79th Annual Conference

A Report on the 79th Annual Conference of the JARS
by the International Connections Committee

Due to COVID-19, the 79th Annual Conference of the JARS was held online, September 18-20, 2020. We owe the success of the conference to the organizers at Komazawa University in Tokyo, headed by Prof. Hasebe Hachirō, who coped well with all the unexpected and unprecedented difficulties. There were 427 participants in total. (The number of participants was lower than last year, possibly because of the exceptional measures taken to conform to the state of emergency; JARS members were allowed to have their abstracts published in the conference proceedings without having to make an actual presentation at the conference.)
In retrospect, the host of the 78th Conference at the Teikyo University of Science last year attempted to slim down the operation of our annual conference for the sake of economic and environmental sustainability. Referring to the Teikyo host, the host of the 79th Conference says, “We happened to proceed in that direction. There were only six of us on campus on the day of the conference. Our office was more like a call center than a conference staff room.”
The opening symposium, “Japanese Buddhism from Modernity to the Present: Continuity and Disruption in Light of the War in Asia,” was prerecorded and shared among JARS members via YouTube. The study of modern Japanese Buddhism (from the 1868 Meiji Restoration to WW2) has become popular among Japanese scholars over the past two decades. Many of them consider it important to investigate the transnational dimension of the development of modern Japanese Buddhism. In order to meet such emerging needs, the Komazawa host invited three distinguished scholars specializing in Buddhism in Southeast and East Asia. One of the speakers, Prof. Ranjana Mukhopadhyaya, presented her paper in Japanese online from Delhi. It is also noteworthy that this was the most gender-balanced opening symposium in the history of the JARS.

YANO Hidetake (Komazawa University)
SAKAIDA Yukiko (The Aichi University Institute of International Affairs), “A Study of the Second Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists and Foreign Exchanges in East Asia”
KOJIMA Takahiro (Tsuda University), “Interactions Between Japanese and Burmese Buddhists during and after World War II”
Ranjana MUKHOPADHYAYA (Delhi University), “India and Japanese Buddhism before and after the War: The Transformation of Nipponzan Myōhōji and Fujii Nichidatsu from Missionary Activities in Asia to World Peace Movements”
ISHII Kōsei (Komazawa University)

The Conference was also innovative in that the International Connections Committee encouraged young scholars to present their papers in English. This English session was meant to be an alternative for young scholars who had planned to attend the cancelled Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions in New Zealand. As they had lost their first opportunity to make a presentation in English at an official conference, the Committee decided to organize this special session that would provide young scholars with a training opportunity. The session was chaired by a member of the Committee, Prof. Carl Becker, and was conducted entirely in English.

Papers presented in English
TAKASE Kōhei (Univ. of Tokyo), “Freedom of Religion as a Diplomatic Strategy of Japan in 1893”
ŌBA Aya (Taisho Univ.), “The New Life Movement in Post-war Japan: Simplification of Weddings and Funerals
KAWANISHI Eriko (Professional Institute of International Fashion), “Localisation of Contemporary Western Witchcraft in Japan”
ANTONY Susairaj (Nanzan Univ.), “An Evaluation on Samathupuram in Tamil Nadu in Promotion of Social Harmony”

The regular program consisted of 8 panels and 116 individual papers.

Panel Titles and Conveners
AI and Religion: AI, Worldview, and the Notion of God (KIMURA Takeshi)

Religious Care for Non-believers by Religious Professionals in Hospitals (YAMAMOTO Kayoko)

The Succession and Creation of Next-Generation Systems for Edification: Shinto Shrines, Temples, and the Local Community (KAWAMATA Toshinori)

Research on Women and Religious Support Associations: New Possibilities from a Gender Perspective (KOBAYASHI Naoko)

Forefront of Onmyōdō Studies (HAYASHI Makoto)

AI and Religion: Considering the Acceptance of AI and Robots in Japanese Culture (MORO Shigeki)

Religion and Diversity in Education: Research for a New Perspective on Symbiosis (MORITA Mime)

Rethinking Funerary Culture in Contemporary Japan: International Perspectives (MIYAZAWA Aki)

Individual paper titles are available at