Special Issue "Engaging Violence: Case Studies from the Japanese Religious Traditions"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (28 February 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Michel Mohr

Department of Religion, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Sakamaki Hall A311, 2530 Dole St., Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
Website
Interests: Asian religious traditions, Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, Indian philosophy, Yoga, universality, ethical issues

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue addresses the convoluted interactions between Japanese religions and violence or nonviolence. While grappling with questions that have remained taboo for too long, it undertakes the delicate task of complicating the picture by questioning our current understanding of violence and related concepts. The articles collected here reflect a wide range of disciplines and perspectives, while sharing two related threads. The first thread attempts to overcome dualistic concepts, such as the distinction between the perpetrator and the victim, or the geographic divide between Japan and overseas. The second thread derives from the wish to contextualize occurrences of so-called violence by examining their historical circumstances rather than projecting contemporary standards.

Thus, the aim of this special issue is to move beyond received assumptions about the relation between Japanese religions and "violence," by providing solid research anchored in specific phases of Japanese history. Existing publications tend to deal with Japan only in marginal ways, as illustrated by the following volumes:

  • Buddhism and Violence, edited by Michael Zimmermann, Chiew Hui Ho, and Philip Pierce (Lumbini, Nepal: Lumbini International Research Institute, 2006);
  • Buddhist Warfare, edited by Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010);
  • Buddhism and Violence: Militarism and Buddhism in Modern Asia, edited by Vladimir Tikhonov and Torkel Brekke (New York: Routledge, 2012), 209–226.

This special issue highlights the complex relationship between Japanese religions and various manifestations of what is today subsumed under the umbrella term "violence." So far, the few available studies tend either to neglect the specific contexts associated with each occurrence of so-called violence throughout Japanese history or to lump them in with "religious violence," which is often exclusively understood from the monotheistic perspective of the Abrahamic traditions. Contributions to this special issue all contribute to deconstruct previous biases regarding the delicate link between Japanese religions and violence.

Prof. Dr. Michel Mohr
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • violence
  • nonviolence
  • Japanese religions
  • Japanese history
  • Okinawa
  • environmental issues
  • universality
  • warrior monks
  • war and war crimes

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Ifa Fuyū’s Search for Okinawan-Japanese Identity
Religions 2018, 9(6), 188; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9060188
Received: 29 April 2018 / Revised: 17 May 2018 / Accepted: 18 May 2018 / Published: 12 June 2018
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Abstract
This paper focuses on the crucial role played by Ifa Fuyū, the “father of Okinawan studies,” in articulating ideas related to Okinawan-Japanese identity. Starting with a brief overview of Ifa’s life and work, especially his pioneering work in Ryukyuan linguistics, the author observes
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This paper focuses on the crucial role played by Ifa Fuyū, the “father of Okinawan studies,” in articulating ideas related to Okinawan-Japanese identity. Starting with a brief overview of Ifa’s life and work, especially his pioneering work in Ryukyuan linguistics, the author observes how Ifa’s progressive and reformist perspective shapes his discourse on religion, language, and history. The author then moves into analyzing a recently discovered wartime article that Ifa wrote in 1945, when he learned in Tokyo that the battle of Okinawa broke out between Japan and the U.S. Ifa’s controversial article shows how a strong sense of nationalistic identity was imposed upon Okinawans, on the one hand, while also revealing Ifa’s intention to fight prejudice toward Okinawans, on the other. This leads to the broader context of Japan’s emergence as a “nation state.” Problematizing the question of identity, the author argues that alternative histories of Japan should be taken into account for its proper understanding. Comparing Ifa’s view with historian Amino Yoshihiko’s thesis on Japan and modernization, the author envisions how identity can be seen as a growing network of plural identities rather than an abstractly imagined monolithic identity. Full article
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Open AccessArticle The Case of Hirose Akira: The Ethical Predicament of a Japanese Buddhist Youth during World War II
Religions 2018, 9(6), 185; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9060185
Received: 24 April 2018 / Revised: 5 June 2018 / Accepted: 6 June 2018 / Published: 10 June 2018
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Abstract
The Japanese Buddhist clergy’s collaboration with the Japanese war machine during the Fifteen Year War (1931–1945) is notorious. Yet the struggles of ordinary lay Buddhist youths during World War II remain less publicized. This article examines the case of a young Shinshū Buddhist
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The Japanese Buddhist clergy’s collaboration with the Japanese war machine during the Fifteen Year War (1931–1945) is notorious. Yet the struggles of ordinary lay Buddhist youths during World War II remain less publicized. This article examines the case of a young Shinshū Buddhist soldier, Hirose Akira, 廣瀬明 (1919–1947), and scrutinizes the diary he kept between 1939 and 1946. Mobilized between February 1942 and January 1945, Hirose became increasingly disillusioned, especially when he witnessed injustices and the officers’ thoughtlessness in ordering junior soldiers to make sacrifices while enjoying their privileges. His diary reveals an early skepticism toward the Japanese embrace of expansionism and the hypocrisy of its justifications for the war of aggression waged against China and Asia as a whole. Independently from the battle’s fate, by 1944 Hirose considered that Japan was already defeated because of what he saw as “her own people’s ego and selfishness.” Full article
Open AccessArticle Violence and Nonviolence in Shinran
Religions 2018, 9(6), 178; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9060178
Received: 18 April 2018 / Revised: 29 May 2018 / Accepted: 30 May 2018 / Published: 1 June 2018
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Abstract
This article examines the Pure Land Buddhist thinker Shinran (1173–1263), from whose teachings the Shin Buddhist tradition emerged. Shinran’s ideas provide an alternative model for considering moral judgments and issues related to violence. Since Shinran viewed violence as a mode of human action,
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This article examines the Pure Land Buddhist thinker Shinran (1173–1263), from whose teachings the Shin Buddhist tradition emerged. Shinran’s ideas provide an alternative model for considering moral judgments and issues related to violence. Since Shinran viewed violence as a mode of human action, the author asks how violence, whether inflicted or suffered, is to be understood by Shin Buddhists. This article further discusses how practitioners engaging the Pure Land path might deal with it, and the relevance of Shinran’s understanding here and now. This line of inquiry expands to consider how Shinran’s approach relates to norms used in modern discussions of violence. It scrutinizes the double structure of ethical awareness, discussing in particular how usual judgments of good and evil action can be contextualized and relativized. In the section dedicated to defusing the violence of ignorance, the author introduces Shinran’s nonviolent, nonconfrontational response, and analyzes how Shinran recasts the Buddhist stories of Ajātaśatru and Aṅgulimāla in relation to his understanding of the “five grave offenses”—specifically murder and near matricide—usually understood as excluding practitioners from the benefits of Amida Buddha’s Vows. The author shows that Shinran focuses on saving even the evil, not solely the worthy, thus rejecting the exclusion provision of the Eighteenth Vow. Full article
Open AccessArticle Environmental Violence in Minamata: Responsibility, Resistance, and Religiosity in the Case of Ogata Masato and Hongan no Kai
Religions 2018, 9(5), 166; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9050166
Received: 27 April 2018 / Revised: 12 May 2018 / Accepted: 15 May 2018 / Published: 21 May 2018
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Abstract
The small town of Minamata is infamous for the industrial disease named after the city. This disease resulted from having ingested methyl mercury, a substance released for more than three decades by a factory owned by the Chisso Corporation. Upon entering the human
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The small town of Minamata is infamous for the industrial disease named after the city. This disease resulted from having ingested methyl mercury, a substance released for more than three decades by a factory owned by the Chisso Corporation. Upon entering the human body, mercury affects the nervous system, resulting in paralysis, and often leading to a slow death. Examining how such violence was inflicted on human beings and on the environment involves a complex array of economic, environmental, and sociocultural issues, all revolving around the notions of justice and responsibility. This article analyzes the local residents’ responses to the irreparable damage done to them, focusing in particular on the thoughts and actions put forward by Ogata Masato and a group called Hongan no kai, who chose to carve bodhisattva statues. Investigating the victims’ religiosity, the author argues that the praxis put forward by the Minamata people resonates with the perspective articulated by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. After having witnessed how justice had been exhausted and their case had been lost in the Japanese legal system, the victims showed their resilience in coming up with original responses, which also offer valuable insight into current discussions centered on environmental ethics. Full article
Open AccessArticle Hostile Natives: Violence in the Histories of American and Japanese Nativism
Religions 2018, 9(5), 164; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9050164
Received: 18 April 2018 / Revised: 7 May 2018 / Accepted: 17 May 2018 / Published: 18 May 2018
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Abstract
This article shows how inaccurate the category of nativism—derived from American historiography—is when applied to the Japanese context prevailing when National Learning (Kokugaku) was flourishing. It argues that violence is not a distinctive feature of Kokugaku and suggests that the association between nativism
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This article shows how inaccurate the category of nativism—derived from American historiography—is when applied to the Japanese context prevailing when National Learning (Kokugaku) was flourishing. It argues that violence is not a distinctive feature of Kokugaku and suggests that the association between nativism and Kokugaku in Japanese studies is flawed. This is further complicated by examining instances of physical violence directed at foreigners and Japanese alike, which surged during the final years of the Tokugawa shogunate, when the slogan “revere the emperor and expel the barbarian” (sonnō-jō’i) resulted in extreme violence and assassinations. Victims of such attacks were not limited to Westerners, since Katsu Kaishū was almost killed by Sakamoto Ryōma. While significant portions of the Japanese elite began to advocate opening the country (kaikoku), many among them remained divided in their attitude toward Western learning and its necessity. This leads to the conclusion that Kokugaku was not an example of Tokugawa nativism, let alone the example of Tokugawa nativism, and that it would be better to develop a hybrid category of nativism applicable to that era. Such category results from combining Ralph Linton’s concept of nativism with John Higham’s characterization of nativism as marked by extreme hostility. Full article
Open AccessArticle Future Perfect: Tolstoy and the Structures of Agrarian-Buddhist Utopianism in Taishō Japan
Religions 2018, 9(5), 161; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9050161
Received: 22 April 2018 / Revised: 11 May 2018 / Accepted: 13 May 2018 / Published: 16 May 2018
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Abstract
This study focuses on the role played by the work of Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) in shaping socialism and agrarian-Buddhist utopianism in Japan. As Japanese translations of Tolstoy’s fiction and philosophy, and accounts of his life became more available at the end of the
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This study focuses on the role played by the work of Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) in shaping socialism and agrarian-Buddhist utopianism in Japan. As Japanese translations of Tolstoy’s fiction and philosophy, and accounts of his life became more available at the end of the 19th century, his ideas on the individual, religion, society, and politics had a tremendous impact on the generation coming of age in the 1900s and his popularity grew among young intellectuals. One important legacy of Tolstoy in Japan is his particular concern with the peasantry and agricultural reform. Among those inspired by Tolstoy and the narodniki lifestyle, three individuals, Tokutomi Roka, Eto Tekirei, and Mushakōji Saneatsu illustrate how prominent writers and thinkers adopted the master’s lifestyle and attempted to put his ideas into practice. In the spirit of the New Buddhists of late Meiji, they envisioned a comprehensive lifestyle structure. As Eto Tekirei moved to the village of Takaido with the assistance of Tokutomi Roka, he called his new home Hyakushō Aidōjō (literally, Farmers Love Training Ground). He and his family endeavored to follow a Tolstoyan life, which included labor, philosophy, art, religion, society, and politics, a grand project that he saw as a “non-religious religion.” As such, Tekirei’s utopian vision might be conceived as an experiment in “alter-modernity.” Full article
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Open AccessArticle The Missing Link between Meiji Universalism and Postwar Pacifism, and What It Means for the Future
Religions 2018, 9(5), 151; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9050151
Received: 14 April 2018 / Revised: 25 April 2018 / Accepted: 27 April 2018 / Published: 9 May 2018
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Abstract
This article focuses on the life of two individuals who were actively promoting universalism in the Meiji era, becoming silent during World War II, and then resurfacing after the war, pursuing similar ideas and agendas. These two individuals were Imaoka Shin’ichirō (1881–1988), the
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This article focuses on the life of two individuals who were actively promoting universalism in the Meiji era, becoming silent during World War II, and then resurfacing after the war, pursuing similar ideas and agendas. These two individuals were Imaoka Shin’ichirō (1881–1988), the former secretary of the Japanese Unitarian Association who died in 1988 at age 106, and Nishida Tenkō (1872–1968), the founder of the Ittōen movement. The author scrutinizes their role in formulating ideas and forming alliances between groups that still claim to promote transnational and transreligious ideas in the twenty-first century. Although Imaoka and Nishida contributed to bridge the gap between the Meiji era and today, whatever remains of their legacy may be related to the current standstill in attempts to deal with transnational and transdenominational divisions. In reviewing avenues for future transreligious conversations, this article discusses the extent to which the present Japanese religious traditions could contribute to such nonsectarian endeavors. It also indicates some of the philosophical strategies that could be adopted, highlighting the limits of common attempts based on an ethical approach, suggesting instead that empirical and epistemological approaches avoiding the pitfall of language may be more conducive to overcoming the current inertia in transreligious conversations. Full article
Open AccessArticle Discourses on Religious Violence in Premodern Japan
Religions 2018, 9(5), 149; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9050149
Received: 16 April 2018 / Revised: 26 April 2018 / Accepted: 26 April 2018 / Published: 6 May 2018
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Abstract
This article asks what religious violence is and why it is relevant. It questions common assumptions by focusing on how monastic violence unfolded in premodern Japan. It argues that there was nothing that set this particular form of violence apart in terms of
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This article asks what religious violence is and why it is relevant. It questions common assumptions by focusing on how monastic violence unfolded in premodern Japan. It argues that there was nothing that set this particular form of violence apart in terms of what the clerics fought for, their ideological justification, who fought, or how they fought. Although myths prevail on the largely fictive figure of the sōhei, or “monk-warriors,” closer scrutiny indicates that their depiction first emerged as a coherent literary concept in the early Tokugawa period. Regarding the ideological framework in which incidents of so-called monastic violence took place, the paper demonstrates that the individuals involved in such conflicts—including the clerics—cannot be dissociated from their own socio-historical context. This is because the medieval Japanese setting was based on rules of cooperation that also implied competition among various elites. The paper further complicates our understanding by showing that the central issue is not why specific violent events involving clerics occurred, but rather what constituted the mental framework—or mentalité—of the age, and how it allowed religious institutions to play such a prominent role. Full article
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