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Does religion matter in Japan?


Religion has played a significant role in shaping different societies and cultures around the world. However, Japan is known for its unique approach to religion, which is quite distinct from the Western world. While there are several religions in Japan, including Buddhism, Shintoism, and Christianity, the question is whether religion matters in Japan. This article aims to explore this question in detail and provide insights on the role of religion in Japan.

History of Religion in Japan

The history of religion in Japan dates back to ancient times when the Japanese people practiced animism, which involves the worship of nature and spirits. Later on, Buddhism was introduced from China and became a popular religion in Japan. Shintoism, which revolves around the worship of ancestors and natural phenomena, emerged as a distinct religion in Japan during the 7th century. Christianity was also introduced to Japan during the 16th century but was banned during the Edo period.

Japanese Snack Box

Religious Tolerance in Japan

One unique aspect of religion in Japan is its high level of religious tolerance. Unlike other countries where religious conflicts are common, Japan has a reputation for being inclusive and respectful towards different religions. People in Japan often practice more than one religion, and it is not unusual to see Buddhist and Shinto shrines coexisting peacefully.


Shintoism is a unique religion that originated in Japan and has significant cultural and historical significance. It involves the worship of natural phenomena, ancestors, and spirits known as kami. Shintoism plays a crucial role in Japanese culture, including weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies.


Buddhism is another major religion in Japan that has been practiced for over a thousand years. It emphasizes spiritual development through meditation and mindfulness practices. Many Japanese people practice both Shintoism and Buddhism simultaneously.


Christianity was introduced to Japan during the 16th century by Jesuit missionaries but was banned during the Edo period. Today, Christianity is a minority religion in Japan with less than 1% of the population identifying as Christians.

Religion and Society

Religion has played a significant role in shaping Japanese society and culture. It has influenced everything from social norms to art and architecture. Religion also plays a vital role in traditional Japanese festivals such as Obon, New Year’s Day, and Setsubun.

Religion and Politics

Unlike some countries where religion plays a significant role in politics, religion does not have much influence on Japanese politics. There is a clear separation between religion and state affairs in Japan.

The Role of Religion Today

In modern-day Japan, there has been a decline in religious affiliation among younger generations. However, religion still plays an essential role in Japanese society through traditional practices such as festivals and ceremonies.

Alternative Spiritual Practices

In recent years, alternative spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness have become increasingly popular among younger generations in Japan.


In conclusion, while religion does play an essential role in Japanese culture and society, it may not be as significant as it is in other parts of the world. However, it is still revered by many Japanese people who see it as an integral part of their identity.


– “Religion in Japan.” World Atlas. Accessed August 22nd, 2021.
– “Religious Beliefs In Japan.” World Population Review. Accessed August 22nd, 2021.
– “Shinto.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed August 22nd, 2021.
– “Buddhism.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed August 22nd, 2021.
– “Christianity.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed August 22nd, 2021.
– “Religion and Spirituality.” The Japan Times. Accessed August 22nd, 2021.

How important is religion in Japan?

In Japan, religion is not typically a topic of conversation in daily life and many Japanese people do not regularly practice any specific religion. However, during significant life events such as birth, marriage, and death, most people participate in religious rituals. Additionally, many people take part in spiritual festivals called matsuri throughout the year.

Is Japan strict on religion?

In Japan, there is a clear distinction between religion and government, although there have been discussions about how to distinguish between religion, culture, and tradition as there are areas of overlap.

Does Japan accept other religions?

In Japan, there is no one major religion and many people choose to follow a blend of practices from various faiths. As of 2018, the Government of Japan reports that the majority of the population, 69.0%, practices Shintō, 66.7% practices Buddhism, 1.5% practices Christianity, and 6.2% practice other religions.

What percentage of Japan has no religion?

There is a paradox when it comes to the relationship between Japan and religion. Despite being frequently perceived as a country of non-believers, with only 10-15% of the population identifying as religious and the majority considering religion unimportant in their lives, this image is contradicted by other cultural surveys.

Are most Japanese atheist?

Approximately 30 to 39% of the population on the Japanese islands identify as “convinced atheists”, which is a higher percentage compared to other countries. Traditionally, religion in Japan has focused on Shintoism, a belief system based on rituals and mythology related to Japan’s ancient history rather than a single divine being.

What do Japanese think about Christianity?

While Japanese people view Buddhism and Shinto differently, they generally perceive Christianity as a religion. McClung (1999) notes that Japanese individuals often consider Christianity to be a religion from the Western world.

In addition to traditional religions, there has been a rise in new religious movements in Japan. These movements often combine elements of traditional religions with new age or alternative spiritual practices. Some examples of these movements include Aum Shinrikyo, which gained notoriety for its involvement in a terrorist attack in the 1990s, and Happy Science, which combines elements of Buddhism, Christianity, and Shintoism.

Despite the high level of religious tolerance in Japan, there have been some instances of discrimination against certain religions. For example, members of the Burakumin community, who are considered to be descendants of historically marginalized groups, have faced discrimination for practicing Buddhism and other religions.

Another aspect of religion in Japan is the role it plays in the tourism industry. Many tourists visit Japan to experience traditional Japanese culture, including visits to temples and shrines. In recent years, there has been a growing trend of “spiritual tourism,” where tourists visit Japan to participate in meditation retreats or learn about alternative spiritual practices.

Overall, while religion may not have as much influence on daily life in Japan as it does in some other countries, it still plays an important role in shaping Japanese culture and society. Whether through traditional practices or new religious movements, religion continues to be a significant part of Japan’s unique cultural identity.

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