Japanese Religion and Culture

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

This course explores the diverse terrain of religious life in Japan, investigating as much of the amazing spectrum of Japanese beliefs, practices, and institutions as is possible without actually visiting the country. To this end, it makes extensive use of audio-visual materials as well as primary sources (Japanese texts in English translation) and secondary scholarship. The course covers all the major religious traditions and movements found in Japan today, including Shintō, the various schools of Buddhism, and the so-called New Religions, as well as numerous elements of "folk" or "popular" religion and culture that are not readily subsumed under any of the preceding labels. The emphasis is on religion in contemporary Japan, with particular focus on religious rituals and the art and architecture that facilitate them, but a modicum of historical background will be given when necessary. Open to any interested student. Prior study or experience of things Japanese (language, literature, history, etc.) is desirable but not required.