Religion and Culture in Modern Japan

Topics: Religion, Japan, Western culture Pages: 4 (1188 words) Published: February 20, 2006
Religion and Culture in Modern Japan

Due to the younger generation of Japan's increasing apathy towards religion, Japan's rich culture, identity, and national pride is in jeopardy. This can be concluded by reviewing the connection between religion and culture through Japanese history, and comparing it to the state of the two in modern Japan. By fading away from traditional religion and culture, Japan will continue to adopt western culture and form a new, blended culture, as it has in the past.

Japan's cultural history has always had close ties to religion. From China and Korea came Buddhism, which to Japan brought not only new religion, but also new culture, "it provided a well-developed body of doctrine, art, magic and medicine, music and ritual." (Schirokauer, 15) Buddhist ideas, such as karma, impermanence, and simplicity were extremely influential in forming the contents and aesthetic ideals of Japanese poetry and art in general. Buddhist art, paintings and sculpture, as well as its architecture helped shape Japanese arts and architecture in general. However, Japanese culture is unique from that of China's and Korea's. This comes in part from a mixed religious atmosphere.

Another significant religion in Japanese history, Shinto, has also had a great influence on Japanese culture, especially in performing arts. The two most famous forms of Japanese theatre today, Noh and Kabuki, derive from Shinto rituals. (KEJ 4:90; 6:23-24; 7:131) Since ancient times, dances and songs performed at shrines served as means to evoke deities and pacify them. Kabuki was first performed in the capital Kyoto in 1603 by a female dance troupe from Izumo shrine, one of the most important old centers of deity worship in Japan. (McFarland, 16) Japanese literature derives mainly from Shinto and Buddhist sources. Collections of Buddhist tales and hagiographies helped to get Japanese prose literature started. Not only art, but also daily life in Japan reflects...

Cited: (In alphabetical order)
Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan(KEJ). Tokyo: Kodansha (9 vols.) 1983
Long, Jerome H. "Popular Religion," in: The Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Vol. 11 1987
McFarland, H. Neill. Religion in Contemporary Japanese Society, Asia Society 's Video Letter from Japan: Choices for Men Approaching Sixty, 1991, pp.14-21
Mori, Yoshiro. Statement By Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori at the Press Conference http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/souri/mori/2000/0526press.html Cabinet Public Relations Office 16:30, 26 May 2000
Repp, Martin. Religion, Culture, and Popular Culture in Japan- A Historical Study of Their Interaction, NCC Center for the Study of Japanese Religions, Kyoto 2003
Schirokauer, Conrad and Donald N. Clark. Modern East Asia: A Brief History, Thomson/ Wadsworth 2004
Scranton, Kim. "The Irony of Japan 's ‘Practical Religion '", http://www.theculturedtraveler.com/Archives/SEP2001/Print/Kim_Shinto.htm 2001
Taylor, Nancy. "Cultural Transformation in Modern Japan", NEH Institute on Japanese Culture and Civilization, 1995.
Yamazaki, Shifumi and Maiko Arichi. "Japanese Religion Today" http://raider.muc.edu/re/WorldReligions/recognition_of_religion_in_japan.htm
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