Bon festival dance
Religious festival: Japan
Let's turn to an analysis of religion in Japan and we will see the dishonesty of Zuerkerman at work fist hand. He claims Japan as a "atheist" country. This is largely because like so many atheists he confuses Buddhism with atheism because some Buddhists sects don't have a clear God figure. This is partly just ignorance, although I'm sure Zuckerman should know better himsef, but when most atheists make this claim they are just being ignorant because people from the West can make easy mistakes. For example, the East has never a big deal out of labels for religion. So one can find most families in Japan are both Buddhist and Shinto. But the unwary Westerner might think this means they are neither becasue we assume their traditions would fight over members. In reality the Buddhists and Shintists have an arrange in which Buddhism handles weddings and the Shinto priests do funerals. They do not fight over membership and most Japanese are both.
While stats on Christian population have been underrated! New study finds more Christians in Japan than previous thought.
More People Claim Christian Faith in Japan
Sun, Mar. 19 2006 10:24 AM ET
The latest Gallup poll revealed a much higher percentage of Christians in Japan compared to previous surveys, including a surprising high number of teens who claimed the Christian faith.
More People Claim Christian Faith in Japan
Japanese people walk along Omotesando, a fashionable street in Tokyo, March 8, 2006. The latest Gallup poll revealed a much higher percentage of Christians in Japan compared to previous surveys, including a surprising high number of teens who claimed the
In a country where only one percent is Christian among those who claim a faith, findings from one of the most extensive surveys of the country ever taken showed a Christian population of six percent. Meanwhile, the most popular and traditional religions – Buddhism and Shintoism – suffered declines.
Of the 30 percent of adults who claimed to have a religion, 75 percent considered themselves Buddhists, 19 percent Shintoists and 12 percent Christians, according to the Gallup Organization. Japanese youth revealed even more alarming statistics. Of the 20 percent who professed to have a religion, 60 percent called themselves Buddhists, 36 percent Christians and Shintoists.
"These projections mean that seven percent of the total teenage population say they are Christians," said George Gallup Jr. who called the numbers "stunning."
The study - the single largest study ever attempted, according to the social scientists in Japan - examined preteens, teens, young adults, adults and seniors.
"When they saw the design of the questionnaire, Japanese experts argued that the Japanese would never answer the socially delicate and/or the highly personal questions," said Bill McKay, project research director. "However, it was our professional hunch that the Japanese were ready to talk and when they did they told us more than we had asked for. The data is the most revealing look behind the face of Japan and shatters many WWII myths of the Japanese culture."
McKay is also one of the producers of a documentary that is slated for release later this year. The poll was conducted in association with American Trademark Research and MJM Group in 2001 for use in the documentary.
"In my 50 years of polling, there has been no study that I would consider as important as this one, because it provides insight into a fascinating culture," said Gallup.
Delving into more specific attitudes, the poll also found a note of hopelessness in the responses to questions related to morality, spirituality and general views about life.
"And there is little evidence of eternal hope, although a considerable number do believe in some form of life afterlife," noted Gallup. And "there is little belief in 'absolutes,' and this is true across the all-generational groups."
In comparison to teens in the United States, Japanese teens showed a pessimistic outlook on life. Previous studies found that 85 percent of teens in Japan wondered why they existed while 22 percent of U.S. teens had the same thought. Additionally, 13 percent of Japanese teens always see a reason for their being on Earth compared to 76 percent of teens in the U.S, and 11 percent of Japanese teens wished they had never been born while 3 percent of U.S. teens wished the same.
Within an estimated population of 127.4 million in Japan, academics estimate that 20 to 30 percent of adults actively practice a particular faith, but the Agency for Cultural Affairs reported in 2003 that 213,826,700 citizens claimed a religion, according to the U.S. Department of State's latest International Religious Freedom Report.
Traditions Japanese religions still strong.
from Buddhism Today
March, 5, 2000
"Buddhims in Modern Japan"
Bhikkhu Prayudh Payutto
"Statistically, with a Buddhist population of approximately 75 million, or about 85 percent of the whole population, and with about 80,000 Buddhist temples attended by 200,000 priests, Japan is rightly called a Buddhist country."
New Religions spring up in Japan
"There has grown a deepened religious concern through works of Buddhist scholars devoted to the reinterpretation of Buddhist ideas. There have been increased Buddhist social and political roles through lay people taking a more active part in Buddhist organizations. With the coming of the new-born sects, there has been a reawakening to the Buddhist social ideal to make up for the faded social ethics of the old traditional sects, and a starting on a new course of the development of political power. So far, the energies of the Japanese Buddhists have been directed "not so much to the revival of the Buddhist culture as to the attempt to preserve and consolidate it amidst the essentially alien and hostile environment of modern" life.(Ibid. sitingP.V. Bapat (ed). 2500 years of Buddhism. (Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, 1971), p. 401.)
Japan is not an atheist nation, it's a religious nation. 80% of their population are part of the faith known as "Buddhism."
Japanese still keep traditional religious festivals
Folk Beliefs In Modern Japan
a book: Originally published in 1994 by the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University.
"Annual Events and The Transformation of Japanese Life"
Professor Ishii, Kenji (Kokugakuin University)
On the other hand, a number of more traditional Japanese festivals continue to be observed faithfully, including the first pilgrimage at New Year's[Glossary: oshogatsu][Glossary: hatsumode], the summer "All Saint's" festival of O-bon[Glossary: bon_matsuri], and the semi-annual visits to family tombs during the equinoctial weeks. But while public-opinion surveys dealing with Japanese attitudes toward religion confirm a continuing high level of participation in these annual events, it is also true that the Japanese style of life has undergone great changes in the postwar period, particularly since the period of high economic growth which began in the 1960s. And that fact hints that even when we see the same festivals of New Year's and O-bon being observed today, the way they are now observed has also changed substantially, relative to the way those same festivals were observed by our parents and grandparents. As a result, in this article, I want to undertake an analysis of the holiday calendar as observed in modern urban Japan, and use that data--limited though it may be--as a vehicle for an objective consideration of the changes and current status of Japanese religious life.
The test of this book is online
"Beginning with the first study, "Survey of Urban Life," fifty percent or more of respondents indicated their participation in the following seven events (listed in descending order of observance): Year-end housecleaning; eating buckwheat noodles on New Year's eve; celebrating setsubun (scattering good-luck beans on the last day of the lunar year); equinoctial visits to family tombs; New Year's pilgrimages; displaying pine and bamboo New Year's gate decorations; and the seasonal airing and storing of clothes."
"In the second study, "Survey of Ward Residents' Attitudes toward Culture," events drawing the participation of fifty percent or more of respondents included New Year's pilgrimages, birthday celebrations, Christmas, and setsubun. In the third survey, "Survey on Home Life," the corresponding events included family gatherings at holidays like New Year's and O-bon, visits to family tombs on equinox or on anniversary of death, celebrations of children's birthdays, and family celebrations of holidays like Christmas and Children's Day.17 "(Ibid)
This poll has reference to a long list of holidays and festivals equalling about 40 events on the calender, of which 50% of the overall population take part in most of them. This is a lot more religious participation than one finds in America.
Religious festivals still held and strongly attended:
I. Survey of Urban Life (Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Bureau of Citizens' Affairs, December 1979)14
1. New Year's pilgrimage to shrine or temple: 65.3
2. Display New Year's bamboo and pine gate decorations, or display New Year's offerings: 51.8
3. Scatter good-luck beans[Glossary: mamemaki] on the last day of the lunar year (setsubun[Glossary: setsubun], February 2-3): 67.4
4. Make equinoctial visits to family tombs, offer ohagi or botamochi (traditional rice cake sweets): 66.3
5. Display dolls on Doll's Festival[Glossary: hina_matsuri] (March 3), or display carp streamers on Children's Day (May 5): 46.7
6. Spring flower-viewing excursions: 35.2
7. Take iris-leaf bath (May 5): 33.0
8. Air out and store seasonal clothes in summer: 50.2
9. Display Tanabata (Star Festival) decorations (July 7 or August 7): 24.6
10. Eat seasonal foods (early mackeral, summer eels, fall mushrooms, etc.): 45.2
11. Make temple/shrine visits on the first day of the horse[Glossary: hatsuuma], the day of the cock[Glossary: tori_no_ichi], or feast days to the deity Fudô Myôô, etc.: 20.3
12. Eat rice with red beans on celebratory occasions: 43.2
13. Display the Japanese flag on holidays: 10.1
14. Display pampas grass decorations and eat sweet rice dumplings on August 15 (harvest moon): 20.1
15. Observe major housecleaning at year-end: 84.7
16. Eat buckwheat noodles on New Year's eve: 83.8
17. Observe none of the above: 0.9
18. Don't know: 0.3
II. Kita-Ward Survey of Residents' Attitudes toward Culture (Tokyo-to, Kita-ku, October, 1988)15
1. New Year's pilgrimages: 70.2
2. Eat rice gruel with seven herbs (nanakusa gayu: January 7): 21.9
3. Observe setsubun by scattering good-luck beans: 57.6
4. Doll's Festival (March 3): 38.9
5. Spring flower viewing: 37.2
6. First day of the horse: 26.6
7. Tanabata: 17.3
8. Fifteenth night [harvest moon]: 14.0
9. Christmas: 59.8
10. Family birthday celebrations: 68.3
11. Other: 5.0
12. None of the above: 7.1
13. Total (M): 423.9
III. Survey on Home Life (Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Office of Information, February, 1989)16
1. Celebrate children's birthdays: 59.9
2. Celebrate parents' or grandparents' birthdays: 37.2
3. Celebrate wedding anniversaries: 28.8
4. Family celebration of holidays like Christmas and Children's Day: 56.0
5. Home party on celebratory occasions (school entrance, graduation, first employment, etc.): 44.9
6. Home party with friends: 16.8
7. Visits to family tombs on equinox, or on anniversaries of death: 61.9
8. Family gatherings at holidays like New Year's and O-bon: 62.4
9. Other: 3.2
10. No response: 2.9
11. Total (M): 374.0
Beginning with the first study, "Survey of Urban Life," fifty percent or more of respondents indicated their participation in the following seven events (listed in descending order of observance): Year-end housecleaning; eating buckwheat noodles on New Year's eve; celebrating setsubun (scattering good-luck beans on the last day of the lunar year); equinoctial visits to family tombs; New Year's pilgrimages; displaying pine and bamboo New Year's gate decorations; and the seasonal airing and storing of clothes.
In the second study, "Survey of Ward Residents' Attitudes toward Culture," events drawing the participation of fifty percent or more of respondents included New Year's pilgrimages, birthday celebrations, Christmas, and setsubun. In the third survey, "Survey on Home Life," the corresponding events included family gatherings at holidays like New Year's and O-bon, visits to family tombs on equinox or on anniversary of death, celebrations of children's birthdays, and family celebrations of holidays like Christmas and Children's Day.17
The times, subjects, purposes, methods, and questions of the three surveys all differ, making it difficult to attempt any simple comparison of their results, but it nonetheless remains possible to point out several common characteristics. First, all three surveys display high rates of participation in events surrounding the New Year's holidays, including the traditional year-end housecleaning, eating year-end buckwheat noodles, displaying gate decorations of pine and bamboo, and making New Year's pilgrimages to shrines and temples. When Christmas is considered as falling within the category of year-end observances, the results indicate that the interest in observances around the period of year-end and New Year remains extremely high.
Second, outside the annual events associated with the year-end and New Year's holidays, a high level of participation is also evidenced for the celebrations of O-Bon and the equinoctial festivals associated with ancestral memorials. Third, a high rate of participation is also seen in the celebration of setsubun and birthdays. Since the observance of birthdays obviously differs depending on the date of birth, it falls outside the ethnological category of "annual events," but it is nonetheless observed at a very high rate.
Next, let me present some differing survey results as a comparison to the data from the aforementioned surveys. In December of 1990, I conducted a survey designed to reveal what annual events are currently observed by young people, and with whom they observe them (Table 1). I conducted the survey at two universities, one a church-affiliated women's college in Tokyo, and the other at the private university at which I am personally employed. The survey resulted in 225 replies.18
Of the annual events listed in the table, those observed by fifty percent or more of respondents include the following eight, in descending order of observance: New Year's (93.8%), Christmas (82.2%), O-Bon (73.7%), Mother's Day (70.2%), Setsubun (57.3%), Valentine's Day (56.9%), ÔharaeVI (53.8%), and the Spring equinox (53.3%).
The results of my survey confirm the high level of observance of the year-end and New Year's holidays, and of memorial rites to ancestors. Other observances showing a high level of observance in this survey include Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, both of which can be considered events observed primarily by young people.19