70th Annual Conference

A Report on the 70th Annual Conference of the JARS

by the International Connections Committee

The 70th annual conference of the JARS took place in Nishinomiya-city, Hyogo, from September 2-4, 2011. The School of Theology of Kwansei Gakuin University hosted the conference on its Uegahara campus. Despite an unfortunate typhoon, there were over 500 participants and everything proceeded as planned, thanks to the efforts of the KGU conference organizers, particularly Prof. Michihito Tsushima and Prof. Kenji Doi.

Since the conference was held 6 months after the Tohoku earthquake, the conference organizers of KGU planned the opening symposium on the theme of “The Bonds Created by Religion: The Meaning and Potential of Fellowship through Faith.” Since they are open to the public, JARS opening symposia are typically more practical and general than narrowly scientific. KGU and the prefecture of Hyogo suffered the 1995 Hanshin (Kobe) earthquake, which led people to rediscover the importance of the spirit of mutual aid. However, recent neoliberal economic and social policies have exacerbated Japan’s social isolation. Isolation is not only a problem of individual citizens but also that of recent immigrant laborers’ ethnic groups. In order to counterbalance such fragmentation, various sectors of society are attempting to recreate communities and revitalize their spirit of interdependency. The conference organizers hoped the symposium would give conference participants an occasion to ponder and discuss both positive and negative roles that religious organizations and individuals take in creating and reinforcing communal bonds.

The symposium speakers and presentation titles were:

Motoo Nakamichi (Kwansei Gakuin University), “Indigenization, Inculturation, and Interculturation”

Jun’ichi Watanabe (Habikino Church of Konko-kyo), “The Task of Religious Movements in an Era of Loosening Bonds: How Open Is ‘Religion’ to People’s ‘Suffereings’?”

Hizuru Miki (Osaka International University), “Religious Newcomers in Local Japanese Society: Relations between Newly Imported Religions and Host Communities”

Yasushi Kosugi (Kyoto Universtiy), “Islam as a Contemporary Religion: The Umma as a Universal Community and Mosque-based Regional Communities”

The regular program consisted of 15 panels and 265 individual papers, which were organized into 14 sessions.

Session Titles

1a. Religion/Disaster/Bonds
1b. Religion and Society

2a. Study of Religion/History of the Study of Religion/Religion and Politics
2b. Religion and Education

3. Philosophy of Religion

4. Religion and Philosophy in Europe

5a. Islam/Judaism
5b. Religious Experience/Arts/Spirituality

6a. Indian Buddhism
6b. Chinese Buddhism

7a. Jodo-Shin-Shu (True Pure Land Buddhism)
7b. Japanese Buddhism

8a. Nichiren Buddhism/Modern Buddhism
8b. Buddhism/Folklore

9. Japanese Thought/Shinto/New Religions

10. Modern Japan and Religion

11a. Religion and Death Rituals
11b. Religion and Folklore

12a. Christianity in Different Regions of the World
12b. Religions in Different Regions of the World

13a. Religion and Medical Care/Bioethics
13b. Religion and Science/Psychology

14a. Religion and Gender
14b. Religion and Tourism/Pilgrimage

Panel Titles and Conveners

Religions and the Great East Japan Earthquake (Keishin Inaba)
Spiritual Dimensions of “Contribution to Society”: A Reconsideration from the Perspective of Japanese Buddhism (Yūan Toda)
Pedagogies for Teaching “The History of Japanese Religions” at the Higher Education Level (Eiki Hoshino)
The Intellectual Basis for Interreligious Dialogues: Can Reason Overcome Diversity of Cultures? (Kazuhiro Yamaki)
Religious Studies and the Meditation-inspired Understanding of Everything (Kenta Kasai)
Monks and Monasteries in Modern States (Makoto Hayashi)
Asia, War, New Buddhism (Eiichi Otani)
Environmental Ethics and Social Activities in Japanese Religion (Yoshirō Terada)
New Perspectives on Modern Japanese Buddhism: Nation-State, Social Engagement, and the Constitutive Other (Orion Klautau)
Several Issues about the Memorial Services for the Dead: From the Stand Point of the East Asia (Kenji Matsuo)
In Search of Understanding of “Immigrants and Religions” in the Diversifying Contemporary Japan (Norihito Takahashi)
Colonial Korea and Religion: Beyond the Concept of Religion (Jun’ichi Isomae)
Transforming Religious Organizations from a Gendered Perspective (Noriko Kawahashi)
The Practice of Women Overcoming “Tradition” and “Modernity”: From the Viewpoint of Gender (Naoko Kobayashi)
“Mainland Culturalization” and “Okinawanization” in Contemporary Okinawan Societies (Kōkyō Murakami)