71st Annual Conference

A Report on the 71st Annual Conference of the JARS

by the International Connections Committee

The 71st annual conference of the JARS took place in Ise-City, Mie, from September 7-9, 2012. The Department of Shinto Studies of Kōgakkan University hosted the conference on its campus. There were 624 participants in total and we owe the success of the conference to the conference organizers, particularly Prof. Haruo Sakurai and Prof. Satoshi Kawano.

The organizers of Kōgakkan University selected “Testing the Public Value of Religion” as the theme of this year’s opening symposium. According to the chief organizer, Prof. Haruo Sakurai, the symposium was meant to offer an opportunity to “ponder upon together the tasks and challenges of the scholars of religion in the disastrous aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake as well as to be informed of the phases of relief/social activities conducted by some members of the JARS.” (“Record of Symposium”) Particular emphasis was laid upon the question, “What can the social roles of religions (religious organizations/individuals) be articulated with respect to the idea of ‘public welfare’?” To the public audience it was also rephrased as “Religion on Trial,” that is to say, “Have religious organizations been contributing to society in addition of caring and curing their own members, especially since the Great Earthquake?”

All the speakers have been engaged in action research in one form or another for many years, but even more so after the earthquake. Prof. Okada and Inaba have been leading the Japan Religion Coordinating Center for Disaster Relief (shūkyōsha saigai shien renrakukai), which helped different religious organizations exchange practical information, so as to facilitate their disaster relief activities. Prof. Suzuki, being a faculty member of Tōhoku University, has launched a new course for training multifaith chaplains (rinshō shūkyōshi) specializing in grief/disaster care.

The symposium with an audience of 210 involved both scholars and people of faith in lively discussion, while due attention was paid to the neutrality of the scholars of religion at the same time. Prof. Sakurai summarized the symposium, referring to three findings, which should be our further challenges. First, the concept of “public welfare” or “civic contribution” should be examined both in specific, factual contexts and in wide contexts. Second, the problem of the social value of religion would more adequately be discussed in light of the public perception of religion rather than relating it exclusively to the religious juridical persons law or religious in-group discourses. Third, on trial is not only religion but also the scholars of religion. However, it requires further consideration whether they could be evaluated according to their social engagements.

The symposium speakers and presentation titles were:

Keishin Inaba (Osaka University), “Religious People and Their Cooperation at the Time of a Disaster”

Mamiko Okada (University of Hyogo), “Religion and Public Welfare: From the Point of View of Environmental Protection”

Katsuhiro Kohara (Doshisha University), “An Attempt at the Public Good of Prayer: The Boundary of Religion Illuminated by the 3. 11 Disaster”

Iwayumi Suzuki (Tohoku University), “The Strength of Religion in the Rebuilding of Bonds after the Great East Japan Earthquake”

Hirochika Nakamaki (National Museum of Ethnology)

The regular program consisted of 19 panels and 262 individual papers, which were organized into 14 sessions

Session Titles

1a. Study of Religion / History of Religions
1b. Study of Religion / History of Religions
2a. Philosophy of Religion
2b. Christianity, Philosophy of Religion / Disaster, Religion and Relief
3a. Christianity
3b. Christianity / Islam / Judaism
4a. Indian Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism
4b. Indian Buddhism / Religious Organizations or Institutions in Post-War Japan
5a. Japanese Buddhism
5b. Japanese Buddhism
6a. Japanese Buddhism
6b. Folklore / Globalization and Religion
7a. Shinto
7b. Shinto and Japanese Thought
8a. Modern Japan and Religion
8b. Modern Japan and Religion
9a. Life, Death and Religion
9b.  Life, Death and Religion
10a. Religion and Medical Care/Science
10b. Folklore / Disaster, Religion and Relief
11a. Disaster, Religion and Relief
11b. Religion and Society / Disaster, Religion and Relief
12a. Christianity, Philosophy of Religion / Disaster, Religion and Relief
12b. Religion and Spiritualism / Globalization and Religion
13a. Religion and Education
13b. Asian Religions and Religiosity
14  Religion and Society

Panel Titles and Conveners

The Birth of Science of Religion, Sociology, and Folklore Studies: Parallelism of Europe and Japan (Reiji Andō)

Problems Relating to Religious Studies after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami from the Perspective of Practical Activities on the Part of the Religious (Mitsugu Shinmen)

Judaism and the Crises It Has Faced: When Tradition Collapses (Etsuko Katsumata)

The Conflict between a State and a Religious Group: Institution of Religious Law and Religious Person in the Postwar Period (Kenji Ishii)

Considering the Role of Fieldwork in the Historical Study of Religion (Eiichi Ōtani)

Nostalgia for Homeland Linking Religion and Immigrant (Yōhei Fujino)

Public and Religiosity in “State Shinto” during 1926-1945 (Hiromasa Fujita)

The House of Shirakawa and Shirakawa Shintoism (Takeshi Yamaguchi)

Revisiting Postwar Theories of Japanese Buddhism (Orion Klautau)

“Life and Death” and Transcendence in Religion (Shinryō Takada)

What Challenges Do Religious Views of “Inochi” Face in the Technological Era (Yasunori Andō)

Re-examination of “Soul and Matter” in the Times after the Great Disaster: A Reevaluation of Japanese Buddhism (Yūan Toda)

Religious Care in the Public Sphere: Possibilities of Chaplain Activities in Japan (Hara Takahashi)

Religions in Iwaki City after the Great East Japan Earthquake (Yoshirō Terada)

Religious Studies on the Narrative of Disasters (Kazuo Matsumura)

Transnational Religions in Korea and Japan (Yoshihide Sakurai)

Education and Edification in Asian Religions (Hidenari Nishio)

Re-visioning Japanese Religiosity: Perspectives from the Current Religious Situations of Europe, the United States, Korea, and Japan (Yoshinari Fuji)

Postsecularism and Publicness (Ryūji Fujimoto)

For individual paper titles, please check Journal of Religious Studies, No. 375, March 2013.