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Contemporary Japan

Session Chair: N.N. | Tuesday, August 25, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Eiko Hara Kusaba

Changing Traditional Folk Beliefs of Itako Shaman’s Activities in Modern Japan: Comparing Two Areas’ Types in Tohoku District

Itako shamans have been very famous for calling and communicating with deceased persons in Japan. The traditional type of Itako is a blind female. In the Meiji era (later 19th century), the activities of traditional Itako shaman changed significantly. Itako shamans have gathered in Osorezan temple in Aomori Prefecture and mass media have reported about their activities of summer festivals at Osorezan Temple for calling to the souls of deceased persons. They have changed their activities with the tide of the times. However another group of Itakos with their blind monk husbands established a new Buddhist Tendai school for blind persons in Iwate Prefecture. This group had many members for a period of time in the past. What has been changing and preserved in the actvities of traditional beliefs? I will compare innovative and traditional activities in these two areas’ types of their activities.

Kenta Takasao

Training of spirit mediums and its Implication in New Religious Group

Taiwakyodan (a new religious group in Japan) was established by Hisako Hozumi in 1957. Taiwakyodan has a training program for religious specialists, “Miko”. The training program was based on Hisako’s prosess for becoming possessed by gods and ancestral spirits. Hisako was not suddenly possessed by Kami. She was transformed into a spirit medium by ascetic discipline, not by a psycho-mental process or by divine calling and election. The experience of the program allows “Miko” to recognize the existence of the their previous lives and destinies. The development of Taiwakyodan has been attributed to the work of “Miko”, who were send around the Tohoku region in the north of Japan. Recently, it has been reported that the number of Japanese spirit mediums is decreasing. Taiwakyodan has an important role in supporting folk religious beliefs.

Tetsuro Tanojiri

Joint Struggle of Catholics and Communists in Assistance for Refugee of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster - Spirituality, Science and Politics in Post 3.11 Japan

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster (3.11) occurred in 2011. Many people have been taking refuge to escape from radiation exposure. Some Catholics and Communists have been struggling jointly for assistant them. KN (Kirakiraboshi-Net, their organization) faced three problems. First, the joint struggle was organized in Tokyo, not disaster areas. The internal–external contradictions and conflicts against their colleague happened. Second, the Japanese Government enforced religion and science-technology policies to prevent the voluntary emigration. Many other religions and scientists made discourses for the policies, KN had to resist. Third problem related to emergence of personal“Spirituality of Migration”. This is a spirituality to resist to “kizuna”concept that give priority to attribution and obedience to the local community than personal life and faith. By this paper, we understand their struggle in the context of spirituality, science and politics of “Post 3.11 Japan”.

Kenta Kasai

Introducing chaplaincy to Japanese society: an experience of Institute of Grief Care, Sophia University

After a derail accident of West Japan Railway Company which killed 107 people in 2005, the company established JR-West Relief Foundation and the Institute of Grief Care in April 2009. The Institute is the first of its kind in Japan to offer general institutional education program of care of the bereaved, or “grief care.” Although there are some programs of clinical pastoral education founded by various groups other than the Institution, general folks in Japan have tended to be skeptical of the religious human care program. The huge accident made people expect the potential of the care of mixed emotions of the bereaved by “spiritual” caregivers, As one of the supervisors of the clinical education course of the Institute, I will discuss about the training program of spiritual care worker, in reference to the theory and method, the “religiosity versus secularity” discourse, the alliance among the institutes and groups.


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