• Reimon Bachika Bukkyo University, Kyoto, Japan


Seen in terms of culture, the theme of religion and politics in Japan, as everywhere else, is complicated, the more so because religion in this country is highly complicated. This essay—the aim of which is descriptive, not analytic—is an attempt at drawing a concrete picture of Shinto and Buddhism, both of which incorporate multiple strands of traditional religion. It is these that have shaped Japanese religiosity and culture. Politically prominent features are put up in front so to speak: that is, impressions of a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine and a note on Yasukuni as a religious institution. An account of religious pluralism and the ‘religious division of labor’ constitute the central part, followed by a section on the characteristics of religion in Japan. Further, because religiously and politically momentous, an additional note is included about the popular image of Japan’s imperial throne. Finally, to emphasize the significance of religion, the essay ends with a word of hope for the future of religion.

Author Biography

Reimon Bachika, Bukkyo University, Kyoto, Japan

Professor Emeritus of the Department of Sociology at Bukkyo University, Kyoto, Japan

Keywords: The Yasukuni Shrine, Japanese religiosity, Shinto religious practices, Buddhist religious practices, ancestor worship, religious pluralism, imperial throne, latent value conflict


Aoyama, Nakaba. (1986). Shukyo Katarogu (Catologue of Religions), Hakuba Shuppan: Tokyo.
Bachika, Reimon. (2002a). Religion as a Fundamental Category of Culture. In Reimon Bachika (ed.) Traditional Religion & Culture in a New Era. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick (USA).
-------- (2002b). Adoption of Universal Values. In Bukkyo Daigaku Shakaigakuburonso (Journal of Bukkyo University, Department of Sociology) 35: 75-94.
-------- (2008). “On the antagonism between the sacred and the secular: focusing on values and symbolism,” (in Japanese) in Journal of Asia shukyo bunka joho kenkyusho, pp. 25-49. Bukkyo University.
-------- (2011: forth coming). “Introduction” to “Values and Culture: The Social Shaping of the Future.” In Bachika R. and Schulz M. (eds) Current Sociology, Vol. 59: 2. (ISA: http://csi.sagepub.com)
Barett, Tim. (2000). “Shinto and Taoism in Early Japan” in J. Breen and M. Teeuwen (eds) Shinto in History, pp. 13-31. Curzon Press.
Bauman, Zygmunt .(1993). Postmodern Ethics. Blackwell.
Bauman, Zygmunt. (2000). Liquid Modernity. Polity Press: Cambridge.
Beck, Ulrich. (1986). Auf den Weg in eine andere Moderne. Suhrkamp Verlag. English translation, 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Sage Publications: London.
Beck, Ulrich. (1997). The Reinvention of Politics: Rethinking Modernity in the Global Social Order. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Berthon, Jean-Pierre. (1991). “Les formes de la pratique religieuse au Japon” in Civilisations, Revue internationale d’anthropologie et des sciences humaines: pp. 19-39. Http://civilisations.revues.org/index1642.html
Breen John and Teeuwen Mark. (2000). “Introduction: Shinto past and present, in
Breen J. and Teeuwen M. (eds). Shinto in History, pp. 1-12. Curzon Press.
Breen, John. (2009). “Shinto is the Great Way of the Universe: Historical Notes on Shinto-Christian Negotiations,” in The Japan Mission Journal. Oriens Institute for
Religious Research: Tokyo
Casanova, Jose. (1994). Public Religion in the Modern World. University of Chicago Press.
Featherstone, Mike. (2011: forthcoming). “Globalizing Futures: Value Formation and the Value of Life,” in Bachika R. and Schulz M. (eds) “Values and Culture: The Social Shaping of the Future.” Current Sociology, Vol. 59: 2. (ISA: http://csi.sagepub.com).
Geertz, Clifford. (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books, Harper.
Giddens, Anthony. (1990). The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford University Press.
NHK Hoso bunka kenkyusho. (2010). Gendai nihonjin no ishiki kozo, (Structure of consciousness of contemporary Japanese). NHK Books.
International Sociological Association (2008), “Dialogue I: On Public Sociology,” in Current Sociology, Vol. 56: 3, pp. 351-444.
Kodanshi, Ltd. (1993). Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Kodansha: Tokyo.
Nippon Steel Corporation. (1984). Nippon: sono sugata to kokoro. Nippon: The Land and its People (bilingual). Gakuseisha.
Okuyama, Michiaki. (2009). “The Yasukuni Shrine Problem in the East Asian Context: Religion and Politics in Japan. “ in Politics and Religion Journal, Vol. 3: 2.
Scheler, Max. (1992). On Feeling, Knowing, and Valuing. (Edited by Harold J. Bershady). The University of Chicago Press.
Siebert, Rudi. (2002). “The Future of Religion: The Rescue of Religious Motives and Motivations through their Inversion into Secular Discourse,” in Reimon Bachika (ed) Traditional Religion & Culture in a New Era. Transaction Publishers.
------- (2007). “Introduction: The Development of the Critical Theory of Religion in Dubrovnik from 1975 to 2007,” In Michael R. Ott (ed.) The Future of Religion: Toward a Reconciled Society, pp. 1-70. Leiden: Brill.
Shinya, Masa’aki. (2008). Public Religion in Japan: Focusing on the War-Dead Memorials at the Yasukuni Shrine and Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery (Doctoral Dissertation in Japanese). Bukkyo University.
Yasukuni Shrine. (2009). Record in Pictures of Yushukan. Japan Hicom.