New Religions
[Table of Contents]

Recent Trends in the Study of Japanese New Religions

INOUE Nobutaka

1. The Concept of "New Religions"

The concept of "new religions" was first used in Japan following the end of World War II. The "new religions" are often contrasted with the "established religions," namely the various sects of Buddhism and shrine Shinto. The latter category is also occasionally called "traditional religion." Various suggestions have been made regarding both the dating of the "new religions," namely when the new religions first arose, and the nature of the category itself, namely, which movements should be characterized as indeed "new." Four primary suggestions have been made with regard to the dating issue:

  1. The beginning of the 19th century.
  2. In the general period surrounding Meiji Restoration (1868).
  3. The beginning of the 20th century.
  4. Following World War II.

Those who adopt the first suggested starting period deem it important that new organizations based on mountain worship, such as Fuji-kô, became popular around the beginning of the 19th century, and thus consider those groups to be the earliest type of new religious movement.1

The second suggested starting date is considered important since Kurozumikyô was growing in western Japan at the same time that Konkôkyô and Tenrikyô were gaining adherents in their early stages of development, and since these three movements had strong influence on later groups.

Those who suggest that new religions be dated from the beginning of the twentieth century place heavy importance on the roles of Ômoto[Glossary: omoto] and Reiyûkai within the mass movements characterizing the burgeoning capitalism of that period.

And the last date is selected based on the rapid expansion of new movements under the principles of separation of Church and State and religious freedom in the postwar period.

While each of these suggested starting dates has its own merits, they all demonstrate weaknesses as well. Against the first position, it might be argued that while the germinal forms of new religious movements surely existed around the beginning of the nineteenth century, they only appeared in substantial numbers late in the Tokugawa era. Against the third suggested dating, it might be pointed out that the new movements of the early twentieth century, such as Ômoto or Reiyûkai, were crucially influenced in organization and doctrinal areas by earlier movements. In turn, the last position ignores the continuity of new religions after the war with those existing before, and instead pays excessive attention to the superficial novelty of the new postwar movements. As a result of these factors, many students of the new religions have adopted the second position, as is also the case in the "Dictionary of The New Religions" published recently.2

On the other hand, differences of opinion also exist with regard to what kind of movements should be included in the category of new religions. Generally speaking, the problem involves two fundamental concerns. One regards the kind of distinction to be drawn between new religion and renewal movements within otherwise established religions, while the other regards the distinction drawn between new religions and folk religions.

No clear standard has been established with regard to the first issue, but most students consider a religion to be "new" if it begun by a new leader and called by a new name, even though the group's intimate connections with a previous traditional sect might make it possible to understand it functionally as a renewal movement.

The debate regarding the distinction between new religions and folk religion has focused on organizational characteristics. In the case of small movements guided by ogamiya3 (shaman[Glossary: fugeki]) types of figures, it becomes extremely difficult to ascertain whether the groups are to be included in the category of "new" or traditional "folk" religions. In such small-scale movements, followers are usually related to the group leader as "clients." Some of the groups, however, evidence activities similar to those of larger new religions, and as might be expected, this similarity becomes more striking as the groups grow in scale. Overall, the decision of whether to include such groups in the category of new religions is made on the basis of the degree of novelty in ideals or purposes demonstrated by the group.

While the problem of the definitive traits of the new religions remains unresolved, the study of the new religions has advanced vigorously during the past twenty years in Japan, and has achieved an established position as an academic area for research. In the following, I will give a brief sketch of the development that has taken place in the study of new religions during the postwar period, and indicate a few of the problems waiting to be researched more intensively.

2. Studies of New Religions in the Postwar Period

A. Development of Studies

The first studies of "new religions" in Japan appeared in the mid-1950s. While some studies of the prewar period dealt with what are today called new religions, the authors of that time considered themselves studying "sectarian Shinto"4 and "quasi-religious" or "pseudo-religious" movements5, since the concept of "new religions" had not yet been accepted. As a result, Tenrikyô, Konkôkyô and Kurozumikyô were referred to as denominations belonging to sectarian Shinto, while Ômoto or Seichô no Ie[Glossary: seicho_no_ie] was normally considered a quasi-religious movement.

The terms shinkô shûkyô or "newly arising religion" and shin shûkyô or "new religion" began to be used by journalists and scholars sometime after the end of the war. While the word shinkô-shûkyô was generally used in the beginning, shin shûkyô became the preferred term from the 1960s, especially among scholars, and that trend has continued to the present.

Until the 1960s there existed only a small number of scholars who could be called students of the new religions. The best known of those included Murakami Shigeyoshi6 and Takagi Hiroo.7 The scholars of this period studied a relatively small number of groups, most of which were large in scale, such as Sôka Gakkai, Risshô Kôseikai, Reiyûkai, Ômoto, Perfect Liberty (PL Kyôdan), Tenrikyô, together with some others which were considered of particular interest due to their association with social incidents or trouble.

Interest in the new religions as a subject of academic research grew rapidly in the 1970s, particularly among younger scholars. From the time of its organization in 1975 until its disbanding in 1990, the Association for the Study of Religion and Society8 played an important role in promoting the study of new religions. With a membership composed of numerous active students of the new religions, the Association provided its members with an opportunity to participate in surveys and mutual discussions that contributed greatly to advances in the study of new religious movements in Japan. Indeed, the aforementioned "Dictionary of New Religions" can be considered the fruit of the Association's combined research, since all of the editors of the dictionary, together with most of the authors of individual entries, were members of the Association.

At the early stages of research on the new religions, clear trends could be observed in the methods employed as well as in the specific organizations selected as subjects for research. Generally speaking, the majority of studies dealt more with the histories of group founders and the historical development of the organizations than with other themes. The generalized trend toward treatments of group founders was a natural tendency, given the fact that the existence of a specific founder is one of the hallmarks of the new religions. And since a study of a group founder is closely related to the development of the movement as a whole, scholars collected numerous documents as a means of investigating the overall process of development followed within each movement.

As the number of researchers increased, however, the methods employed also became more diverse. Sociological, psychological, and ethnological perspectives were introduced, resulting in a diversification of interests in the analysis of subjects. An increasing number of comparative studies involving multiple organizations were seen, together with case studies of local organizational development.

The most influential perspectives adopted within these studies were taken from sociology, a fact which reflected strong interest in the development of social movements and typologies of organizational structures. The most frequently discussed issues in such studies included how to distinguish the characteristics of new religious organizations or movements from those of established religions, and how to typify the principles involved in the groups' process of development. A recent example of the latter kind of research is the study by Morioka Kiyomi,9 who discusses the birth, and maturation of Risshô Kôseikai from the perspective of the "life-cycle of a religious organization." Many similar articles have been published regarding the local development of various movements, or the way in which new religious groups have settled in different local areas.

While most researchers have been drawn to their study of the new religions due to the "this-worldly benefits" proclaimed by the groups, the aspects of thought and doctrine have become an aspect of investigation in recent years, as the result of a full-scale development of studies of new religions. In this kind of study, students tend to portray the new religions as groups proclaiming original forms of thought and doctrine meant to apply to actual human lives. Concepts such as "vitalistic salvation"10 or "living deity" (ikigami)11 have thus found their way to the center of such researches.

The new religions have displayed varying degrees of interest in overseas proselytization activities, based on the achievement of certain levels of success within Japanese society at home since the 1960s.12 In turn, research on the overseas mission activities of such groups is gradually increasing. The surveys carried out by Yanagawa Keiichi and others of his group in Hawaii and California represented the first joint research on Japanese religions overseas, and they helped to promote further studies of that kind.13 Conducted in 1977, 1979, and 1981, the surveys were designed primarily to investigate the religious life of Japanese Americans living on U.S. West Coast.

The members of these research teams and other scholars with interests in the result of the research began to make further studies of actual conditions within overseas missions, especially in North and South America and other parts of Asia. Factors lying behind the active overseas missions undertaken by new religious groups include the existence of substantial numbers of Japanese emigrants and their descendants, together with other Japanese living temporarily overseas as the result of jobs or study. Some new religions, however, reach out to non-Japanese in their proselytization attempts, rather than to Japanese or people of Japanese origin.14 This is a noteworthy development, given the fact that the sects of established Japanese religions have generally taken little or no interest in missionary activities among non-Japanese people.

B. Themes for Study

As noted above, studies of Japanese new religions have increased in both quantity and diversity during recent years. More organizations have been researched and more sophisticated methods of analysis have been developed. As a result, the question "what is a new religion" has once again become a focus of debate. Accumulation of many case studies naturally requires the investigation of characteristics of new religions as a whole, or their significance in the historical development of modern Japanese religions. In the process of this kind of research, careful attention has been paid to establishing a typology of new religions in relation to their social background. It is assumed that the type of movement or organization will naturally be deeply influenced by the social situation in which it was formed.

The developmental history of the new religions covers more than one-hundred and fifty years. Given the drastic nature of social changes which have occurred during this period, it is natural to expect such factors would have an impact on the kinds of activities the new religions engage in, the contents of the teachings they promulgate, and the specific claims they make to the larger society. If, as I noted at the beginning of this essay, the researcher wishes to make a distinct contrast between the new religions and prior established religions or folk religions, he or she must consider to what degree the new religions, as a product of modern society, possess common distinctive characteristics vis a vis the established or folk religions with which they are contrasted. In other words, it is necessary to clarify the specific position of the new religions within Japanese religions as a whole, while simultaneously analyzing the distinctive aspects of each movement.

In addition to these basic issues, there is also the pressing need for more studies of detailed features of the new religions. One striking omission, for example, is the current lack of studies focusing on the ritual component of the new religions. While the ceremonies of some new religions initially appear to be entirely new, careful observation discloses that they in fact transmit numerous traditional elements. The combination of these traditional and innovative elements is actually the most typical pattern of ritual observance among the new religions. How the two are combined, however, must be considered independently in each case, and no general principle of combination has yet been established. Needless to say, this kind of study will require considerable knowledge of traditional religious rites as well as an ability to observe the modern side of ritual. In that sense, even rituals of faith healing should not be treated as activities belonging solely to the realm of "this-worldly benefit." They must be studied within a comparative framework that also takes into account traditional healing methods, or one which also considers their accommodation to recent medical knowledge and therapeutics.

One of the most striking features of Japan's new religions is the high number of women acting as founders and current leaders. Nakayama Miki[Glossary: nakayama_miki]15, Deguchi Nao[Glossary: deguchi_nao]16 and Kitamura Sayo[Glossary: kitamura_sayo]17 are occasionally referred to as "the trinity of foundresses" by students of the new religions. This not only because these women held important roles in Japan's modern religious history, but also because they displayed even greater dynamism than many of their male counterparts. To this list we could add numerous others, including Aida Hide18, Fukada Chiyoko19, Honjô Chiyoko20, Koyama Mihoko21, Miyamoto Mitsu22, Mizuno Fusa23, Ômori Chiben24, and Sugiyama Tatsuko25. These women are all deeply venerated by the members of their groups.

Following the initial establishment of a group, it is also not unusual for a woman to be appointed as successor to the original foundress. In the case of the religion of Ômoto, female descendants of the original foundress Deguchi Nao have continued to succeed to the status of leader, up to and including the present fourth-generation leader Deguchi Kiyoko. The leaders of Sekai Shindôkyô, a branch of Tenrikyô, have also all been women, and Kitamura Kiyokazu, granddaughter of Kitamura Sayo, was made second-generation leader of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô.

In some cases, women have succeeded to the position of leadership even in groups initially founded by men. Founder of Byakkô Shinkôkai, Goi Masahisa26 had no children of his own, but he selected his adopted daughter Saionji Masami as his successor. In the group Shinnyoen, the third and fourth daughters of the founding couple became joint successors to group leadership.

In addition to their frequent positions of leadership, women also often occupy roles as teachers or missionary staff in the new religions, at rates far higher than those seen in the traditional established religions, and it perhaps goes without saying that a majority of believers are female. In spite of these distinct characteristics, few researchers have attempted to analyze the factors lying behind this strong female orientation, and only meager explanations have been advanced for the high females membership rates attracted by the groups.27 A small number of women scholars have recently appeared, however, and attempted to discuss the social significance of female religious leaders.28

More work also needs to be done comparing Japanese new religious movements with their counterparts in other countries. Vittorio Lanternari and Bryan Wilson have attempted to characterize Japanese new religions using the framework of "oppression" and sectarian analysis.29 Although such comparisons are helpful, other approaches might be equally attractive, particularly when the focus of comparisons is placed on the Japanese new religions. New religious movements are common in Japan, the United States, and other Asian countries, and those in Japan are remarkable for their sheer variety and numbers. An evaluation of the Japanese new religions should make it clear that many cannot be characterized merely as Lanternari's "religions of the oppressed" or Wilson's "sects," particularly when the focus of the latter is on exclusivistic organizations, or movements challenging established church institutions. It might be more informative to view the appearance of new religious movements as a meaningful development within the modernization process, or from the perspective of the evolution of religious institutions. From that perspective, it would be possible to characterize the Japanese new religions as typical of other modern religious movements observed widely throughout the world.

3. Recent Trends in the New Religions

The concept of "new new-religion" has been used by some scholars and journalists for a number of years30 to indicate a new stage or phase of development among new religious movements, although opinions differ as to whether the concept is appropriate to characterize the most recent movements. And while the concept of "new new-religions" has not yet become universally accepted, one can easily suggest reasonable factors lying behind the emergence of the idea.

First of all, some new movements increased their memberships rapidly in the 1970s, and engage in activities and promote doctrinal contents that appear distinctive within the overall history of such groups. Generally characterized by an emphases on psychic phenomena and spiritualistic elements, groups often included within this category include Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyôdan31; Sûkyô Mahikari32; Suhikari Kôha Sekai Shindan33; Agonshû34; Shinnyoen35; Reiha no Hikari Kyôkai[Glossary: reiha_no_hikari_kyokai]36; and Ôyamanezu no Mikoto Shinji Kyôkai37. Most of these organizations are comprised of relatively young members and have increased their numbers over a short period, although some have apparently already passed their peak and are stagnant or experiencing declining memberships.

It is likely, however, that most Japanese scholars do not consider these groups to be qualitatively unique within the context of the new religions overall, since the same elements of magicality, spiritualism, and occultism were also characteristic of groups that appeared from around the end of the Meiji (1868-1912) through the Taisho (1912-1926) eras. As a result, while the term "new new-religion" has been made current through its use particularly by journalists,38 the dichotomy of "old new-religion" and "new new-religion" is inadequate to distinguish types of new religious movements on the basis of the social factors contributing to their appearance. On the contrary, more careful work needs to be done in examining the actual process leading to the development of the new religions.39

At the same time, Japan has in recent hears been subjected to an incredible rate of computerized information distribution and data automation, and some of the more recent new religions have demonstrated a deft use of the information media. Further, the reasons given by people for their joining the new religions has undergone some degree of change in recent years, and together, these factors may suggest that we pay more attention to the possibility of changes in the fundamental orientations and activities of the new religions.

This possibility is suggested as well by the fact that some older new religions have found themselves with gradually declining memberships due to an inability to adapt to new situations and methods. The impact of the information revolution on the new religions, together with the ongoing and inherent process of maturation experienced by the groups40 makes it easy to understand why the concept of "new new-religions" was suggested.

Typical examples of the utilization of new information media by new religions include the increasing introduction of audio-visual materials such as videotapes and "comic book" (manga) tracts, issued for the purposes of proselytization and teaching members. Some larger groups produce videotaped rituals or ceremonies, or furnish videotapes to members as a medium of doctrinal instruction and training in the proper performance of rituals. One group, the Agonshû has adopted satellite communications as a means of transmitting televised rituals simultaneously to groups in widely separated local areas.

Making comic book editions of the biographies of founders, or of their teachings is thought to correspond to an estrangement from the printed word - particularly difficult Sino-Japanese characters - thought to be growing in prevalence among those of the younger generation. The combination of the video medium and comic books has resulted in the making of animated videos. These trends are likely to become stronger in the future. This does not mean, however, an inevitable decline in the utilization of publications. Although the level of publications has traditionally been used as a measure of a group's missionary activities, the method may contribute to a mistaken impression of the scale of movements, since the presence of numerous publications on bookstore shelves may suggest a larger membership than is the actual case. Likewise, advertising a group's publications in newspapers or magazines tends to enhance the degree of name-recognition of an organization. A recent movement which has used this method effectively is Kôfuku no Kagaku (Science of Happiness)41.

One of the most impressive characteristics of our computerized "information age" is the increasing importance given to strategies of "corporate image building" within a wide variety of movements and organizations. And while the rituals of some of Japan's new religions have features making them appear to be events oriented toward mass entertainment, the kind of "televangelist" personality commonly seen in the United States has yet to appear in Japan. One reason for this lack is the strongly negative social reaction to the use of television as a medium for proselytization by the new religions. Since such negative reactions are less commonly directed toward the use of television by traditional Buddhist denominations or Christian churches, it may reflect a sort of prejudice directed against the new religions.

Likewise, it should also be noted that popular mass proselytization efforts have never been very effective in Japan. As a result, even when new technologies are introduced on the side of media "hardware," the lack of a tradition of mass proselytization means that few or no changes appear in media contents or the "software"-side of communication. As a result, modern technological media tend to be used for delivering messages to the already converted, or for approaching the acquaintances and relatives of believers.

Although some journalists claim that contemporary young people have a greater interest in the new religions than in earlier periods, that assessment may be the result of a mistaken analysis of the actual situation. While some young people indeed have shown a deep interest in the new religions and many younger public figures have been observed participating in such groups, the fact of popularity alone is not of particularly recent note. Many young people participated in Sôka Gakkai in the 1950s and 1960s, and the ratio of youth in Sôka Gakkai at that time was far higher than that in most recent new movements. On the whole, it would be more accurate to say that young people are more likely to be attracted to a movement at the early stage of the movement's development than when the movement has matured or begun to stagnate. Overall, there is no simply clear evidence to back up the claim that more young people are joining the new religions now than before.

On the other hand, it has also been reported anecdotally that many young people dislike or avoid contact with the new religions, and that they feel the new religions are "suspicious" or "hazardous."42 Interestingly enough, however, young people continue to show a deep interest in the occult and magical phenomena. And the proportion of young people who claim belief in life after death, or the spiritual world, is surely increasing. Many magazines and other periodicals have featured special numbers devoted to such topics in recent years.

The younger generations have shown a high level of interest in films43 which claim to portray the world after death, and performances of magic 44 which place emphasis on "mystical" or psychic phenomena. Although such interests are not necessarily or immediately related to an interest in the new religions, some of the new religious groups have been aggressive in introducing such elements into their activities. For example, Kuroda Minoru built his teaching with a stress on occult phenomena, and many young women of junior and senior high school age have come to him for solutions to personal problems. In response to such facts, many scholars have concluded that today's young people are less concerned with formal religion than with broadly "magical" phenomena.

Expressions like "third religious boom," or "fourth religious boom" have become popular since the late 1970s.45 Such expressions, however, are used primarily by journalists and the other in the mass media, and most scholars do not consider them to accurately reflect measurable phenomena. My personal assessment is that it is only partially accurate to claim that a new religious "boom" began around the mid-1970s, and that it was borne primarily by new types of religious movements. Certainly, new movements have gained large numbers of new members, and some of them have displayed new types of activities. Whether such movements should be considered to constitute a distinguishable "wave" or religious "boom" is questionable, however, and the superficial variety evidenced by their activities should not be overestimated. Further, the very concept of discussing changes within new religions in terms of exceptional or discontinuous religious "booms" is suspect. It might be more helpful to view the changes occurring among the new religions as a "metabolic" process of evolution will continue to operate into the future, even while producing occasional minor "waves."

The new religions are no longer the object solely of sensationalistic journalistic coverage, and in recent years have become an accepted topic of research among academic researchers as well. In fact, their study now forms one of the most stimulating and attractive areas of specialization within the overall discipline of religious studies, a popularity that is reflected in the large number of younger students of the new religions. And one reason for this growing popularity is the perception that the new religions are the most immediate reflections in the religious realm of the rapid changes that have occurred in modern Japan.

On the one hand, the new religions as a whole have no specific characteristics that discriminate them from Japanese religiosity in general. On the other hand, they emphasize some characteristics of Japanese religiosity in most remarkable ways. Elements such as polytheism, syncretism and this worldliness, for example, have all been called typical characteristics of traditional Japanese religiosity, but they are particularly prominent details of most new religions as well.

At the same time, the new religions are strongly oriented to current facets of social change. The directions taken by social change in recent years can be characterized by such key words as "information revolution," "visual presentation", and "globalization." Some of the new religions are now attempting to adapt these changes and new orientations to their own rituals, teachings and organizational issues. As a result, it may be possible to characterize the new religions as new religious organizations basically grounded in Japanese traditional religious concepts and practices, but which respond specifically to modern society through a constant search for new modes of existence as religious movements. This characterization finds the "newness" of the new religions more in areas of proselytization and organization than in doctrine and practice.

Questions dealing with which particular aspects of change the new religions have struggled with, or in what ways they have attempted to overcome particular problems are important pointers, not only to the future orientation of Japanese religions, but to the directions Japanese society and Japanese culture as a whole will follow. It is this intriguing aspect that explains why studies of new religions have become one of the most striking fields within Japanese religious studies today.


1. A key element in this position is the fact that Kino, foundress of Nyorai-kyô, experienced religious conversion in 1802.

2. Inoue Nobutaka, Kômoto Mitsugi, Tsushima Michihito, Nakamaki Hirochika, and Nishiyama Shigeru, eds., Shinshûkyô jiten (Tokyo: Kôbundo, 1990). This work is the first full-scale dictionary dedicated to the Japanese new religions. The first half is general introduction to studies of the new religions. Each chapter approaches its issues from a plurality of analytical perspectives: what are the main positions regarding the concept of "new religion"; what common processes of development have the new religions undergone from their earliest stages to the present? what typology or characteristics can be suggested for the groups with regard to organization? what patterns of mutual influence can be seen among the groups? what are the characteristics of their teachings and activities? how are the groups evaluated within Japanese society? and what is the contemporary situation with regard to overseas missions?

Old and new theoretical treatments are introduced for each issue, and numerous examples are presented in order to provide comprehensive explanations of the phenomena. The latter half of the work is devoted to collections of data regarding new religious movements. More than three hundred organizations and four hundred persons (group founders and successors), are introduced, together with a bibliography of relevant publications both by scholars and by the respective religious organization. A chronological table of the new religions and Japanese laws relating to religion are also included.

3. Ogamiya is a general term used to refer to persons engaged in religious or magical activities such as faith healing and various forms of divination. They usually have no or few regular believers, but form contingent patron-client relations with individuals.

4. Sectarian Shinto[Glossary: kyoha_shinto] is a category of Shinto produced by the Meiji government. Religious organizations were divided broadly into two streams, in accordance with their basic relationship to Buddhism or Shinto. In 1908, Tenrikyô received official recognition as the thirteenth and last sect of sectarian Shinto. Most new religious movements were authorized as sub-sects or branch churches of the thirteen officially approved sects of sectarian Shinto. Studies of sectarian Shinto in the pre-war period are typified by the followings: Tsurufuji Ikuta, Kyôha Shintô no kenkyû [Studies on sectarian Shinto], (Daikôsha, 1939); Nakayama Yoshikazu, Kyôha Shintô no hassei katei [The formation of sectarian Shinto], (Moriyama Shoten, 1932); and Tanaka Yoshitô, Shintô jûsanpa[Glossary: shinto_jusampa] no kenkyû [Studies on the thirteen sects of Shinto] (Daiichi Shobô, 1987 [reprint]).

Postwar studies of the new religions have largely supplanted the place formerly held by works on sectarian Shinto. I have recently attempted, however, to build new concepts regarding sectarian Shinto in my Kyôha Shintô no keisei [The formation of sectarian Shinto] (Tokyo: Kôbundô, 1991). There, I define sectarian Shinto as a new religious system established around the end of the Tokugawa era and the beginning of the Meiji era.

5. The concept of quasi-religious movements (ruiji shûkyô) was applied to those religions that were not officially sanctioned during the period from 1919 to the end of World War II.

6. Murakami (1928-1991) was a postwar pioneer in studies of the new religions. His numerous publications include the representative Kindai minshû shûkyôshi no kenkyû (Studies in the history of early modern popular religions), (Hôzôkan, 1958). There, Murakami defines Konkôkyô, Tenrikyô, and Kurozumikyô as "popular religions," and attempts to locate them within the overall history of modern Japanese religions. His direction of analysis is mainly historical approach, but incorporates sociological themes.

7. Another pioneer in the study of the new religions, Takagi Hiroo published Nihon no shinkô shûkyô [Japanese Newly Arisen Religions], (Iwanami Shoten, 1959), an unusual study comparing the organization and activity of religious groups to those of leftist movements.

8. Shûkyô Shakaigaku Kenkyûkai, more commonly abbreviated simply as "Shûshaken". At its height, this organization had a core of some 150 members, including several non-Japanese members, most of whom were in their twenties to forties. In addition to its monthly meetings, the group sponsored summer seminars; the fact that its organization was unrelated to school affiliation allowed a wide range of sharp debate among its members, something rare in the Japanese humanities.

While individual members were specialists in different disciplines including the sociology of religion, social psychology, ethnology, history, and cultural anthropology, the core members, in particular, showed strong interests in new religions, and discussions of the new religions formed frequent topics. The following four books were published jointly by the Association: Gendai shûkyô e no shikaku [Perspectives on modern religions], (Yûzankaku, 1978), Shûkyô no imi sekai [The world of meaning in religion], (Yûzankaku, 1980); Shûkyô: sono nichijôsei to hinichjôsei [Religion: its ordinary and extraordinary aspects], (Yûzankaku, 1982), Kyôso to sono shûhen [Religious founders and their context], (Yûzankaku, 1987).

The Association formed two groups to present papers at the CISR Tokyo Meeting 1978. Those papers were then collected in the proceedings: Michihito Tsushima, et al., (Association for the Study of Religion and Society, Study Group A), "The Vitalistic Conception of Salvation in Japanese New Religions: An Aspect of Modern Religious Consciousness"; and Nobutaka Inoue et. al, (ASRS, Study Group B), "Festival with Anonymous Kami: The Kobe Matsuri," (both articles were reprinted in Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 6:1-2 [March-June, 1979]).

9. See K. Morioka, Shinshûkyô undô no tenkai katei [The process of development of new religious movements] (Tokyo: Sôbunsha, 1989).

10. See Tsushima et al., "The Vitalistic Conception of Salvation in Japanese New Religions: An Aspect of Modern Religous Consciousness," Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 6:1-2 (March-June, 1979), 139-161.

11. See the excellent study by Kozawa Hiroshi, Ikigami no shisôshi [The intellectual history of living deities] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1988). Kozawa's study focuses primarily on Konkôkyô.

12. Although Tenrikyô, Konkôkyô, and a few other sects engaged in overseas activities during the pre-war period, those activities differed from the mission efforts of groups in the postwar period. Missionary activities in the pre-war period were motivated by the need to respond to the large number of Japanese emmigrants to North America and Hawaii, and the pre-war activities in Japan's colonies in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria were directed toward Japanese and other Asians. In contrast, post-war efforts have tended to aim more for the conversion of non-Japanese as well.

13. The studies were carried out by thirteen members, represented by Yanagawa Keiichi and Morioka Kiyomi. The research results were published as three reports, two in Japanese and one in English. See Yanagawa Keiichi and Morioka Kiyomi, eds., Hawai Nikkei shûkyô no tenkai to genkyô [The development and present situation of Japanese religions in Hawaii]; ibid., Hawai Nikkeijin shakai to Nihon shûkyô [Japanese-American society and Japanese religion in Hawaii], (Department of Religion, University of Tokyo, 1981); Yanagawa Keiichi, ed., Japanese Religions in California, (Department of Religion, University of Tokyo, 1983).

In addition, Inoue Nobutaka and Nakamaki Hirochika, who participated in the research program, described the overseas activities of new religions in the following works: Inoue Nobutaka, Umi wo watatta Nihon shûkyô [Japanese religions across the sea] (Kôbundô, 1985); Nakamaki Hirochika, Shinsekai no Nihon shûkyô [Japanese Religions in the new world] (Heibonsha, 1986). The concept of "multinational religions" was introduced in these works.

14. Sôka Gakkai is believed to have succeeded in attracting the largest number of non-Japanese members. They are followed by Sûkyô Mahikari, Perfect Liberty, Sekai Kyûseikyô, Tenrikyô, and Seichô no Ie, all of which have been somewhat successful at drawing non-Japanese. Shinnyoen and Reiyûkai have established some congregations in other Asian nations and in North America. Regarding Californian members of Sôka Gakkai, see my article, "NSA and Non-Japanese Members in California," in Yanagawa Keiichi, ed., Japanese Religions in California, (Department of Religion, University of Tokyo, 1983).

15. Foundress of Tenrikyô, Nakayama Miki (1798-1887) is often said to have been one of the most typical of new religious foundresses.

16. Deguchi Nao (1836-1918) founded Ômoto, whose headquarters are located in Kyoto prefecture.

17. Kitamura Sayo (1900-67) is the foundress of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô, whose headquarters are located in Yamaguchi Prefecture. This group is known popularly as the "dancing religion," and Sayo was called the "dancing goddess" because of her and members' performances of the "dance of no-self" (muga no mai), a dance said to be controled by the divine will.

18. Aida Hide (1898-1973) is the founder of Sekai Shindôkyô. After joining Tenrikyô as a young woman, Aida heard the voice of god in 1938 and began personal missionary activities soon thereafter. Her original church was established in Tokyo in 1944, but current headquarters are located in Toyokawa City, Aichi Prefecture.

19. Fukada Chiyoko (1887-1925) is the foundress of Ennôkyô, with headquarters in Hyôgo Prefecture.

20. Honjô Chiyoko (1902-57) founded Shinri Jikkô no Oshie, whose headquarters is located in Kanazawa city, Ishikawa.

21. Koyama Mihoko is the foundress of Shinji Shûmeikai[Glossary: shinji_shumeikai], which split from the Sekai Kyûseikyô established by Okada Mokichi[Glossary: okada_mokichi] (1882-1955). The headquarters are located in Shiga Prefecture.

22. As the result of personal friction with the foundress Kotani Kimi[Glossary: kotani_kimi], Miyamoto Mitsu (1900-84) left Reiyûkai in 1950 and founded Myôchikai, whose headquarters are in Tokyo.

23. Mizuno Fusa (1883-1970) is foundress of Kannagarakyô, whose headquarters are located in Nagoya city. Mizuno was formely a member of Konkôkyô, but she had private religious experiences in 1911 that led her to began her own movement.

24. Ômori Chiben (1909-67) founded Bentenshû, which has headquarters in Suita City, Osaka, and has deep connections with the Shingon sect of Buddhism.

25. Sugiyama Tatsuko (1868-1932) is founder of Daijôkyô, whose headquarters are located in Nagoya City.

26. Goi Masahisa (1916-80) was originally a teacher in the group Seichô no Ie. He started a world peace movement by erecting "peace poles" in numerous places within Japan and around the world. After his death, the group has been active in the performance of global peace ceremonies. Their pivotal message is distilled in the slogan "May peace prevail on earth."

27. The most popular explanation for the high proportion of female members of new religions is the discrimination suffered by women in Japanese society, leading them to resolve personal problems through religious movements. The presence of a powerful tradition of female-centered worship in Japanese religious history is often pointed to as an element lying behind the large number of female founders or current group leaders of new movements.

28. See for example, Igeta Midori, "Sei no ikai - Fueminizumu-teki shikaku kara no shûkyô kenkyû no tame no jo" [The ranking of gender - introduction to a feminist religious studies], Shûkyô kenkyû 280 (1989); Usui Atsuko, "Josei kyôso no tanjô," [The birth of a female religious founder], Shûkyô kenkyû 274 (1987).

29. Vittorio Lanternari, The Religions of the Oppressed: A Study of Modern Messianic Cults (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1963); Bryan Wilson, Religious Sects (New York and Torronto: McGraw-Hill, World University Library, 1970).

30. The perception that a "new type" of new religion (and thus "new new-religion") had appeared was common to some students of the new religions in the 1970s. The journal Kokusai shûkyô nyûzu published a special issue on the "new new-religions" in 1978.

Nishiyama Shigeru, however, was most responsible for defining the concept of the "new new-religions" in greatest detail (see his "Shinshûkyô no genkyô" [The current situation in the "new religions"], in Rekishi kôron 5:7, 1979). Nishiyama divided the new new-religions into two categories: (A) sectarian movements advocating echatological fundamentalism; and (B) cultic movements with a strong magical orientation and advocating a mystical approach to religious experience. Examples of the former category include Myôshinkô, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Unification Church, while the latter category would include the God Light Association, Shinreikyô, and Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyôdan. Nishiyama claims that these movements became particularly visible or increased their memberships during the 1970s.

31. Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyôdan was established by Okada Kôtama (1901-74), based on teachings and activities strongly influenced by Sekai Kyûseikyô. Following Okada's death, conflict occurred regarding succession to leadership and Sekiguchi Sakae (1909-) was finally chosen as successor. The group has established an immense building called the Suza in the center of Japan's Izu peninsula.

32. Sukyô Mahikari was established by Okada Seiju (1929-), said to be the daughter-in-law of Okada Kôtama. After losing her battle to succeed Kôtama as leader of Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyôdan, Seiju established a new organization in 1978. Like Kôtama's group, Sukyô Mahikari has also established a large temple called the "Suza" in Takayama City (Gifu Prefecture). But Sukyô Mahikari's membership is said to be far larger than that of Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyôdan.

33. With headquarters in Hachiôji City, Tokyo, Suhikari Kôha Sekai Shindan was established in 1980 by Kuroda Minoru (1928-), who in turn was strongly influenced by the founder of Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyôdan, Kôtama Okada. Kuroda is a cartoon artist long known for his themes of ghost stories or the curses of spirits. His cartoons are popular especially among junior and senior high school girls. Since initiating his religious activities, Kuroda has used his cartoon drawings as a medium of missionary activities, and he is also engaged in counseling for young people.

34. Agonshû was established in 1954 by Kiriyama Seiyû (1921-). He began his unique religious activities after studying esoteric Buddhism of the Shingon sect. Although the group's headquarters is located in Tokyo, its most sacred ground is in Kyoto where the Hoshi Matsuri (Festival of Stars) is held each February. The event is famous for its Great Homa or fire ritual.

35. Shinnyoen was established in Tokyo by Itô Shinjô (1906-89) and his wife Itô Tomoji (1912-67). Shinjô began religious activities in 1936, and the movement gradually gained strength following World War II. Its membership increased rapidly in the 1970s, and became particularly well known due to the large number of artists and television personalities who have become members.

36. Reiha no Hikari Kyôkai was established in 1956 by Hase Yoshio[Glossary: hase_yoshio] (1919-84) in Noda city, Chiba Prefecture. The headquarters include a famous building called the Tenshikaku, or Tower of Angels. Following Hase's death in 1984, his first son Keishi took over leadership of the group.

37. Ôyama Nezuno Mikoto Shinji Kyôkai was established by Inai Sadao (1906-88)) in 1953. Inai is called Tomomarusai by the group's members. After Inai died in 1988, he was succeeded by a follower Mori Hideko (1946-, known as Tomomaruhime within the group).

38. In addition to scholarly studies, it is important to note that many studies of new religions in Japan have also been made by journalists, and the quality of those studies varies widely. Some are equal in quality to those by professional academics, others are moderately useful, while some are quite unreliable due to their misuse of facts or extremely prejudicial evaluations (either positive or negative).

Some newspapers have begun carrying serial articles on various new religions backed up by long periods of research on their activities. Among this type of series, those in the Mainichi shinbun are among the earliest and best known. Their series was later published in book form as Shûkyô wo gendai ni tou [Questioning religion in contemporary society] vol. 1-5 (Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbunsha 1976-7). The series presented research and discussions of the activities of Reiyûkai, while demonstrating broad interests in the contemporary religious situation.

This kind of presentation may represent a new trend, since earlier newspaper treatments of new religions tended to take the form of extremely critical campaigns. In that sense, the stance taken by the Mainichi shinbun is noteworthy for its evenhanded treatment.

In a similar way, the society section of the Asahi shinbun reported serially on smaller religious groups and their leaders, raising the question of why these smaller groups attract members, especially among young people; that series was published in 1984 as Gendai no chiisana kamigami [Minor deities of the modern period]).

The Kanagawa shinbun has reported on Ôyamanezu no Mikoto Shinji Kyôkai, discussing activities of the group from various perspectives. The series was likewise later published as Kami wa orita [The deity has come down] in 1986. The treatment in the Kanagawa shinbun was remarkable for its use of discussions by professional students of religion, thus pointing to a more sophisticated treatment of the new religions by newspapers.

39. Nishiyama Shigeru has recently indicated some hesitation at using the concept of "new new-religion," preferring instead the appellation "new spiritualistic religions." Nishiyama also recognizes that these kinds of groups appeared as well before World War II.

40. In generally speaking, new religions reach their greatest strength during the lives and shortly after the deaths of their founders. In that sense, the organizational development of movements is influenced not only by external social factors, but also in proportion to the distance from the "age of the founders."

41. Kôfuku no Kagaku was established by Ôkawa Ryûhô (1956-), who graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Tokyo and was once an executive in the company Tômen. One of the prerequisites to membership is to have read and understood at least ten books written by Ôkawa.

42. I make it a practice to conduct surveys of all my entering university students as a means of gauging their consciousness of religion. The results of those surveys show that a majority hold negative impressions of the new religions.

43. The most famous film of this genre is Daireikai or "The Great Spirit World," produced by Tanba Tetsurô, formerly known as a famous film star and more recently as a television personality.

44. A new category of "super-magic" has recently been suggested by some commentators. This category designates magic acts performed within a heavily mystical atmosphere, aimed at convincing spectators that mystical and occult phenomena really exist. The best-known of these magicians is the performer known as Mr. Marikku, who has gained sudden notoriety during the past year. The issue of whether Mr. Marikku is really capable of performing psychokinesis, psychometry, telepathy, and other "psychical" feats, appears to currently be a popular topic of conversation among young people.

45. The theory of "three religious booms" is based on the claim that three great periods of religious popularity or "booms" have been observed in modern Japan: around the end of the Tokugawa era; following World War II; and from the 1970s. The theory of "four religious booms" includes also a boom period between the first and the second booms, lasting from the end of the Meiji into the Taisho eras.

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$Date: 1999/03/09 02:00:51 $
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