The Invention of Religion in Japan

Paperback | October 3, 2012

byJason Ananda Josephson

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Throughout its long history, Japan had no concept of what we call “religion.” There was no corresponding Japanese word, nor anything close to its meaning. But when American warships appeared off the coast of Japan in 1853 and forced the Japanese government to sign treaties demanding, among other things, freedom of religion, the country had to contend with this Western idea. In this book, Jason Ananda Josephson reveals how Japanese officials invented religion in Japan and traces the sweeping intellectual, legal, and cultural changes that followed.
 
More than a tale of oppression or hegemony, Josephson’s account demonstrates that the process of articulating religion offered the Japanese state a valuable opportunity. In addition to carving out space for belief in Christianity and certain forms of Buddhism, Japanese officials excluded Shinto from the category. Instead, they enshrined it as a national ideology while relegating the popular practices of indigenous shamans and female mediums to the category of “superstitions”—and thus beyond the sphere of tolerance. Josephson argues that the invention of religion in Japan was a politically charged, boundary-drawing exercise that not only extensively reclassified the inherited materials of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto to lasting effect, but also reshaped, in subtle but significant ways, our own formulation of the concept of religion today. This ambitious and wide-ranging book contributes an important perspective to broader debates on the nature of religion, the secular, science, and superstition.

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Throughout its long history, Japan had no concept of what we call “religion.” There was no corresponding Japanese word, nor anything close to its meaning. But when American warships appeared off the coast of Japan in 1853 and forced the Japanese government to sign treaties demanding, among other things, freedom of religion, the country...

Jason Ananda Josephson is associate professor in and chair of the Department of Religion at Williams College. He is the author of The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:408 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:October 3, 2012Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226412342

ISBN - 13:9780226412344

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
A Note on Texts and Translations

Introduction
     The Advent of Religion in Japan
     Obscure Obstacles
     Unlearning Shukyo
     Unlearning “Religion”
     Overview of the Work

1. The Marks of Heresy
     Difference Denied: Hierarchical Inclusion
     Strange Aberrations: Exclusive Similarity
     Hunting Heretics

2. Heretical Anthropology
     Contested Silences: Two Versions of the Acts of the Saints
     Demonic Dharma
     Japanese Heretics and Pagans

3. The Arrival of Religion
     Negotiating “Religion”
     Taxonomy and Translation: Category in the Webs of Meaning
     Unreasonable Demands

4. The Science of the Gods
     Shinto as a “Nonreligion”
     The Way of the Gods
     Celestial Archeology: The Advent of European Science in Japan
     The Science of the Gods: Philology and Cosmology
     Ritual Therapeutics for the Body of the Nation
     The Gods of Science
     From Miraculous Revolution to Mechanistic Cosmos

5. Formations of the Shinto Secular
     Secularism Revisited
     Hygienic Modernity and the World of Reality
     Secular Apotheosis

6. Taming Demons
     The Demons of Modernity
     Restraining the Wild
     Monstrous Gods
     Evil Cults
     Disciplining Buddhism, Expelling Christianity

7. Inventing Japanese Religion
     Religion in Japanese International Missions
     Controlling the Heart: Debating the Role of Religion in the Modern State
     Inventing “Japanese Religions”

8. Religion within the Limits
     Internal Convictions
     External Controls
     The Birth of Religious Studies in Japan

Conclusion
     The Invention of Superstition
     The Invention of the Secular
     The Invention of Religion
     The Third Term

Postscript
Appendix. Religion Explained
Notes
Character Glossary
References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Josephson’s investigation of the category of religion as it developed in modern Japan is a helpful addition to the field, and, to be honest, I have already begun assigning it in seminars. . . . This book [will be] useful in comparative and theoretical courses on religion and will no doubt appeal to anyone studying Japanese religions and Japanese history. . . . One of his most useful contributions is the use of the trinary model of ‘real,’ ‘superstition,’ and ‘religion’ to understand how the modern worldview is enacted and created. Moreover, his consideration of diplomacy and domestic law as key factors in the construction and negotiation of conceptual categories will be of interest to scholars in many fields. I highly recommend this book.”