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Critical Bibliography (Articles)


1          Kasulis , P . Thomas,  “Sushi , science and Spirituality: Modern Japanese Philosophy and its Views of Western Science” Philosophy East And West, April  1995, Vol. 45   p227-248 

            The thesis of this book is that traditional Japanese religion and values remained

untouched by science and technology. The new ideas of science and technology were

taken as foreign  imports that helped economical, political and military needs. As society

developed its own way, Japanese religion developed its own way as well.

            Kasulis discusses how religion and technology developed separately and how they

 were  accepted in the society .To support his idea, he explains that because new science

and technology were deemed to be imported goods having nothing to do with religious

 beliefs. He also explains that the introduction of foreign religion such as Christianity and

 Neo-Confucianism influenced the development of Japanese religious beliefs.

I think this book will be a one of the main books for my paper because it is published relatively new compared to other articles and books.  Also, the author discusses various philosophers including religious leaders from the 11th to the 20th century. He demonstrates how new science, and the understanding of religion could develop separately and coexisted. Finally, most of time I agree with the author’s general theology in terms of Japanese culture and philosophy. The author has the ability to portray Japanese culture accurately despite the fact that he is not Japanese.


 2            Takayama ,  Peter K ,  “Rationalization of states and society: A weberian view of early Japan” Sociology Of Religion , April  1998, Vol.59   p65-88

 The thesis of this article is that different religious beliefs, values and systems were brought to Japan because Japanese people wanted to use them to organize their own society. Japanese people mixed original cultural values and beliefs with the good values and systems from other new religion. This process made the Japanese religion a syncretism religion. Japanese people did not take new religions as they were, but adapted to them their own cultural context to become Japanese religion, as we know it now.

     Takayama compares religious movements in China and Japan. While China was fighting to get authority over other the other group of Chinese, Japan took the good values of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism and applied them to the Japanese traditional religious beliefs. He focuses on the 6th to the 8th centuries in Japan because it was at this time that the new social system spread among people. Using examples, Takayama explains how Japan became a mixed country successfully. 

            Takayama seems to be familiar with the Japanese language, history and culture.  The book helped me to understand how and why the Japanese religion evolved. I though his point about the Japanese incorporating many different beliefs into their own system, was good. Japanese people wanted to use the good values from different religious groups organize a good society. This may be the reason we still go to the temple for funerals and to the shrine for weddings.  This book has good references. 

 2          Davis , Winston , Japanese religion And Society . New York , 1992 .

  This book introduces the connection between Japanese society and religion. Davis believes a

 strong relationship between society and religion that has been built over a long time of period. 

Davis examines the Tokugawa period to the present. He took at the main social changes in different periods and shows reader how they are related to religious movements. It seems to me that he believes that huge social movements influenced Japanese people and their culture, including religion. For example, when Japan suffered a bad famine, people were encouraged to go to the temples. As a result, many temples were built during that period.

This book discusses the relationship between Japanese religion, values and culture. It includes society, economic development and social change. I agree that there are strong connection between Japanese religion and society. David’s approach seems to be missing historical fact. I believe that all historical events are connected, so it is very important to be able to understand Japanese history as well. This book has good notes and an index. I think I can use some of the chapters discussing religious practices in Japan.  

9          Newell William H , The Sociology Of Japanese Religion . Netherlands  ,1968 . 

This is a collection of articles written by Japanese authors and then edited and translated by Newell. These article’s thesis is that religious belief influences to society. They believe that how the organization of the household and the constructions of rituals are interconnected.

Newell explains the situation of religion in the urban city, the household. They discuss the relationship between changes in religious belief and society itself. We can see how much religion influences society, people and culture.

I wish this book was more recent.  In 1966, I do not believe the sociology of religion was a popular field of study, but this book did however, have good examples of how religion and society are intertwined. This book is good source of Japanese folk beliefs.  

7            Murakami Shigeyoshi , Japanese Religion In The Modern Century . Tokyo, 1983. 

Murakami believes that the roots of the modern religion started in the Tokugawa period (1600-1867). His thesis is that the Meiji restoration of 1868 hugely influenced Japanese religion, people, culture and society and is the beginning of what we call contemporary Japanese religion.

            Murakami’s arguments are very clear. As the feudal dictatorship changed to a symbolic emperor and a form of parliamentary government, the old traditional life styles, including religious rituals, changed. Belief systems did not changed but the people who believed in them changed, as society changed. After he discusses the history and religion dominating the different periods, he talks about modern religion in Japan, which he calls “ Freedom of religion”.

            This book is a translation of Nihon Hyakunen No Shuukyou that means, Japanese religion in 100 years and it is originally written for a Japanese audience. He starts from the Bakumatu period and continues to the 1980’s.This book is an excellent book. Murakami  knows how to approach the issue of how Japanese religion has been changed. 

12            Woodard , William P ,  The Alied Occupation Of Japan 1945-1952 And Japanese   Religion  . Netherlands ,1973 . 

            The thesis of this book is that Japanese religion, culture and society were 

effected by occupation from United States between 1945 to 1952. It is one of the 

fundamental historical events that changed Japan.

Woodard explains some of the major changes resulting from the occupation. The changes include  new government policy, law , and philosophy in Japan. Eventually these

changes altered religion and culture. Throughout his book, he explains how these changes occurred.

            Although this book has a different view of the interpretation and influences of the 

occupation than I do , it is good book in terms of the amount of information given .There 

are appendixes, which will be helpful for understanding changes within Shinto and it 

contains a good general index.

                                    Critical Bibliography (books)


1            Andreasen  Esben and Steransson Finn , Japanese Religions: Past And Present . England ,1993.

The thesis of this book is to introduce Japanese religion by explaining how it has

been formed over a long period. It is very important to be able to understand Japanese

society and Japanese cultural patterns before discussing Japanese religion.             

Andersen and Finn see Japanese religion from a cultural point of view. For example, they show how a number of folk religious beliefs become one , how people accept them and became a common belief in the society. The beliefs, which are accepted to the society, eventually become a part of culture. It seems complicated, but they illustrate the strong connection between culture and society. In addition, they compare the strength between past and present.     

This book beings with the introduction of Japanese culture, which I think is a

good  way to start , because it is be helpful for people who are unfamiliar with Japanese culture. It is be easier for us to learn religion in Japan with understanding of culture. Even though they are not Japanese, they seem to have good understanding of Japanese cultures. They explain how culture intertwines with religions in Japan. There is a good index, and reading list. 

 6           Kitagawa , Joseph M  ,  On Understanding Japanese Religion  . New Jersey ,


The thesis of this book is that it is important to understand Japanese religious history to have a full understanding of  Japanese religion. Kitagawa believes that it is vital to examine chronological historical events because history is connected like a long story.

Kitagawa often uses examples following historical events.  As he follows the history, he shows the relationship between historical events and social changes. For example, in the 5th century, Confucianism and Chinese writing were brought to Japan. Despite this, it was still difficult to master another language and to translate it into own Japanese. In addition, the society had just received a new leader. The leader of new government needed to reorganize the society. They send two famous Japanese people to China. They brought new Chinese government systems, art and goods. He also discusses the religious history and social changes of Japanese society.

I also believe that in order to understand religion in Japan, it is very important to 

understand religious history. Throughout history, we can see the changes in religion in Japan and understand what made it change, how it is changed and how it influenced society. 

11        Reader Ian ,  Religion In Contemporary Japan  . Honolulu , 1990 .   

The thesis of this book is that religions still play an important role in contemporary Japan. Reader believes there is a strong relationship between religious rituals and social systems. He also believes that the value of participating in religious ritual and the roles of religion in the social system has changed.

Reader begins by introducing religious rituals and explaining what they are. Then he discusses the religious rituals are integrated into social systems and how important it is for the society. For example, going to the temple and learning Buddhist teachings was encouraged. Those daily rituals made people believe that the monk should be well respected, due to the sacredness of their teachings. High monks were highly respected by society and as a result, some monks made a lot of money, had huge political power and were very influencential in government decision-making. These things, however seldom happen in contemporary Japan. Using examples, Reader shows us that contemporary Japan is very different from before.

             Spending several years in Japan, this author’s interest seems to be the religious rituals itself rather than the religion as a whole. This book will be especially useful when I compare Japanese religion in the past and Japanese religion now. My grandmother grew up in a very strict Shinto/Buddhism home, but my mother did not. In my generation, I do not know anyone my age can discuss their own religion. I think that Japanese people are becoming less religious. 

4          Earhart , Byron  H ,  Religion Of   Japan  . San Francisco, 1984 .   

            The thesis of this book is that Japanese religion, people and society are all

 connected  therefore, we cannot understand any of them separately. In order to

understand Japanese religion, it is also important to understand that we have to view in

relation to Japanese people and society.

            Earhart focuses on the social movements relating to religion and the people.

Because these three elements are connected, if one of them is influenced by an event, all

will be influenced. Earhart uses examples to demonstrate how they are related to each

other and influenced by each other. For example, he explains that in the 7th century,

 people were more influenced by  Buddhism than Taoism or Confucianism. The reason

being that people who went to China came back with Buddhism teaching and started to

build many temples. As Buddhism spread, people started to follow Buddhism teachings,

values and rituals that means that society changed or at least influenced.

            Although this book is relatively old, it contains a good variety of information

about Japanese religion. Earhart covers the historical development of Japanese religion

over time as well as , style and the meaning of worshiping  Kami, Buddhas and

 Ancestors. I found that he explains Japanese religion, its main characteristics and how

those are developed ,  really well.

3          Earhart , Byron  H , Japanese Religion: Unity and Diversity  . Belmont , 1982.          

            This book explains how Japanese religion is constructed with many different

beliefs from Japan and foreign countries. Therefore, it is not proper to present Japanese

 religion as one belief from one group of people.

            Earhart shows us that Japanese religion is mixed and diverse. He discusses how

this process occurred. For example, integration of Taoism, Confucianism and Shinto.

Soon after, Buddhism was brought in and influenced the original Japanese religion.

I like the way he organizes this book because it is easy to follow and his discussion follows historical events in order. In this book, as the title states, he seems to be interested in how Japanese religion is united and diverse. My only concern is that it is too old to use the information about contemporary Japan. Some of book will be very helpful. It contains a good list of selected readings, notes and an index. 

10            Norbeck , Edward  ,  Religion And Society in Modern Japan: Continuity And Change  . Huston , 1970 .   

     This book is written from the cultural Anthropology point of view. Norbek’s

thesis is that some of the cultural changes in Japan  influenced the religious movements.

Some traditional religious rituals and practices remained the same, but some of them

changed as the culture-society changed in modern Japan.

            Norbek discusses the importance of cultural aspects on religion throughout the

book. Culture causes the new religious movements and he explains them with examples.

One of them is an example from 1868.  It is the time the Japanese finally opened the port

to foreign countries and started to  trade again. Japan had been for isolated about 200

 years before 1866 .  As Japan opened up to other countries, new culture came in

 including food, clothing , new beliefs and philosophies. Those cultural changes

influenced to Japanese people and their religion including beliefs and values.

 Unlike other books, this book does not contain many historical data. It is more

focused on people and their behaviors. I agree with Norbeck’s the point that people

create culture. Therefore, by looking at a culture, we can learn why and how Japanese

 religion was constructed . In a sense, this author has a different view from other authors

because he does not look at Japanese history as much.

5            Kiwagawa ,  Joseph  M  ,  Religion In Japanese History . New York , 1966 . 

Kitagawa believes that it is important to follow the history in order to understand how Japanese religion was formed. It is also important to understand religious history. With an understanding of the Japanese history, we can see when, why, and how Japanese religion changed.

To show the importance of understanding Japanese religious history, Kitagawa starts from Asuka period (500AD to 710AD) and continues to the Post second World War period (1952). He follows a chorological table and discusses the main events related to religious movement. He illustrates the fact that when the rulers of Japan change, society changes as well as, dominant society religion.

If I were asked to write a book, I would write the way Kitagawa did. From a Japanese point of view, this book describes Japanese religion well. I think that he knows what is very important to focus on. There is a good chronological table, glossary, bibliography and an index. This book will be very helpful for people who are very interested in Japanese religion. 

8            Nakayama Hajime , Ways Of Thinking of Eastern People: India, China, Tibet ,

             Japan . Honolulu , 1964 .   

The thesis of this book is that it is very important to look at the characteristic features of   Japanese ways of thinking and to analyze people’s judgments. With this understanding, we can see the characteristics of Japanese religion and what makes it different from other religions.

Nakayama gives examples in order to illustrate his point. He explains the difference between Chinese Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism. He discusses why they are different. When Japanese monk brought Buddhism to Japan, Japanese people changed some of the teachings to fit Japanese society. In addition, Japanese monk could not communicate well as much as they could write. Therefore, Chinese texts were seldom understood by the Japanese collectly. Japanese people changed the Chinese teachings and made it their own. This is why Chinese and Japanese Buddhism they are different.

Nakamura seems to emphasize that Japanese cultures are combination of  the original culture and the new culture. Japanese religion is a collection of many different beliefs, which still coexisted in Japan. In modern Japan, the majority of people consider themselves Buddhists, yet people go to the Shrine often.