chapter  5
12 Pages

Religion in contemporary Japanese lives

ByMark R. Mullins

Considerable misunderstanding and confusion surround the topic of religion in contemporary Japan. This is due in part to the sensational treatment of controversial religious movements by the Japanese mass media in recent years. Media preoccupation with problematic religious groups – often referred to as “cults” – has been evident throughout the postwar period, but particularly prominent since 1995, when some leaders of Aum Shinrikyo¯ ordered the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. Newspapers, weekly magazines, and television news programs regularly report that certain groups allegedly engage in high-pressure recruitment tactics, fraudulent fund-raising schemes, and political activities, which some observers argue represent a violation of the constitutional separation of religion and state. While problematic groups represent only a small percentage of organized religions, the negative associations generated by these groups have contributed to the formation of a “dark cloud” over religion as a whole.