Japan is an island nation in the Pacific ocean, famous for its densely populated cities, Imperial palaces, national parks, temples and shrines. The country, which ranks fourth in the world in terms of GDP (PPP), is among the member countries of The "big seven" and APEC, is regularly elected a member of the UN Security Council. For 70 years, since the adoption of the Constitution, it has become a model of democracy. One of the most important points for assessing the level of democracy of the country is the level of religious freedom. The religious landscape of modern Japanese society is quite diverse. This is due to the presence of a large number of religions, beliefs and traditions in a small island area.
Religion in Japan is dominated by Shinto (the ethnic religion of the Japanese people) and by Buddhism. According to surveys carried out in 2006 and 2008, less than 40% of the population of Japan identifies with an organized religion: around 35% are Buddhists, 3% to 4% are members of Shinto sects and derived religions, and from fewer than 1% to 2.3% are Christians.
Most of the Japanese (50% to 80% considering degrees of syncretism with Buddhism, shinbutsu-shūgō) pray and worship ancestors and gods (kami, shin or, archaically, jin) at Shinto shrines or at private altars, while not identifying as "Shinto" or "Shintoist" in surveys. This is because these terms have little meaning for the majority of the Japanese, or because they define membership in Shinto organizations or sects. The term "religion" itself in Japanese culture defines only organized religions (that is, religions with specific doctrines and required membership). People who identify as "non-religious" in surveys actually mean that they do not belong to any religious organization, even though they may take part in Shinto rituals and worship.
Chinese Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism also influenced Japanese beliefs and traditions. Religion in Japan is prone to syncretism, which results in a mixture of different religious practices. So, adults and children celebrate the Shinto rituals, students praying before exams, couples arrange wedding ceremony in the Christian Church, and a funeral in a Buddhist temple. Christians are a religious minority, only 2.04% of the population. Among the associations of Christian churches operating on a pan-Japanese scale, the largest-the Catholic Central Council, then, the number of followers are Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals and parishioners of the United Church of Christ in Japan.
Since the mid-19th century, various religious sects such as Enrique and AUM Shinrikyo have also appeared in Japan. Some scholars, such as Jun'ichi Isomae and Jason Ananda Josephson, have challenged the usefulness of the term "religion" in regard to Japanese "traditions", arguing that the Japanese term and concept of "religion" is an invention of the 19th century. However, other scholars, such as Hans Martin Kramer and Ian Reader, regard such claims as overstated and contend that the terms relate to terminology and categorizations that existed in Japan prior to the 19th century.
Article 20 of the 1947 Constitution states, "Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority". Contemporary religious freedom fits well with the tolerant attitude of most Japanese toward other religious beliefs and practices. Separation of religion and the state, however, is a more difficult issue.
Historically, there was no distinction between a scientific and a religious worldview. In early Japanese history, the ruling class was responsible for performing propitiatory rituals, which later came to be identified as Shinto, and for the introduction and support of Buddhism. Later, religious organization was used by regimes for political purposes, as when the Tokugawa government required each family to be registered as a member of a Buddhist temple for purposes of social control. In the late nineteenth century, rightists created State Shinto, requiring that each family belong to a shrine parish and that the concepts of emperor worship and national Japanese "family" be taught in the schools.
In the 1980s, the meaning of the separation of state and religion again became controversial. The issue came to a head in 1985 when Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro paid an official visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war dead, including leaders from the militarist period in the 1930s and 1940s. Supporters of Nakasone's action (mainly on the political right) argued that the visit was to pay homage to patriots; others claimed that the visit was an attempt to revive State Shinto and nationalistic extremism. The visit was protested by China, North Korea, South Korea, and other countries occupied by Japan in the first half of the twentieth century, and domestically by leftists, intellectuals, and the Japanese news media. Similar cases have occurred at local levels, and courts increasingly have been asked to clarify the division between religion and government. Separating religious elements of the Japanese worldview from what is merely "Japanese" is not easy, especially given the ambiguous role of the emperor, whose divinity was denied in 1945 but who continued to perform functions of both state and religion.
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Япония / Религия и государство, роль религии в политике / Политический атлас современности URL: http://www.hyno.ru/tom2/1885.html
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