This paper argues how the study of religion in Japan influenced the nation’s conduct during the Asia-Pacific War (1931–1945). Specifically, the paper addresses the wartime national indoctrination texts of Katō Totsudō 加藤咄堂 (a.k.a. Katō Yūichirō 加藤熊一郎, 1870–1949). Although Katō was not strictly a religious scholar, analyzing Katō’s texts is significant in understanding the influence of religious theory and religious studies discourse on Japanese society during the war. To illustrate this point, this paper introduces previous studies that have discussed the movements of religious scholars during the war. It then clarifies the significance of discussing Katō’s texts, followed by an introduction to what has been revealed about Katō so far. The paper then examines Katō’s wartime texts that discuss the relationship between war, faith and the readiness to die. The East–West comparison of views of life and death used by Katō was characterized as a wartime application of comparative religion. It was intended to emphasize Japan’s superiority over other countries. Such features agitated Japanese readers to proactively enter the fight to the death through spiritual mobilization in a total war system.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.