Secularization, Deprivatization, and the Reappearance of ‘Public Religion’ in Japanese Society

in Journal of Religion in Japan
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Sociological theories about the fate of religion in modern societies originated in Europe and were initially based on the history of Western Christianity. Whether or not these theoretical perspectives are useful for the analysis of other religious traditions in non-Western regions of the world has been the focus of considerable debate for decades. This article engages some of the familiar theories of secularization in light of major developments in Japanese religion and society over the past two centuries. While it has been widely assumed that modernization inevitably brings with it a decline in religion, the first phase of this process in Japan was accompanied by the creation of a powerful new form of religion—State Shintō—that served to unite the nation around a common set of symbols and institutions for half a century. This was followed by the rapid and forced secularization of Shintō during the Allied Occupation (1945-1952), which essentially privatized or removed it from public institutions. Since the end of the Occupation, however, there has been an ongoing movement to restore the special status of Shintō and its role in the public sphere. Even though recent case studies and survey research indicate that individual religiosity and organized religions are facing serious decline today, the reappearance of religion in public life and institutions represented by this restoration movement also needs to be taken into account in our assessment of secularization in contemporary Japan.

Secularization, Deprivatization, and the Reappearance of ‘Public Religion’ in Japanese Society

in Journal of Religion in Japan



AbeShinzō安倍晋三 Utsukushii kuni e 2006 Tokyo Bungei Shunju 美しい国へ

BaffelliErica “Sōka Gakkai and Politics in Japan.” Religion Compass 2010 4 12 746 756

BergerPeter L. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion 1967 New York Anchor Books

BreenJohnTeeuwenMark A New History of Shinto 2010 Chichester Wiley-Blackwell

CasanovaJosé Public Religions in the Modern World 1994 Chicago University of Chicago Press

CrippsDenise GoodmanRogerNearyIan “Flags and Fanfares: The Hinomaru Flag and Kimigayo Anthem.” Case Studies on Human Rights in Japan 1996 Curzon Press/Japan Library 76 108

DavisWinston Toward Modernity: A Developmental Typology of Popular Religious Affiliations in Japan 1977 Ithaca, NY Cornell University Press East Asia Papers Series

DavisWinston Japanese Religion and Society 2007 New York SUNY Press

DemerathNicholas J. BeckfordJamesDemerathN.J.III “Secularization and Sacralization Deconstructed and Reconstructed.” The Sage Handbook of the Sociology of Religion 2007 London, Los Angeles Sage Publications 57 80

DessìUgo “Shin Buddhism, Authority, and the Fundamental Law of Education.” Numen 2009 56 5 523 544

EgerMax “Modernization and Secularization in Japan: A Polemical Essay.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1980 7 1 7 24

FennRichard K. Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Toward a Theory of Secularization 1978 Monograph Series Number 1

FitzgeraldTimothy “Japanese Religion as Ritual Order.” Religion 1993 23 315 341

ForfarDavid GoodmanRogerNearyIan “Individuals Against the State? The Politics of Opposition to the Re-emergence of State Shintō.” Case Studies on Human Rights in Japan 1996 Curzon Press/Japan Library 245 276

FukudaShigeru福田繁 FujioIkado井門富二夫 “Kenshō: GHQ no shūkyō seisaku 検証: GHQ の宗教政策.” Senryō to Nihon shūkyō 1993 Tokyo Miraisha 521 560 占領と日本宗教

HardacreHelen Shintō and the State 1968–1988 1989 Princeton Princeton University Press

HishikiMasaharu菱木政晴 Shiminteki jiyū no kiki to shūkyō: Kenpō Yasukuni jinja seikyō bunri 2007 Tokyo Hakutakusha 市民的自由の危機と宗教—憲法、靖国神社、政教分離

HobsbawmEric HobsbawmEricRangerTerence “Introduction: Inventing Traditions.” The Invention of Tradition 1983 Cambridge Cambridge University Press 1 14

IrieYōko入江曜子 Nihon ga “kami no kuni” datta jidai: Kokumin gakkō no kyōkasho o yomu 2001 Tokyo Iwanami Shoten 日本が「神の国」だった時代―国民学校の教科書を読む

IsomaeJun’ichi磯前順一 Kindai Nihon no shūkyō gensetsu to sono keifū: Shūkyō kokka shintō 2003 Tokyo Iwanami Shoten 近代日本の宗教言説とその系譜―宗教・国家・神道

ShinpōshaJinja神社新報社 Shintō shirei to sengo no shintō 1969 Tokyo Jinja Shinpōsha 神道指令と戦後の神道

Katorikku Chūō Kyōgikai カトリック中央協議会 Shinkyō no jiyū to seikyō bunri 2007 Tokyo Katorikku Chūō Kyōgikai 信教の自由と政教分離

MadsenRichard CalhounCraigJuergensmeyerMarkVan AntwerpenJonathan “Secularism, Religious Change, and Social Conflict in Asia.” Rethinking Secularism 2011 Oxford University Press 248 269

MartinDavid A General Theory of Secularization 1978 New York Harper and Row

MaruyamaMasao HaneMikiso Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan 1974 Princeton Princeton University Press

MullinsMark R. “From ‘Departures’ to ‘Yasukuni Shrine’: Caring for the Dead and Bereaved in Contemporary Japanese Society.” Japanese Religions 2010a 35 1-2 101 112

MullinsMark R. “How Yasukuni Shrine Survived the Occupation: A Critical Examination of Popular Claims.” Monumenta Nipponica 2010b 65 1 89 136

MullinsMark R. BestorTheodore C.BestorVictoria Lyon “Religion in Contemporary Japanese Lives.” Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society 2011 Abingdon Routledge 63 74

MullinsMark R. “The Neonationlist Response to the Aum Crisis: A Return of Civil Religion and Coercion in the Public Sphere?” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 2012 39 1-2 99 125

MunakataIwao “The Ambivalent Effects of Modernization on Traditional Folk Religion.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1976 3 2-3 99 126

MurakamiShigeyoshi村上重良 Kokka shintō 1970 Tokyo Iwanami Shinsho 国家神道

MurakamiShigeyoshi村上重良 Kokka shintō to minshū shūkyō 1982 Tokyo Yoshikawa Kōbunkan 国家神道と民衆宗教

NelsonJohn K. Enduring Identities: The Guise of Shinto in Contemporary Japan 2000 Honolulu University of Hawaii Press

OkuyamaMichiaki “Soka Gakkai as a Challenge to Japanese Society and Politics.” Politics and Religion 2010 4 1 83 96

ŌsakiMotoshi大崎素史 “Kyōiku kihon hō kaisei no rekishi to mondai ten: Shūkyō kyōiku no shiten kara 教育基法本改正の歴史と問題点―宗教教育の視点から.” Gendai shūkyō 2007 39 62 現代宗教

RubensteinRichard L. GarrettWilliam Reace “Japan and Biblical Religion: The Religious Significance of the Japanese Economic Challenge.” Social Consequences of Religious Belief 1989 New York Paragon House 116 117

RuoffKenneth J. The People’s Emperor: Democracy and the Japanese Monarchy 1945-1995 2001 Cambridge Harvard University Asia Center

SeraphimFranziska War Memory and Social Politics in Japan 1945-2005 2000 Cambridge Harvard University Asia Center

ShimazonoSusumu島薗進 Posutomodan no shinshūkyō: Gendai Nihon no seishin jōkyō no teiryū 2001 Tokyo Tokyodo ポストモダンの新宗教―現代日本の精神状況の底流

ShimazonoSusumu島薗進 BeckfordJames A.DemerathN.J.III “State Shinto and Religion in Post-War Japan.” The Sage Handbook of the Sociology of Religion 2007 London Sage Publications 697 709

ShimazonoSusumu島薗進 Kokka shintō to nihonjinron 2010 Tokyo Iwanami Shoten 国家神道と日本人論

RenmeiShintō Seiji神道政治連盟 Shinseiren jūgonenshi 1984 Tokyo Shintō Seiji Renmei Chūō Honbu 神政連十五年史

TakayamaK. Peter “The Revitalization of Japanese Civil Religion.” Sociological Analysis 1988 48 4 328 341

ThalSarah PetersonDerek R.WalhofDarren R. “A Religion That Was Not a Religion.” The Invention of Religion: Rethinking Belief in Politics and History 2002 New Jersey Rutgers University Press 100 114 New Brunswick

UedaKenji “Contemporary Social Change and Shinto Traditions.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1979 6 1-2 303 327

YoungIsaac “Shut Up and Sing: The Rights of Japanese Teachers in an Era of Conservative Educational Reform.” Cornell International Law Journal 2009 42 157 192


For two recent treatments see Okuyama (2010) and Baffelli (2010).

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 52 52 40
Full Text Views 20 20 15
PDF Downloads 3 3 3
EPUB Downloads 2 2 1