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Author: Jun'ichi Isomae
Religious Discourse in Modern Japan explores the introduction of the Western concept of “religion” to Japan in the modern era, and the emergence of discourse on Shinto, philosophy, and Buddhism. Taking Anesaki’s founding of religious studies ( shukyogaku) at Tokyo Imperial University as a pivot, Isomae examines the evolution of this academic discipline in the changing context of social conditions from the Meiji era through the present. Special attention is given to the development of Shinto studies/history of Shinto, and the problems of State Shinto and the emperor system are described in relation to the nature of the concept of religion. Isomae also explains how the discourse of religious studies developed in connection with secular discourses on literature and history, including Marxism.
Author: Jun'ichi Isomae

Abstract

In Japan today, the issue of religious cults is a frequent topic of discussion, particularly in the aftermath of the Aum Shinrikyo incident. However, at the time of the Aum incident, the views of scholars in religious studies were scarcely heeded. This can be attributed to the fact that for many people, religious studies was thought to lean too much toward a defense of religion. Focusing upon Masaharu Anesaki, the founder of religious studies in Japan, this article explores the fundamental characteristics of the discourse of religious studies as it has come down to the present day. It seeks to elucidate the close relationship of religious studies to the political situation in Japanese society during the Meiji period (1868-1912), and how this contributed to the development of the field. It further maintains that in conjunction with state policies for national education, the discourse of religious studies helped instantiate religion as an integral component of modern society, one defined particularly by the vacillation between individualism and nationalism. After World War II, there were few in Japan who would openly express admiration for nationalist ideology, but in religious studies a tendency toward nationalism remained evident in its yearning for the solidarity of religious groups and other kinds of communal bodies. Thus, even as its outward form underwent change, this tendency toward nationalism not only served as a defense of religion, but it also continued to uphold the existing discursive positionality of religious studies.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Abstract

The Japanese word shūkyō was originally a coined word occurring in Chinese Buddhist dictionaries, but it became used as the translation for the English word “religion” when the English word was transmitted to Japan from the West after the opening of the country at the end of the nineteenth century. At that time, a new kind of Japanese language treating Shintō and Buddhism as ‘religions’ was born, with Christianity forming the axis, but while still intertwined with Buddhism and Shintō. Bearing in mind the Protestant influence on acculturation processes in Japan at the beginning of the Meiji period, this paper aims to offer an overview of how the term “religion” became embedded in Japan and how the Meiji government dealt with the competition of Shintō against Christianity and Buddhism. In that context it touches upon crucial historical and social developments such as the clash between science and religion of the late 1870s and the opposition between the state and religion in the early 1890s, together with well-known incidents such as the Uchimura Kanzō affair. The paper focuses in particular on the period from the end of the early modern Edo regime through the end of the Meiji period and analyzes how views of religious issues underwent transition within Japan.

In: Journal of Religion in Japan
In: Religion and Secularity
In: Religious Discourse in Modern Japan
In: Religious Discourse in Modern Japan
In: Religious Discourse in Modern Japan
In: Religious Discourse in Modern Japan
In: Religious Discourse in Modern Japan
In: Religious Discourse in Modern Japan