Departmental Bulletin Paper Nationalist Circles in Japan Today : The Impossibility of Secularization


30pp.207 - 225 , 2017-07-24 , International Research Center for Japanese Studies
Contrary to what sometimes has been suggested, contemporary Japanese society is no exception to the rule that the more a society modernizes, the more its individuals become secular. Simultaneously, however, since the end of the 1990s the political sphere in Japan has seen a return of religious elements. This phenomenon is particularly noticeable in the case of nationalist circles. State Shinto, which was imposed in the prewar period by the authorities of imperial Japan, constitutes the ideological foundation for these circles. More specifically, the emperor cult and the cult of the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine are the two main components of this ideology. This article argues that is unlikely that the ideology and activities of nationalist circles in Japan will acquire a more secular character, given the fundamentally religious character of their vision of the national community. Nippon Kaigi, a large confederation of political and religious movements, occupies a central place in this nationalist revival. Many politicians of the first rank are involved with this organization. As this article demonstrates, the ideological positions of its members are placed on a continuum, ranging from a religious nationalism close to historical State Shinto to more moderate statements suggesting the existence of a type of Japanese civil religion. Ultimately, members and sympathizers of nationalist movements in Japan are all motivated, to varying degrees, by nostalgia for a golden age of the nation.

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