chapter  7
19 Pages

Religious influences

In this chapter and the next we temporarily leave the world of Japanese institutions which may readily be compared with their counterparts elsewhere, and plunge into a very different cosmological system. At this stage the reader with some anthropological background will have a definite advantage, for religion in Japan may much more easily be compared with any number of indigenous religions around the world than with the great traditions which are discussed in ‘religious studies’ or ‘comparative religion’. What should be included under the term ‘religion’ in Japan remains open to discussion. It has been described as ‘a ritual system which pervades all institutions’ (Fitzgerald 1993), and elements of ritual that could be described as religious may be found in sports and arts of various sorts that will be considered in Chapter 10. One of the problems is that Japan has been influenced by a great number of religious traditions (see Swanson and Chilson 2006 for a good coverage). Another is that religion pervades many spheres that others might call secular and it cannot easily be separated from them. It is thus sometimes diffi cult to draw a line between the ‘religious’ and the ‘secular’, a problem not infrequently encountered by anthropologists and reflected in their writings. Also, the English language tends to distinguish between magic, science and religion in a way that reflects a European philosophical heritage, being based largely on developments arising out of the work of Newton and Descartes. It is, however, impossible to make such clear distinctions in other cultural contexts, as some Western scientists have realised (e.g. Capra 1983, Peat 2012), and in Japanese government statistics ‘religion’ comes under an overall heading of Education and Culture.