The Relationship in Japan between the Media and Young People's Perceptions of Religion

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Kikuko HIRAFUJI, Kokugakuin University, Japan
The Kokugakuin University Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics and the Japanese Association for the Study of Religion and Society between 1995 to 2015 jointly carried out 12 surveys of university students' perceptions of religion. Questionnaires were sent every year to approximately 4,000 students asking them about the extent of their interest in religion; whether their parents adhere to one or another faith or not; whether they believe in the existence of kami, souls, and buddhas or not; whether they believe in fortune-telling or not; and furthermore about the extent of their interest in various social issues.

The year the surveys began was one in which Aum Shinriky┼Ź launched its sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system. News media carried many negative items related to religion, and the idea of adhering to one or another faith carried an extremely poor image. The percentage of survey respondents who said they believed in one at the time stood at 6.7%. That figure has gradually rebounded in the twenty years since, with the results from the 2015 survey showing 10.2% professing one or another faith. However, more than half of the respondents indicated that they held an image of religion as being something dangerous.

In this presentation, I will use a bird's eye view of students' perceptions of religion built over this 20-year period to discuss the relationship between Japanese university students' perceptions of religion and that public space that the mass media represents.