This is the second volume in a continuing series designed to introduce recent studies on Japanese religion to the international English-speaking audience. Following upon the theme of "matsuri" selected for the first volume (Matsuri: Festival and Rite in Japanese Life; Contemporary Papers on Japanese Religion 1, 1988), we have selected Japan's "new religions" as the theme for our second volume.
The academic interest in the new religions has risen dramatically in recent years, providing us with numerous excellent pieces of research and making the process of selection increasingly difficult. Our rationale for selecting the five papers examined here include the relatively new perspectives presented in the papers, and the fact that the religious organizations involved have themselves rarely been described in English sources.
The five papers here are arranged in the general historical order of their subject matter. The first paper by Takeda Dôshô examines the religion of Renmonkyô, which was founded by Shimamura Mitsu and rapidly established a large following in the first half of the Meiji era (1868-1912), particularly in the greater Tokyo area. Although the activities of this group attracted considerable popular attention, the response of the society at large grew increasingly cool. This negative evaluation was a result largely of the group's use of faith-healing practices, which conflicted with the explicit policy of "enlightenment" promoted by the Meiji government. The group was subject to intense campaigns of vilification, particularly through the media of popular newspapers, resulting in the rapid decline of the group's membership after the Meiji period. The group is now extinct. Takeda's paper attempts to analyze the reaons for Renmonkyô's rapid growth in the early Meiji period, focusing particularly on its relation to the intermittent outbreaks of cholera and other epidemic diseases.
Tsushima Michihito's paper discusses the movement known as Shinsei Ryûjinkai and its leader Yano Yûtarô. Noting that the millenarian anticipation of a "rebuilding and renewal" (tatekae-tatenaoshi) reached its peak in the period extending from the Taishô to early Shôwa eras, Tsushima considers the Shinsei Ryûjinkai as one example of a larger number of closely similar movements. The government suppression of the group was inevitable, given the group's simultaneous criticism of the existing imperial institution and advocacy of an idealized form of emperorship. The paper is thus particularly significant for its contribution to the discussion of conflicts between the new religions and Japan's emperor system.
Kômoto Mitsugi's examination of groups originating in Reiyûkai is focused on the way the groups conceive of and treat their central memorial rites dedicated to ancestors. He draws attention to the characteristics of their ancestor concepts, particularly to the idea of the sôkaimyô or the posthumous Buddhist title that is assigned jointly to all ancestral members of a family.
The transmission of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô to Hawaii is the theme of the paper by Nishiyama Shigeru and Fujii Takeshi. This group became widely known as the "dancing religion" following the end of World War II, and its foundress Kitamura Sayo was called the "dancing goddess." Although many scholars have referred to the unique nature of this movement and its foundress, few have made actual studies of the group's regional development. This paper, however, is based on local surveys conducted among congregations of Jingûkyô on Hawaii Island, and examines how Kitamura's teachings were accepted or rejected within the Japanese-American community in Hawaii. The study is thus significant particularly given the fact that many of Kitamura's teachings have been considered unacceptable by ordinary Japanese.
The final paper, by Watanabe Masako and Igeta Midori examines cases of faith-healing using holy water, based on the results of their survey of various new religious groups. Healing by the use of water is widely known in Japanese folk belief as well, but the importance of this article lies in the authors' analysis of the logic and concrete processes at work in the use of healing waters by the new religions.
In addition to the five translated articles, I have added an original article as the opening chapter, in order to introduce recent tendencies in the new religions, and recent Japanse research. As both the new religions and studies of them have shown a new level of development in the past two decades, it is my hope that this general survey will provide a bit better understanding of the groups described in this book.
In response to requests from readers, we have included a number of photographs to this volume. We continue to invite readers' opinions as we attempt to improve the contents and style of this series. We are currently planning to use the topic of folk beliefs as the theme for our third volume, and invite readers' suggestions.
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Copyright © 1991, 1997 Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University. All rights reserved.