Implications of International Relief Work and Civil Society for Japanese Buddhists Affiliated with Traditional Denominations

  • Hiroko Kawanami
Part of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series (CAR)


This chapter examines Japanese Buddhists affiliated with traditional denominations in their role as relief donors and reveals how international relief work has come to provide them with an important channel to break out of their traditional sectarianism and parochial mindset, and as a consequence, help them become integrated as part of Japanese “civil society.”1 I focus especially on the activities of Japan Buddhist Federation (JBF), a loose union of self-governing Buddhist sects whose role is particularly important in promoting the collective interests of Japanese Buddhists and building a national network for relief groups that have worked in relative isolation for centuries. In recent years, JBF has put its efforts into making Japanese Buddhism more beneficial for the public good, and young members in particular have been at the core of a movement to promote humanitarian activities in the international community. Social engagement, on the other hand, may be effective in building communal bonds in a milieu where people share their public values and expectations, but the notion of supporting “strangers” in foreign countries has been unfamiliar to the Japanese public until recently. This allows us to examine the significance of “international relief work” in Japan, and what it implies to Buddhists who are trying to extend their support beyond the traditional confines of their local congregation and sect members.


Civil Society Religious Organization Relief Work Buddhist Monk Relief Activity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Hiroko Kawanami and Geoffrey Samuel 2013

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  • Hiroko Kawanami

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