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Rethinking the History of Religions in Postwar Japan from a Post-Secular Perspective

Panel Chair: Jørn Borup | Monday, August 24, 1:30-3 p.m.

In 1947 a Constitution for postwar Japan was enacted as a direct result of Japanese defeat in the Asia-Pacific War. Subsequently the relationship between the nation state and religion in Japan changed dramatically, as Japan moved away from the Meiji Constitution. Effectively, the Constitution (drawn up under the Allied Occupation) shifted away from what has been termed ‘State Shinto’ (under which mandatory shrine visits were imposed upon subjects, especially during wartime) to a secularised framework based on the principle of separation between church and state. However, when looking more closely at the relationship between religion and politics in postwar Japanese society, it becomes apparent that the separation embodied in the Constitution is unable to fully capture the empirical reality found at the ground level, and is subsequently superficial. Therefore, this panel aims to develop a more subtle and nuanced appreciation of postwar Japanese religious history from a post-secular perspective.

Kiyonobu Date

Politics and Religion in Postwar Japan: Focusing on the Relationships between Political Parties and Religious Groups

To understand Japanese secularism, one needs to closely examine the relationship between political parties and religious groups. Research in this area, despite its importance, has been limited. Besides growing secularization of postwar Japan, one of the factors inhibiting religious issues from entering public discussions seems to be the constitutional principle that politics and religions should be separated. After introducing different types of connection between political parties and religious organizations, I will focus on the evolution of partnership between Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito Party. It is common knowledge that the latter has been supported by Soka Gakkai, but the influence of Shinto Seiji Renmei on LDP remains largely unknown. I’d like to propose that State Shinto has haunted the memories of this organization and that, recently, Komeito has shown tolerance towards the right to collective self-defense proclaimed by LDP while its alliance, Soka Gakkai, is committed to upholding peace.

Masayoshi Sumika

Christian Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira's Political Philosophy

It is well known that the proportion of Japanese Christians those who have been baptized and are currently regular churchgoers to total population is less than one percent in Japan. On the other hand, three baptized politicians, Tetsu Katayama, Masayoshi Ohira and Taro Aso, had served as prime minister of Japan. When Taro Aso’s grandfather Shigeru Yoshida who received baptism after death would be reckoned as a Christian, four out of thirty-four Japanese prime ministers in the post war period are Christians. Christian prime ministers account for more than ten percent of the total. This amount is intrigued enough to research, but there are few studies about their Christian belief and policy. This paper examines Masayoshi Ohira’s belief and his political philosophy as a first step of the research into Christian prime ministers of Japan and their policy.

Akira Nishimura

Spirits and Remains: On the Relationship between Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery and Yasukuni Shrine

Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, established in 1959, inters the remains of the unknown fallen soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. It is a secular institution, but nonetheless holds memorial ceremonies officiated over by various religious groups. Yasukuni Shrine served as the Japanese government’s central war memorial and became highly relevant as a religious body after Japan’s defeat in WWII. It won’t allow the physical remains to be held the remains of the deceased based on the Shinto idea that the dead body is polluted. The cemetery and shrine could be understood as contrasting sites: Chidorigafuchi contains the physical remains of the ashes of the deceased, whereas Yasukuni enshrines their spirits. In this paper however, I would like to decipher the nexus of relationships between the cemetery and the shrine. These will be analysed through case studies that illuminate the recovery of the remains and the memorial services held in former battlefields.


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