This is the third volume in a continuing series designed to introduce recent studies on Japanese religion to the international English-speaking audience. Previous volumes in the series include Matsuri: Festival and Rite in Japanese Life (1988), and New Religions (1991).
The word matsuri or "festival" is a crucial term for understanding traditional life in Japan; the papers contained in the first volume presented descriptions and interpretations of wide range of such traditional Japanese festivals.
The second volume included six papers dealing with the new religious movements characteristic of modern Japan. The term "new religion" is used as a general expression to describe those religious movements which have appeared in the modern period. Such groups demonstrate remarkably different traits from the "established" religions, and as they are thought to demonstrate more immediate response to the rapid social changes accompanying modernization, studies of the new religions are important for our understanding of the mutual relationships between religion and society.
The theme of the current volume is the folk beliefs found in modern Japan. Our rationale for selecting this topic is explained in the introduction, but I might briefly point out here that the topic has recently stimulated a high level of interest among students of modern Japanese religion, due to the fact that a variety of folk beliefs seem to have firmly survived in the face of Japan's rapid modernization; some even appear to be accepted in the guise of new fashion by members of the younger generation.
The general composition of the volume is basically the same as the foregoing two. Five papers, originally written in Japanese were selected and translated by Norman Havens, and published in preliminary form in successive issues of Kokugakuin University's "Transactions of the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics" (Nihon Bunka Kenkyû sho kiyô). Mr. Havens has revised the translations for this volume, and appended a paper of his own. I have added a preliminary introductory chapter, explaining the purpose and contents of the volume. Overall, we hope that the volume provides readers with some degree of access to recent trends in this area of religious studies in Japan.
Work has already begun on the series' fourth volume, which will be focused on the concept of kami ("deity") in Japanese religion. The fundamental polytheism of Japanese religion results in a diverse complexity in the way people conceptualize such kami, and we hope to introduce a spectrum of approaches to the concept. Plans are to publish that volume three years from now.
The Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics was established in the fall of 1955 to promote studies relating to Japanese culture, particularly religion, classic literature, and folklore. Other important purposes of the Institute are to promote the international exchange of researchers and scholarly information. As a result, translation activities such as those found in these pages are a direct part of the Institute's founding purpose. Our continuing policy is to select themes for translation in harmony with subjects of research currently being undertaken by the staff of the Institute.
In closing, I would like to express our thanks for Kokugakuin University's recognition of the necessity and importance of the work of translation, as expressed in the continuing financial support which makes this series possible.
INOUE Nobutaka, General Editor
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