Contemporary Japanese Religion


Major Religious Facilities
Traditional Religions, New Religions, and Religions of Non-Japanese Origin

1. Religious Practices as Customs
Annual Events
Rites of Passage
Social Functions of Shinto Shrines
Deities Worshipped at Shrines
History of Shrines
Four Functions of Buddhist Temples
Japanese Buddhism and Religious Commandments

2. Religious Impact on Lifestyles\\The New Religions and Christianity
Overview of the New Religions
Notable Features of the New Religions
Reception of Christianity
Christian Customs
New Religions of Foreign Origin

3. Postwar Japanese Society and the New Religions
The Period of Postwar Chaos and the New Religions
New Religions in the High-Growth Period
New Religions in an Age of Affluence
Various Objectives of Religious Movements
Diversification of the New Religions
The New Religions and Japanese Society

4. Aum Shinrikyo and Other Recent Religious Movements
Unique Features of Aum Shinrikyo
Youth and Aum Shinrikyo
Aum Shinrikyo and Crime
Forced Seclusion
Young People Who Choose to Undergo Rigorous Spiritual Training
Special Interest in the Natural Sciences
Loss of Judgment
A Generation in Which Psychic Powers and the Occult Have Thrived as a Subculture
The Influences on Shoko Asahara
Hyper-Traditional Religious Movements

5. The Religious Environment Surrounding Japanese Youth
The Boom in Magic and the Occult
Trends Since the Mid-1970s
Generational differences
Interest in Doomsday Prophecies and Death
Religious Education Today
Differences in Prewar and Postwar Conditions
Postwar Religious Education
Problems of Religious Education

6. Social Recognition of Religions
The Religious Corporation System
Numbers of Believers
Preferential Tax Treatment
The State and Religion
Politics and Religious Groups
Controversies Involving Religions
Attempts to Solve Problems

7. Conclusion
Impact of Change in Japan's Structure
More Personal Types of Faith


Major Religious Facilities
In considering the religions of a particular nation, distinctive features can be readily discerned to a certain extent by looking at what kinds of religious facilities are in operation. The Shinto shrine (jinja) is a kind of distinctively Japanese religious facility that cannot be found in other countries. There are many such shrines in both urban and rural areas in Japan. In fact, it is estimated that there are about 80,000 shrines in existence throughout Japan. Furthermore they range in size from the enormous to the minuscule. Among the large shrines boasting a long history, Ise Shrine in Ise City, Mie Prefecture, is the most famous. Other especially renowned shrines are Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Kamo Shrine in Kyoto, Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara, Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, Izumo Grand Shrine in Shimane Prefecture, and Dazaifu Shrine in Fukuoka Prefecture. Such major shrines are scattered throughout Japan. There are also many tiny shrines tucked away in corners of towns and villages, whose diminutive shrine buildings are likely to escape the notice of people who do not know they are there. On the average, the typical main shrine building is a bit larger than an ordinary home and is often found in a grove. The torii gate generally serves as a symbol to demarcate the border between the sacred precincts and the profane world outside. At the same time, because anyone is free to enter a Shinto shrine at any time, it might be said that it is the most open kind of religious facility existing in Japan.
In most cases Buddhist temples are also easily recognizable from their exterior appearance. Actually, although temples have distinctive features depending on which sect they belong to, most Japanese cannot differentiate among them. As we will see later, Buddhist temples can roughly be divided into four categories according to their functions. The most common type is that which concentrates on ancestor worships. Such temples usually have graveyards within their precincts.
Christian churches do not tend to be very noticeable in Japan. Altogether, Christians\\including both Catholics and Protestants\\account for less than 1% of Japan's total population. Consequently, compared to their counterparts in Europe or the United States, Christian churches in Japan tend to be rather small. Catholic churches and cathedrals have a tendency to be relatively large, but nearly all Protestant churches are roughly the same size as an ordinary family home. Moreover, they often have starkly simple interiors. In addition, because ordinary Japanese do not have any basic knowledge about Christianity in its various manifestations, they are unable to distinguish between Catholic and Protestant churches. As a matter of fact, many people are not even aware that there are any differences between the two.
Although the adherents of new religions are next in number to professed believers in Buddhism, they do not have all that many religious facilities. Even when they do build facilities, in most cases they cannot be identified as performing religious functions from their exteriors. In other words, they do not stand out like shrines or temples. At the same time, however, many of the new religions have a tendency to erect quite large structure, presenting distinctive architectural feature, for their headquarters or at sacred sites. These are often eye-catching. Good examples are the headquarters-/sacred center of Rissho Koseikai in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, the shrine building of Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyodan on the Izu Peninsula, and the shrine building of Sukyo Mahikari in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture. These structures are all very unusual and attract attention from even quite a distance. The headquarters of Tenrikyo in Tenri City, Nara Prefecture, (known within the religion as the jiba) is actually a complex of religious facilities. In fact, Tenri City might be taken as a classic example of a religious community, since as the number of Tenrikyo believers living there grew, so too did the number of religious facilities. Because subsidiary Tenrikyo churches have a distinctive style, they tell the tale how this new religion has spread throughout the length and breadth of Japan. It is believed that today there are more than 10,000 such branches nationwide. However, Tenrikyo is an exception among the new religions in boasting so many branch churches (Figure 1).

Traditional Religions, New Religions, and Religions of Non-Japanese Origin
The shrine Shinto and sects of Buddhism referred to above might be considered as Japan's mainstream traditional religions, since they are faiths that have developed in the country since ancient times. On the other hand, the "new religions" took shape in modern Japan and have seen staggering growth in their ranks of believers. Christianity was first introduced into Japan during the sixteenth century by Catholic missionary societies, including the Jesuits (Society of Jesus), Franciscans, and Dominicans. Their proselytizing efforts came abruptly to an end at the beginning of the Edo period (1603|1868), when Christianity was banned by the Tokugawa shogunate. Consequently, the churches now existing in various parts of Japan were all built since the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
Religions in Japan perform a variety of functions, although great differences can be identified in the roles played respectively by the traditional religions and the new religions. If you were only to judge the situation from the great number of shrines and temples in the country, you might conclude that Japanese religion is centered almost exclusively on shrine Shinto and the Buddhist sects. And in terms of the grand sweep of history, that is undoubtedly true. In addition, most aspects of the religious life of the average Japanese are related to Shinto and Buddhism. But there is another dimension to be considered as well, namely the very real impact that the new religions and Christianity have on the daily lives of many Japanese. Furthermore, in the postwar period a number of foreign religions have been introduced into Japan, and their influence is increasing.
Thus, the religious landscape in Japan is becoming ever more complicated. Because of this situation, the religious behavior and religious consciousness of the younger generation is beginning to undergo major change. With that in mind, below I would like to explain the state of religion in contemporary Japan.