Buddhism in Japan at a time when Japanese Buddhism was in long-term crisis, facing the onslaught of modernity.