Critical Reflections on the Category ‘Religion’ in Japan

  • Mitsutoshi Horii


The term shūkyō was developed as a generic category in Japan in the late nineteenth century to refer to the English word ‘religion.’ It also referred to the German Religionsübung (Hermann 2016, p. 114). In chapter “ A ‘Critical Religion’ Approach to Japanese ‘Religion(s)’”, I have highlighted the absence of the emic equivalent to the concept of ‘religion’ in pre-modern Japan. This understanding echoes Helen Hardacre (1991, p. 18) when she claims:

In pre-Meiji Japan there existed no concept of religion as a general phenomenon, of which there would be variants like Christianity, Buddhism, and Shinto. People spoke of having faith (shinkō) in particular kami and Buddhas, but on word existed to designate a separate sphere of life that could be ‘religious,’ as opposed to the rest of one’s existence.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mitsutoshi Horii
    • 1
  1. 1.Shumei UniversityChibaJapan

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