JAPANESE 292 : Special Topic: Religion in Modern Japanese Society


2024 Summer School (1240) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Aims to understand the role of religious beliefs, practices, and institutions in modern Japanese society. Topics to be covered include the “invention” of State Shinto and its role in nation-building, the decline of established temple Buddhism, the emergence and impact of new religious movements, and social conflict related to religion-state issues in the postwar period.

Course Overview

The aim of this course is to understand the role of religious beliefs, practices, and institutions in modern Japanese society. The first part of the course will review sociological and historical approaches to the study of religion and consider the “layers” of tradition—Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity, and New Religions—that evolved over the centuries and continue to shape contemporary Japanese religiosity.
The second part of the course examines religion during Japan’s century of modernization and considers the “invention” of State Shinto and its role in nation-building, the restructuring of Japanese religion and society during the Occupation period (1945-1952), and the social and political roles of religion in contemporary Japan. Recent developments will be framed in terms of sociological theories of secularization, which focus on the decline and privatization of religion, and theories of sacralization, which highlight new forms of religion and the reappearance of religion in the public sphere.
Particular attention will be given to the critical public debate surrounding religion-state issues (Yasukuni Shrine, Constitutional Revision) and the religious responses to disasters and social crisis (1995 Awaji-Hanshin earthquake, 2011 “triple disaster”—earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown), and the Covid 19-pandemic since 2020.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: JAPANESE 150 or ASIAN 100, and, a further 30 points from BA courses. Restriction: JAPANESE 308

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 6: Communication
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Arts

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge of key terms and sociological perspectives used in the study of Japanese religions (Capability 1, 3 and 4)
  2. Acquire a critical understanding of the distinctive roles played by different religions in modern Japanese society (Capability 3 and 4)
  3. Communicate effectively in academic English an argument or analysis that demonstrates the social significance of one or more Japanese religions in relation to violence, contemporary religion-state issues and disasters (Capability 3, 4 and 6)
  4. Demonstrate a critical grasp of the debates and different positions held by religious and political actors on key religion-state issues in contemporary Japan (Capability 3 and 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Responses to Reading Questions 20% Individual Coursework
In-class test 30% Individual Test
Tutorial Presentation 20% Individual Coursework
Final Esssay 30% Individual Coursework

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 2 hours of lectures, a 1 hour tutorial, 6 hours of reading and thinking about the content each week and 30 hours total on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including tutorials to receive credit for components of the course.

Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials not be available as recordings.

The course will not include live online events including tutorials unless covid-related restrictions restrict on-campus attendance.

Attendance on campus is required for the test unless covid-related restrictions prevent on-campus attendance.

The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable delivery.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Readings are drawn from a variety of books and journals and will be available on the Talis course reading list. The assigned readings each week in the schedule below should be understood as the bare minimum required for the successful completion of this course and should be read before the lectures. Additional research and reading will be required to demonstrate thorough grasp of the subject matter and issues addressed in this course.

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

The weekly reading assignments have been adjusted and reduced in places in response to students' concerns over the amount of reading required. 

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website http://disability.auckland.ac.nz

Well-being always comes first
We all go through tough times during the semester, or see our friends struggling. There is lots of help out there - for more information, look at this Canvas page https://canvas.auckland.ac.nz/courses/33894, which has links to various support services in the University and the wider community.

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/academic-information/exams-and-final-results/during-exams/aegrotat-and-compassionate-consideration.html.

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/forms-policies-and-guidelines/student-policies-and-guidelines/student-charter.html.


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 26/10/2023 09:06 a.m.