A large majority of Japanese people describe themselves as mushūkyō
, ‘non-religious’, even though they participate in several religious-related cultural practices that socialize them to accept spiritual attitudes without the mediation of organized religion. This phenomenon fits well into the ‘spiritual but not religious’ formula of the contemporary Northern European and North American sociological debate, in which the ‘religion’ and ‘spiritual’ categories denote interdependent, although not always reciprocated, domains. Drawing upon two sets of qualitative data on women belonging to five religious organizations (Shinnyoen, Risshō kōseikai, the Roman Catholic Church in Japan, Sōga Gakkai, and God Light Association (GLA)), in this study, I argue that the religion–spirituality distinction not only fails to capture the empirical reality of contemporary Japanese religions, it also does not take into account new modalities of religious and spiritual experiences of people with such affiliations. Their experiences are expressed through the socio-cultural milieu and the language of religion and spirituality available to them in contiguous and complementary ways. In this respect, the aim of this article is to discuss such aspects of Japanese women’s religious and spiritual experiences that have often eluded scholars writing on Japanese religiosity in order to broaden the focus of reflection to include the mushūkyō
aspect and the presumed religion–spirituality mismatch.
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