• Inoue Nobutaka Kokugakuin University, Japan


In Japan, religious education is usually divided into three categories; education about religions or religious knowledge, education to inculcate religious sentiment, and sectarian or confessional education. Education about religion can be taught at public schools, while confessional education is prohibited. Long discussions have been held regarding the inculcation of religious sentiment in postwar Japan. Some insist that it should be taught even at public schools, and others oppose this claim mainly based on the reflection of the influence of State Shinto in the prewar period, when the state and religion (Shrine Shinto) were deeply interconnected. The Basic Law on Education was revised in December, 2006, soon after the inauguration of the Abe cabinet. The article concerning religious education was moderated slightly with the words “general learning regarding religion” added to the sentence. However, as Japanese society has tended to avoid discussions on religious education in the postwar period, it might be quite difficult to establish a new education plan based on the former perspectives, especially regarding the inculcation of religious sentiment. The idea of education in religious culture has been introduced to seek for a new perspective on the problem. This perspective aims to promote a deeper understanding of the Japanese people’s own religious culture, as well as that of foreign nations. According to this plan, such religious education could be introduced even at public schools. Surveys and other research data from in recent years indicate that religious culture education would be far more acceptable to people, including students, than education for the “inculcation of religious sentiment.” Moreover, in the age of globalization, this type of religious education seems to be necessary for countries other than Japan as well. As a matter of fact, similar attempts can be observed in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and other countries. These nations seem to share the following common problems: influence of globalization, influence of the information age (especially the Internet), and the “cults” problem.

Keywords: Basic Law on Education in Japan, inculcation of religious sentiment, religious culture education, separation of Church and Religion, State Shinto


Inoue Nobutaka, Contemporary Japanese Religion, (Tokyo: Foreign Press Center/Japan, 2000)