Faculty of Arts


Religion in Modern Japanese Society

Please note: this is archived course information from 2017 for ASIAN 708.



The aim of this course is to understand the role of religious beliefs, practices and institutions in modern Japanese society. Topics to be covered include the invention of State Shinto and its role in nation-building, the decline of established temple Buddhism, the emergence and impact of new religious movements and social conflict related to religion-state issues in the postwar period. 

Learning Goals

This is a core course for the advanced study of religion in modern society, which reviews sociological and historical approaches and key issues of critical debate on the place of religion in contemporary Japanese society. At the end of this course, students 1) should have acquired a broad knowledge of the key characteristics and social significance of both established and alternative religious traditions in modern Japan; and 2) should be able to provide an extended analysis in essay form of issues surrounding the role of religion in contemporary Japanese society that demonstrates a critical understanding of the larger cultural, political and legal context.  

Requirements and Readings

Attendance at lectures is required and students should come prepared to discuss the readings each week. There are no required textbooks for this course, but two to three articles or book chapters will be assigned each week. Particular attention will be given to the religious dimensions of neo-nationalism in Japanese society and the postwar movements to recover the public role of Shinto by the Association of Shinto Shrines and affiliated sociopolitical movements. These restoration efforts include the movement to renationalise Yasukuni Shrine, revise the postwar Constitution (particularly Articles 9, 20 and 89) and various strategies to reform the public school system through the inclusion of moral and patriotic education. These neo-nationalist initiatives and efforts to revitalise a Japanese civil religion have generated considerable conflict and debate over a range of religion-state issues. Students will be expected to prepare a literature review and final paper on one of these contemporary issues. The topics and readings covered may be adjusted according to the background and research interests of the enrolled students. 

Availability 2017

Semester 1




ASIAN 708: 15.0 points

Contact details | Search | Accessibility | Copyright | Privacy | Disclaimer | 1