Religion in Modern Asia Newsletter

Mass Wedding and "Cult" Criticism


News that two well-known Japanese personalities (see preceding article) will participate in a "mass wedding" held by the Unification Church in Seoul during the week of August 23 has led to a rising level of critical and sensationalistic media coverage devoted to new religions in Japan.

Under the title "Largest U.S. Cult Religion Encroaches on Japan," the Sunday Mainichi featured a recent article regarding the Japan branch of the Church of Scientology, warning of false advertising by the group and reiterating claims that the group's teaching represents a form of "brainwashing." The Church of Scientology first established a formal Japan branch organization in 1989, and currently claims it has some 9000-10000 followers (called "students") in Japan.

The weekly magazine Shukan bunshun has continued its leading media role in the recent coverage of cults, presenting an interview with an "expert" in mind control in its August 27 issue, and going so far as to use the Japanese term jakyo (evil religion) as an equivalent for the English "cult." The same article claims that the "techniques used by the Unification Church are the same as the 'brainwashing' used by the Chinese in the 1950s," and suggests the possibility that Japanese parents sending their children abroad for summer vacation might be exposing them to mind control through potential contacts with members of the Unification Church or other cults.

Overall, the media coverage focusing on "warnings" regarding cult religious groups often reinforces Japanese beliefs that they are a uniquely "gullible" race and made easy dupes for Westerners, and it also appears to reflect a common consensus that no religious belief should be so strongly held that it conflicts with the everyday "common sense" and family mores of the society. An interesting new angle on the "danger" of such groups has been occasioned by the rising level of Japanese foreign travel in recent years, reflected in fears that children on vacation might be kidnapped and "brainwashed" by a cult.

-- Aug 1, 1992, Norman HAVENS

Last updated: 2001/11/28 14:33:45

Copyright © 2001 Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University. All Rights Reserved.