Religion in Modern Asia Newsletter

Self-Enlightenment Seminars


Increasing numbers of young people in Japan are flocking to join so-called "self-enlightenment seminars." No one knows just how many such seminars exist, and it is difficult to make a general estimation of the social characteristics of the people who tend to be attracted. The young male and female participants in the seminars engage in group counselling sessions, usually held for a period of two or three days, occasionally extending to as long as one week. In these counselling sessions participants are "emancipated from the former old self," and they "find a new and true self." As part of the practice, members are instructed to strike up conversations with strangers, without feeling any reserve. In the counselling sessions, difficult questions are presented to the members, who then struggle to respond. Fees for participation in the elementary level of such sessions can run as high as fifty or one-hundred thousand yen (about U.S. $500-$1000). Fees for advanced courses are said to be several hundreds of thousands of yen.

Reasons for the recent popularity of such "self-enlightenment seminars" are various. They can likely be understood in the same way as the "human-potential" movements popular in the U.S. since the 1960s, and it may be that young generations, socialized into highly competitive modern societies, tend to search for a more powerful self. At the same time, more sophisticated theories will no doubt be required to gauge the directions of such popularity. Some sociologists of religion have already begun to do research on the topic of these groups, and I would like to know whether similar phenomena can be found in other Asian countries. If anyone has information about such movements, please let me know.

-- Oct 1, 1993, Nobutaka INOUE

Last updated: 2001/11/28 14:33:43

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