Religious Nationalism in Japanese Politics in the 2010s

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Michiaki OKUYAMA, Nanzan University, Japan
Japanese politics has experienced major changes involving coalition governments and governmental changes since the 1990s. This domestic transition has been influenced by the international political transformations that have taken place since the end of the Cold War, including the strengthening of China’s economic and military power, and the military adventurism of North Korea. In addition to these severe circumstances in East Asia, the aging and depopulation of Japan presents somber prospects for Japan’s future.

After one year of the Abe administration in 2006-2007, the second Abe Shinzō administration (2012 onwards), almost continuously supported by a conservative patriotism among the public, has strengthened its inclination toward Shinto nationalism. This is illustrated by Abe’s commitment to Shinto-related ceremonies conducted in major Shinto shrines such as at Ise and Yasukuni. Abe’s appropriation of Shinto traditions culminated in the hosting of the G7 Ise-Shima Summit in May 2016 that included a visit to Ise Shrine by the G7 leaders without any consideration of the Constitutional separation between religion and the state.

The current emperor now in position for almost thirty years, delivered a special message in August 2016 reminding the nation of his old age and of the difficulty he faces in continuing to carry out his duties as the emperor. This message has been received as his wish to abdicate. The abdication or death of an emperor, and the enthronement of the next, will involve a detailed series of rituals and ceremonies, and the present situation is stimulating a general interest in the Shinto rituals of the imperial household.

The current relationship between religion and politics in Japan presents an issue of national identity that entangles Shinto, the imperial system, and conservative politics. This paper will delve into this focal issue from the perspectives of contemporary history, sociology of religion, and regional politics.