Japanese new religions

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The Dai Heiwa Kinen Tō, Peace Tower built by Perfect Liberty Kyōdan

Japanese new religions are new religious movements established in Japan. In Japanese, they are called shinshūkyō(新宗教) or shinkō shūkyō(新興宗教). Japanese scholars classify all religious organizations founded since the middle of the 19th century as "new religions"; thus, the term refers to a great diversity and number of organizations. Most came into being in the mid-to-late twentieth century and are influenced by much older traditional religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and Shinto. Western influences include Christianity, the Bible and the writings of Nostradamus. [1] [2]

New religious movement Religious community or spiritual group of modern origins

A new religious movement (NRM), also known as a new religion or alternative spirituality, is a religious or spiritual group that has modern origins and is peripheral to its society's dominant religious culture. NRMs can be novel in origin or part of a wider religion, in which case they are distinct from pre-existing denominations. Some NRMs deal with the challenges posed by the modernizing world by embracing individualism, whereas others seek tightly knit collective means. Scholars have estimated that NRMs now number in the tens of thousands worldwide, with most of their members living in Asia and Africa. Most have only a few members, some have thousands, and a few have more than a million members.

Japan Island country in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.

Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, or way of life, widely practised in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal tradition", or the "eternal way", beyond human history. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This "Hindu synthesis" started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE, after the end of the Vedic period, and flourished in the medieval period, with the decline of Buddhism in India.


Before World War II

In the 1860s Japan began to experience great social turmoil and rapid modernization. As social conflicts emerged in this last decade of the Edo period, known as the Bakumatsu period, some new religious movements appeared. Among them were Tenrikyo, Kurozumikyo and Oomoto, sometimes called Nihon Sandai Shinkōshūkyō ("Japan's three large new religions"), which were directly influenced by Shinto (the state religion) and shamanism.

Edo period period of Japanese history

The Edo period or Tokugawa period (徳川時代) is the period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, when Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional daimyō. The period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, a stable population, "no more wars", and popular enjoyment of arts and culture. The shogunate was officially established in Edo on March 24, 1603, by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The period came to an end with the Meiji Restoration on May 3, 1868, after the fall of Edo.

Bakumatsu final years of the Edo period

Bakumatsu refers to the final years of the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate ended. Between 1853 and 1867, Japan ended its isolationist foreign policy known as sakoku and changed from a feudal Tokugawa shogunate to the pre-modern empire of the Meiji government. The major ideological-political divide during this period was between the pro-imperial nationalists called ishin shishi and the shogunate forces, which included the elite shinsengumi swordsmen.

Tenrikyo A Japanese new religion

Tenrikyo is a Japanese new religion which is neither strictly monotheistic nor pantheistic, originating from the teachings of a 19th-century woman named Nakayama Miki, known to her followers as Oyasama. Followers of Tenrikyo believe that God of Origin, God in Truth, known by several names including "Tsukihi," "Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto" and "Oyagamisama " revealed divine intent through Miki Nakayama as the Shrine of God and to a lesser extent the roles of the Honseki Izo Iburi and other leaders. Tenrikyo's worldly aim is to teach and promote the Joyous Life, which is cultivated through acts of charity and mindfulness called hinokishin.

The social tension continued to grow during the Meiji period, affecting religious practices and institutions. Conversion from traditional faith was no longer legally forbidden, officials lifted the 250-year ban on Christianity, and missionaries of established Christian churches reentered Japan. The traditional syncreticism between Shinto and Buddhism ended and Shinto became the national religion. Losing the protection of the Japanese government which Buddhism had enjoyed for centuries, Buddhist monks faced radical difficulties in sustaining their institutions, but their activities also became less restrained by governmental policies and restrictions.

State religion religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state

A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. A state with an official religion, while not secular, is not necessarily a theocracy, a country whose rulers have both secular and spiritual authority. State religions are official or government-sanctioned establishments of a religion, but the state does not need be under the control of the religion nor is the state-sanctioned religion necessarily under the control of the state.

The Japanese government was very suspicious towards these religious movements and periodically made attempts to suppress them. Government suppression was especially severe during the early 20th century, particularly from the 1930s until the early 1940s, when the growth of Japanese nationalism and State Shinto were closely linked. Under the Meiji regime lèse majesté prohibited insults against the Emperor and his Imperial House, and also against some major Shinto shrines which were believed to be tied strongly to the Emperor. The government strengthened its control over religious institutions that were considered to undermine State Shinto or nationalism, arresting some members and leaders of Shinshukyo, including Onisaburo Deguchi of Oomoto and Tsunesaburō Makiguchi of Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (now Soka Gakkai), who typically were charged with violation of lèse majesté and the Peace Preservation Law.

Japanese nationalism political ideology

Japanese nationalism is the nationalism that asserts that the Japanese are a monolithic nation with a single immutable culture, and promotes the cultural unity of the Japanese. It encompasses a broad range of ideas and sentiments harbored by the Japanese people over the last two centuries regarding their native country, its cultural nature, political form and historical destiny. It is useful to distinguish Japanese cultural nationalism from political or state-directed nationalism, since many forms of cultural nationalism, such as those associated with folkloric studies, have been hostile to state-fostered nationalism.

State Shinto Empire of Japans use of traditional Shinto religion

State Shintō describes Imperial Japan's ideological use of the native folk traditions of Shinto. The state strongly encouraged Shinto practices to emphasize the Emperor as a divine being, which was exercised through control of shrine finances and training regimes for priests.

Onisaburo Deguchi Japanese shinto leader

Onisaburo Deguchi, born Ueda Kisaburō 上田 喜三郎 (1871–1948), is considered one of the two spiritual leaders of the Ōmoto religious movement in Japan.

After World War II


After Japan lost World War II, its government and policy changed radically during occupation by Allied troops. The official status of State Shinto was abolished, and Shinto shrines became religious organizations, losing government protection and financial support. Although the Occupation Army (GHQ) practiced censorship of all types of organizations, specific suppression of Shinshūkyō ended.

Occupation of Japan Allied occupation of Japan following WWII

The Allied occupation of Japan at the end of World War II was led by General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, with support from the British Commonwealth. Unlike in the occupation of Germany, the Soviet Union was allowed little to no influence over Japan. This foreign presence marks the only time in Japan's history that it has been occupied by a foreign power. At MacArthur's insistence, Emperor Hirohito remained on the imperial throne. The wartime cabinet was replaced with a cabinet acceptable to the Allies and committed to implementing the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, which among other things called for the country to become a parliamentary democracy. Under MacArthur's guidance, the Japanese government introduced sweeping social reforms and implemented economic reforms that recalled American "New Deal" priorities of the 1930s under President Roosevelt. The Japanese constitution was comprehensively overhauled and the Emperor's theoretically-vast powers, which for many centuries had been constrained by conventions that had evolved over time, became strictly limited by law. The occupation, codenamed Operation Blacklist, was ended by the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed on September 8, 1951, and effective from April 28, 1952, after which Japan's sovereignty – with the exception, until 1972, of the Ryukyu Islands – was fully restored.

Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers

The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) was the title held by General Douglas MacArthur during the Allied occupation of Japan following World War II. It issued SCAP Directive to the Japanese government, aiming to transform it into a non-terrorist nation.

GHQ invited many Christian missionaries from the United States to Japan, through Douglas MacArthur's famous call for 1,000 missionaries. Missionaries arrived not only from traditional churches, but also from some modern denominations, such as Jehovah's Witnesses. The Jehovah's Witnesses missionaries were so successful that they have become the second largest Christian denomination in Japan, with over 210,000 members (the largest is Catholicism with about 500,000 members). In Japan, Jehovah's Witnesses tend to be considered a Christianity-based Shinshūkyō, not only because they were founded in the 19th century (as were other major Shinshūkyō), but also because of their missionary practices, which involve door-to-door visiting and frequent meetings.

Douglas MacArthur U.S. Army general of the army, field marshal of the Army of the Philippines

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American five-star general and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. He was Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the Philippines Campaign, which made him and his father Arthur MacArthur Jr. the first father and son to be awarded the medal. He was one of only five to rise to the rank of General of the Army in the US Army, and the only one conferred the rank of field marshal in the Philippine Army.

Jehovahs Witnesses Christian denomination

Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The group reports a worldwide membership of approximately 8.58 million adherents involved in evangelism and an annual Memorial attendance of over 20 million. Jehovah's Witnesses are directed by the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, a group of elders in Warwick, New York, United States, which establishes all doctrines based on its interpretations of the Bible. They believe that the destruction of the present world system at Armageddon is imminent, and that the establishment of God's kingdom over the earth is the only solution for all problems faced by humanity.

Despite the influx of Christian missionaries, the majority of Shinshūkyō are Buddhist- or Shinto-related sects. Major sects include Risshō Kōsei Kai and Shinnyo-en. Major goals of Shinshūkyō include spiritual healing, individual prosperity, and social harmony. Many also hold a belief in Apocalypticism, that is in the imminent end of the world or at least its radical transformation. [1] Most of those who joined Shinshūkyō in this period were women from lower-middle-class backgrounds. [2]

Soka Gakkai has a particular influence to politics since 1964, thanks to their affiliated party Komeito, later New Komeito. In 1999, it was estimated that 10 to 20 per cent of the Japanese population were members of a Shinshūkyō. [2]


After World War II, the structure of the state was changed radically. Prior to WWII, the National Diet was restricted and the real power lay with the executive branch, in which the prime minister was appointed by the emperor. Under the new Constitution of Japan, the Diet had the supreme authority for decision making in state affairs and all its members were elected by the people. Especially in the House of Councillors, one third of whose members were elected through nationwide vote, nationwide organizations found they could influence national policy by supporting certain candidates. Major Shinshūkyō became one of the so-called "vote-gathering machines" in Japan, especially for the conservative parties which merged into the Liberal Democratic Party in 1955.

Other nations

In the 1950s, Japanese wives of American servicemen introduced the Soka Gakkai to the United States, which in the 1970s developed into the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). The SGI has steadily gained members while avoiding much of the controversy encountered by some other new religious movements in the US. Well-known American SGI converts include musician Herbie Hancock and singer Tina Turner. [3]

In Brazil Shinshūkyō, like Honmon Butsuryū-shū, were first introduced in the 1920s among the Japanese immigrant population. In the 1950s and 1960s some started to become popular among the non-Japanese population as well. Seicho-no-Ie now has the largest membership in the country. In the 1960s it adopted Portuguese, rather than Japanese, as its language of instruction and communication. It also began to advertise itself as philosophy rather than religion in order to avoid conflict with the Roman Catholic Church and other socially conservative elements in society. By 1988 it had more than 2.4 million members in Brazil, 85% of them not of Japanese ethnicity. [1]


Edifices and emblems of various Japanese new religions
Tenrikyo emblem.svg
Emblem of Tenri-kyo.
Head office of Oomoto at Kameoka, Japan.JPG
Head office of Oomoto at Kameoka, Japan.
Flag of Sōka Gakkai.
Headquarters of Reiyū-kai.
Emblem of Konko-kyō
Rissho Kosei-kai (Great Sacred Hall).jpg
Rissho Kosei-kai’s Great Sacred Hall.
Imm logo.jpg
Emblem of Church of World Messianity (Sekai Kyūsei Kyō).
Nyorai-kyō (如来教)Isson-nyorai Kino (1756–1826)180275,48033,67427,1317,477
Kurozumi-kyō (黒住教)Munetada Kurozumi (1780–1850)1814715,650407,558295,225297,767
Tenri-kyō (天理教) Nakayama Miki (1798–1887)18381,912,2082,298,4201,839,0091,199,652
Honmon Butsuryū-shū (本門佛立宗)Nagamatsu Nissen (1817–1890)1857339,800515,911526,337345,288
Konko-kyō (金光教)Konkō Daijin (1814–1883)1859646,206500,868442,584430,021
Maruyama-kyō (丸山教)Rokurōbei Itō (1829–1894)187092,0113,20010,72511,057
Ōmoto (大本)Nao Deguchi (1837–1918)
Onisaburō Deguchi (1871–1948)
Nakayama-Shingoshō-shū (中山身語正宗)Matsutarō Kihara (1870–1942)1912282,650467,910382,040295,275
Honmichi (ほんみち)Ōnishi Aijirō (1881–1958)1913225,386288,700316,825318,974
En'ō-kyō (円応教)Chiyoko Fukada (1887–1925191971,654266,782419,452457,346
Reiyū-kai (霊友会)Kakutarō Kubo (1892–1944)19242,284,1722,477,9073,202,1721,412,975
Nenpō-shinkyō (念法眞教)Ogura Reigen (1886–1982)1925153,846751,214807,486408,755
Perfect Liberty Kyōdan (パーフェクト リバティー教団)Miki Tokuharu (1871–1938)
Miki Tokuchika (1900–1983)
(1925) [4]
Seichō-no-Ie (生長の家)Masaharu Taniguchi (1893–1985)19301,461,6042,375,705838,496618,629
Sōka Gakkai (創価学会) Tsunesaburō Makiguchi (1871–1944)
Jōsei Toda (1900–1958)
1930341,14616,111,37517,736,757 [5] 20,000,000
Sekai Kyūsei-kyō (世界救世教) Mokichi Okada (1882–1955)1935373,173661,263835,756835,756
Shinnyo-en (真如苑) Shinjō Itō (1906–1956)1936155,500296,514679,414902,254
Kōdō Kyōdan (孝道教団)Shōdō Okano (1900–1978)1936172,671417,638400,720184,859
Risshō Kōsei-kai (立正佼成会) Myōkō Naganuma (1889–1957)
Nikkyō Niwano (1906–1999)
Tenshō Kōtai Jingū-kyō (天照皇大神宮教)Sayo Kitamura 1900–1967)194589,374386,062439,011479,707
Zenrin-kyō (善隣教)Tatsusai Rikihisa (1906–1977)1947404,157483,239513,321132,286
Ōyama Nezunomikoto Shinji Kyōkai (大山ねずの命神示教会)Sadao Inaii (1906–1988)194859,493826,022
Bussho Gonenkai Kyōdan (佛所護念会教団)Kaichi Sekiguchi (1897–1961)
Sekiguchi Tomino (1905–1990)
Myōchikai Kyōdan (妙智会教団)Mitsu Miyamoto (1900–1984)1950515,122673,913962,611709,849
Byakkō Shinkō-kai (白光真宏会)Masahisa Goi (1916–1980)1951500,000
Agon-shū (阿含宗)Seiyū Kiriyama (1921–)1954500206,606353,890
Reiha-no-Hikari Kyōkai (霊波之光)Hase Yoshio (1915–1984)1954761,175
Jōdoshinshū Shinran-kai (浄土真宗親鸞会)Kentetsu Takamori (1934–)1958100,000 [6]
Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyōdan (世界真光文明教団) Kōtama Okada(Yoshikazu Okada) (1901–1974)195997,838
Honbushin (ほんぶしん)Ōnishi Tama (1916–1969)1961900,000 [6]
God Light Association Sōgō Honbu (GLA総合本部)Shinji Takahashi (1927–1976)196912,981
Shinji Shūmei-kai (神慈秀明会)Mihoko Koyama (1910–2003)19701988: 440,000 [6]
Nihon Seidō Kyōdan (日本聖道教団)Shōkō Iwasaki (1934–)197469,450
Extra-Sensory-Perception Kagaku Kenkyūjo (ESP科学研究所)Katao Ishii (1918–)197516,000 [6]
Sūkyō Mahikari (崇教真光) Yoshikazu Okada(1901–1974)1978501,328
Ho No Hana (法の華三法行)Hōgen Fukunaga (1945–)198070,000 [6]
Yamato-no-Miya (大和之宮)Tenkei Ajiki (1952–)19815,000 [6]
World Mate (ワールドメイト)Seizan Fukami (1951–)198430,000 [6] 72,000
Happy Science (幸福の科学) Ryūhō Ōkawa (1956–)19861989: 13,300
1991: 1,527,278 [6]
Aum Shinrikyo (オウム真理教) Shōkō Asahara (1955–2018)1987 (−2000)2005: 1,6502018: 1,950 [7]

Data for 2012 is from the Agency for Cultural Affairs. [8]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 Peter B. Clarke, 1999, "Japanese New Religious Movements in Brazil: from ethnic to 'universal' religions", New Religious Movements: challenge and response, Bryan Wilson and Jamie Cresswell editors, Routledge ISBN   0415200504
  2. 1 2 3 Eileen Barker, 1999, "New Religious Movements: their incidence and significance", New Religious Movements: challenge and response, Bryan Wilson and Jamie Cresswell editors, Routledge ISBN   0415200504
  3. Eugene V. Gallagher, 2004, The New Religious Movement Experience in America, Greenwood Press, ISBN   0313328072, pages 120–124
  4. The (1925) date refers to the Hito-no-Michi Kyōdan, the mother organization of Perfect Liberty Kyōdan
  5. Sōka Gakkai has not released figures for 1989 and 1990, so this figure is the membership number for 1988,
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Most of the statistics in these charts are from the 1991 edition of the Shūkyō Nenkan (Religion Yearbook, Tokyo: Gyōsei). Numbers marked with this footnote are from other sources[ citation needed ] reporting the organizations‘ own membership statistics around 1990.
  7. "オウム真理教対策(警察庁)". 25 July 2011. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  8. https://web.archive.org/web/20140827014822/http://www.bunka.go.jp/shukyouhoujin/nenkan/pdf/h24nenkan.pdf