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Why Are the Japanese Non-Religious?: Japanese Spirituality: Being Non-Religious in a Religious Culture

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0761830566
ISBN-10: 0761830561
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Toshimaro Ama is widely acknowledged in Japan as a leading scholar of Japanese religions in the modern and contemporary periods. His questions about the nature of religion in general, and Japanese religion in particular, have offered a model for understanding how the Japanese case illuminates works of religiosity, especially in modernity and beyond. (Duncan Ryuken Williams, University of California, Irvine From The Foreword)

About the Author

Toshimaro Ama is Professor of International Studies at Meiji Gakuin University, Japan. Professor Ama has published more than ten books and numerous articles and essays in Japanese.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 106 pages
  • Publisher: UPA (November 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761830561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761830566
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This English translation of a Japanese best-seller of 1996 can give you a good explanation on why most of the Japanese see themselves as "non-religious" but prefer to maintain their relationships with their ancestors. An English news article of an interview with the author entitled, "Why do Japanese view themselves as irreligious?", in Daily Yomiuri (an English newspaper), May 16, 2000, can give you further explanations on that question, particularly with regard to the Japanese government policy during the Meiji era (1868-1912).
However, I give this English translation 4 stars because, in his lecture in Tokyo in 1998, the author himself used an English word "spontanenous religion" rather than "natural religion", a key word used in the book translated into English by his son, to refer to a type of "religion" that came out spontaneously without any founder, as is the Japanese ancestoral practice. The term "natural religion", in my view, can be misleading, as it can mean a kind of religion that worships the nature such as mountains, the sea, and so on.
Furthermore, the author's view on that question was updated in his lecture that is contained in a Japanese book entitled, "Tami to Kami to Kamigami to" that was published by Kansei Gakuin Daigaku Shuppankai (Kansei Gakuin University Publications), 2004. I hope that the author and the translator will reflect these points in a revised edition of this book in English, if possible.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book as research material for a school course where I was writing a paper on Japanese spirituality. Overall, this was an easy-to-read and helpful book that posed many interesting points and gave helpful insights into the Japanese culture, history, and religious attitudes. I would highly recommend if you are studying Japanese spirituality and/or religion, or if you are just interested in Japan at all.

Having been to Japan myself, it is a common stereotype that all US citizens are Christian and this influences the way that they think about us. Yet many US citizens don't seem to take religion into account when thinking of the Japanese, or if they do they only think of perhaps the bits of Shinto that they have seen in anime or samurai movies. This book will help give some realistic insight into the culture and how religion/spirituality and culture are bound together to define what being "Japanese" means.
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Format: Paperback
Why Are The Japanese Non-Religious?: Japanese Spirituality: Being Non-Religious In A Religious Culture by Toshimaro Ama (Professor of International Studies at Meiji Gakuin University, Japan) is an in-depth study of Japanese culture in terms of religious and philosophical belief systems. Definitively presenting the Japanese religions into "revealed" or organized beliefs and "natural" or folklore based religions, Why Are The Japanese Non-Religious? deftly presents Japanese cultural adaptations of Buddhism and Confucianism, as well as the cultural integration with folklore, ancestor worship, and Shinto. An important and seminal contribution to academic library Japanese Studies reference collections, Why Are The Japanese Non-Religious? is to be given high praise for a scholarly presentation addressing fundamental questions such as the nature of being "non-religious" within the context of Japanese cultural history.
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