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ASCJ Executive Committee

Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Inaugural conference
1998 conference
1999 conference
2000 conference
2001 conference

Conference venue
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Summer 2000 ASCJ Conference Details

3. Engaged in Religion in Modern Japan (Room 208)

Chairs: Stephen Covell, Princeton University and Ranjana Mukhopadhyaya, University of Tokyo

1) Betsy Dorn, University of Hawai'i. "Christianity, Patriotism, and Reform: A Look at the Japan Woman's Christian Temperance Union in the Meiji Period"

2) Inaba Keishin, University of Tokyo / London University. "Altruism and Charitable Activities of New Religions in Japan: Theoretical Perspectives"

3) Ranjana Mukhopadhy, University of Tokyo. "The Social Activities of Rissho Kosei kai"

4) Stephen Covell, Princeton University. "Lighting Up Tendai"

Discussant: Shimazono Susumu, University of Tokyo

Abstract: Since the turn of the century social engagement movements have played important roles in Japanese religions.  For Buddhist sects they offered a method to reshape a negative image carried over from the Edo period, while for Christian groups they offered an opportunity to expand in a rapidly opening and changing society.  New Religions in the postwar period have also begun social engagement movements.  This panel explores the history and contemporary relevance of social engagement movements in Japanese religions.  What types of activities are they engaged in?  What role do they play in society?  What role do they play in constructing the image of the religion that launched them?  What do they tell us about the lived teachings of the religion as well as its needs and goals?  Stephen Covell's paper focuses on the "Light Up Your Corner Campaign" of the Tendai sect in the postwar period.  He offers an introduction to this movement which has served as the heart of Tendai's activities in the postwar period.  Ranjana Mukhopadhyana's paper analyzes Rissho Koseikai's "Movement for a Brighter World," exploring the manner in which activities are conducted and the importance of the movement to the further development of Rissho Koseikai.  Betsy Dorn offers an exploration of the the Japan Woman's Christian Temperance Union (JWCTU) involvement in a host of moral and social reform activities during the Meiji period. She utilizes JWCTU publications to discuss how members of the JWCTU defined their Christian activism in terms suitable for service to the nation state.  Inaba Keishin will present on theoretical perspectives concerning the New Religions and their social engagements activities.

 Paper 1.  Betsy Dorn, University of Hawaifi.   "Christianity, Patriotism, and Reform:  A Look at the Japan Woman's Christian Temperance Union in the Meiji Period."

      The Japan Woman's Christian Temperance Union (JWCTU) engaged in a host of moral and social reform activities during the Meiji period.  Foremost among the evils members attacked were licensed prostitution, concubinage, drinking, smoking, and legal discrimination against women.  The JWCTU's efforts took a variety of forms, ranging from the strictly educational to the preventative to the political.  They petitioned politicians to revise components of the civil and criminal codes disadvantageous to women, advocated restrictions on Japanese prostitutes going abroad, and protested the construction of new brothel districts.  In addition, they distributed temperance tracts and Bibles among soldiers and supported legislation to prohibit smoking and drinking among minors.

     The reasons members gave for their actions and for the particular reforms they proposed stemmed from their religious beliefs and interpretation of their social responsibilities as Christians.  However, also fundamental to their work was the conviction that licensed prostitution, drinking, and other social evils restricted Japan's economic and social development, damaged Japan's honor on the international scene, and hindered the effectiveness of the Japanese military during the Sino-Japanese and Russo Japanese wars.  By eradicating such cancers, they believed that they would succeed in fulfilling their duties as loyal and patriotic Japanese citizens.

     In this paper, I will utilize JWCTU publications to discuss how members of the JWCTU defined their Christian activism in terms suitable for service to the nation state.  This explication follows a brief introduction of specific activities and proposed reforms and concludes with my contention that members saw no inherent contradiction between their faith and national identity.

 Paper 2.  Inaba Keishin, Tokyo University.  gAltruism and Charitable Activities of New Religions in Japan: Theoretical Perspectives.h

 In this presentation, I will discuss theoretically why some members of new religions in Japan become involved in charitable activities and how altruism is nurtured.  It can be stated with some degree of certainty that amongst the new religions there are some that positively encourage a change in their members' attitudes towards altruism, and consequently members increasingly become involved in charitable activities.  To back up this statement, I will introduce the findings of some academics' work and my own fieldwork in the hope that this will throw some light on recent trends.  I will consider important concepts related to their altruism such as soteriology and rational choice, together with "Harmony Ethics" coined by Professor Shimazono and  "Vitalism" suggested by Professor Tsushima et al.

        There is a possibility that altruism and the charitable activities of new religions will create conflicts within society, because their activities may well be viewed as intrusive by society which does not expect religion to play a major role in the promotion of cultural integration and moral order.  This outline will pave the way for a more detailed examination of various aspects and functions of new religions in the context of contemporary society in Japan.

 Paper 3.  Ranjana Mukhopadhy, Univeristy of Tokyo.  gThe Social Activities of Rissho Kosei kai.h

 This paper tries to throw light on some of the characteristic features and style of functioning of new religions in contemporary Japan, through a study of the social activities of Rissho Kosei kai, one of the major new religions of Japan. Among the various social activities and voluntary services carried out under the aegis of Rissho Kosei kai, the one that is the subject of study here is called Akarui shakai zukuri undo (the Movement for a Brighter World Community / Brighter National Community ). As the name suggests, the objective is to create a brighter community life based on the spirit of cooperation, mutual assistance and community service among the members of a locality or community. This movement tries toaddress itself to various civic problems or social concerns that are common to the members of a local community, and through the means of finding solution to these common problems, it strives to transcend the egoism or divisions based on political and religious affiliation and encourage social solidarity and cooperation among the residents. However, Akarui shakai zukuri undo, claims to be an organization distinct from Rissho Kosei kai.

In order to make itself acceptable in the local community, especially among non-Rissho Kosei kai members, it was essential for this movement to give up its religious apparel and present itself as a "secular" organization. But, in reality, this movement makes use of the facilities, personnel and the local network of Rissho Kosei kai churches and in turn, it enables Rissho Kosei kai to mark its presence in the local community and widen its network of relationship among influential people many of whom may not be Rissho Kosei kai followers.

 Paper 4.  Steven Covell, Princeton University.  gLighting up Tendai.h

 This paper introduces the modern face of the Tendai sect of Japan.  Until recently, academic representations of the Tendai sect have focused on doctrinal aspects, and those works that did discuss organizational aspects tended to focus on the Heian period.  This paper introduces the movement which is at the center of postwar period Tendai activities.  The Light up Your Corner Campaign (ichigu wo terasu undo) was begun thirty years ago and today is the cornerstone of Tendai activities.  Articles on this social welfare campaign are featured prominently in every publication of the sect, from those aimed at priests to those aimed at the general public, from its homepage to its newspaper.  It is also mentioned frequently in the writings of prominent sect members such as the past head of Tendai, Yamada Etai, or Mitsunaga Kakudo, succussfully completed the 1000 day kaihogyo practice.

The campaign office is a catch all center for virtually all Tendai outreach programs; from building schools in Laos, to raising money for quake relief in Turkey, to sutra copying programs for parishioners in Japan.  It represents the postwar efforts of Tendai to refigure itself as the a modern, yet deeply traditional, religion capable of contributing to the betterment of society on an international scale.  This paper will outline the history of this movement and comment on the role it plays in the Tendai sect today.