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Is it fair to say that most Japanese are atheists?

Shahar1992

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I am an Atheist myself and another thing I like about Japan (besides the way the Japanese language sounds which I have mentioned in my previous threads) is that organized religion is very weak in Japan and that most Japanese are in fact non - religious.
This is in contrast to for example my native Israel, where Judaism is very strong and there are many religious people.
And this is true for many other countries as well.

I mean the way I see it, the Japanese don't view Shintoism as a "religion" in the western, monotheistic since, but more as part of their national history.
And it is very different from the big monotheistic religions of the world.

But I could be wrong, this is just my impression, I have never lived or stepped foot in Japan.

However my inmpression seems to be accurate as according to a 2015 international survey on religion - Mapped: The world's most (and least) religious countries , Japan was ranked second least religious country in the world with only 13% of the population saying they are religious.
However I think Japan is really number one, because number one is China, which being a Communist country has long supressed religion, so some Chinese people might actually be religious but are afraid of being prosecuted by the state, wheras in Japan people are free to be religious but still are not.
 
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Xodarap

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That's an interesting question. I conducted research with the Japanese community here in Israel for an article I was writing. The people I interviewed were adamant that Japanese are not atheist but "accepting". They said Shinto is a way of life, but it does not exclude other religions. I met women who converted to Judaism and had no problem to say they still go to shrines whenever they are in Japan.

I'd say Shinto is a mix of habit and belief.

HOWEVER, the Japanese-Christian community I visited was very religious and they might be a part of those 13%.

-----
This reflects my own experiences, would love to hear other opinions.
 

mdchachi

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I'd say it's true that they are generally not religious in terms of following organized religion. But it doesn't follow that they are atheist.
 

OoTmaster

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They're very much so non-religious but I wouldn't say they're atheist. They have a lot of Buddhist traditions that they follow as well as shinto beliefs but as you stated it's more a this is the way things are as opposed to them feeling religious about it. I would say they're more ritualistic. If x happens you must do x ritual. Which is why funerals are always Buddhist in Japan that's just the way things are done.
 

mdchachi

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Which is why funerals are always Buddhist in Japan that's just the way things are done.
This is an overally general statement. A good friend of mine follows Shinto traditions for death/funerals. No buddhist-style home-altar or incense etc. I assume it's family tradition. I didn't really discuss it depth with them.
 

OoTmaster

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This is an overally general statement. A good friend of mine follows Shinto traditions for death/funerals. No buddhist-style home-altar or incense etc. I assume it's family tradition. I didn't really discuss it depth with them.
I meant more as a general rule then an "everyone" does it this way. Perhaps I should have made that more clear.
 

keshokesho

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I've looked around at that kind of information before out of curiosity, it's really interesting. I've personally found interest in Shinto before when I was a young teenager because that was around the time I heard the term "animism" which on a broader scale covered my natural beliefs (in that it's just something natural to think and feel) but of course Shinto is very different, haha, probably not suitable for a culturally American westerner with a weak perception. The history of Christianity in Japan is really curious too.
 

Toritoribe

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You also forgot to mention that most Japanese have Shinto weddings.
Where did you get it from? Actually, most Japanese people have Christian weddings, and Shinto weddings are not so many.

現在の結婚式において、多くの新郎新婦はキリスト教式を選び、神前式は少数派となっている
結婚式 - Wikipedia
(all in Japanese)

survey by ブライダル総研 Bridal Research Institute in 2008~2014
Christian weddings 55.5 ~ 60.7%
Shinto weddings 15.6 ~ 17.7%
http://www.recruit-mp.co.jp/news/pdf/20141022_01.pdf
(10 pages pdf file, all in Japanese)
 

Shahar1992

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Where did you get it from? Actually, most Japanese people have Christian weddings, and Shinto weddings are not so many.


結婚式 - Wikipedia
(all in Japanese)

survey by ブライダル総研 Bridal Research Institute in 2008~2014
Christian weddings 55.5 ~ 60.7%
Shinto weddings 15.6 ~ 17.7%
http://www.recruit-mp.co.jp/news/pdf/20141022_01.pdf
(10 pages pdf file, all in Japanese)

Sorry, my mistake.
I sssumed most Japanese have Shinto weddings, as that what they show on Japanese TV shows and in movies.
Didn't realize only 17% of the weddings are Shinto weddings.
But how can 60% of the weddings be Christian when Christians only make up about 2% of the Japanese population of 126 Million?.
 

Lothor

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But how can 60% of the weddings be Christian when Christians only make up about 2% of the Japanese population of 126 Million?.

Because Christian weddings are more appealing to Japanese people than Shinto weddings and a large Christian wedding industry has developed to meet the demand. The wedding itself only has symbolic importance. I got married by signing some papers with Mrs Lothor at the local ward office, then we had a Shinto wedding about 4 months later.
 

Toritoribe

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But how can 60% of the weddings be Christian when Christians only make up about 2% of the Japanese population of 126 Million?
And because a fact that they have Christian weddings doesn't mean they are Christian. It's more likely Christian style weddings.

A good friend of mine follows Shinto traditions for death/funerals. No buddhist-style home-altar or incense etc. I assume it's family tradition.
Agreed. My uncle's wife's family is Shintoist, but when she passed away,
her funeral ceremony was done with Buddhist rites in my uncle's, i.e., my family temple. Similarly, although a woman who married with my aunt-in-low's family member was a Buddhist in her parent's home, her funeral ceremony was done with Shinto rites. I think "not-so-fastidious" might be appropriate.
 

keshokesho

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A great deal of nonreligious people in the US have a Christian-styled wedding out of convention. It may have been the norm here due to history, but I can imagine the prevalence of the imagery being enough to work its way comfortably into Japan.

Christmas is probably the same. I don't think that I've ever read it being widely-received in the same connotation as most people in the US, judging by how your work and school life are (un?)affected, but I don't think most Japanese would disregard it just because it's not an extensively historical thing. Maybe these parallels are being stretched -- most likely!

EDIT: Silly typo fix.
 
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mdchachi

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But how can 60% of the weddings be Christian when Christians only make up about 2% of the Japanese population of 126 Million?.
As Toritoribe-san says, it's Christian-style weddings, not actually Christian weddings in most of these cases. I think a fundamental requirement of real Christian weddings it that the officiant be an ordained minister. Nobody cares about this in Japan (except for the few actual Christians). It is more about the pageantry. In fact even (usually Western) foreigners will sometimes play the role of minister as a part-time job.
 

Xodarap

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I know a couple who had a Shinto wedding not because of belief or anything, but because they had a lot foreign friends and they wanted them to experience something inherently Japanese.
 

Lothor

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I know a couple who had a Shinto wedding not because of belief or anything, but because they had a lot foreign friends and they wanted them to experience something inherently Japanese.

That's exactly why I chose a Shinto wedding - Mrs Lothor also wanted to wear the traditional stuff, so we were both happy.
 

OoTmaster

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As Toritoribe-san says, it's Christian-style weddings, not actually Christian weddings in most of these cases. I think a fundamental requirement of real Christian weddings it that the officiant be an ordained minister. Nobody cares about this in Japan (except for the few actual Christians). It is more about the pageantry. In fact even (usually Western) foreigners will sometimes play the role of minister as a part-time job.
Yes in a true Christian wedding it has be done by an ordained minister. The reason being is that the minister is joining the couple spiritually in the sight of God.
 

Toritoribe

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In fact even (usually Western) foreigners will sometimes play the role of minister as a part-time job.
Yeah, there was a thread to recruit for a part-time job of the role here in JREF, if my memory is correct.
 

Shahar1992

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It won't be a " logistical nightmare".
This guy did a research on the number of homophones in Japanese : Research Results: Homophones in Japanese – Self Taught Japanese .
First of all , according to his research based on 170,000 Japanese words, the vast majority, or 167,425 words (94.11%) do not have an homophone so this won't even apply to them.
Second, a further 6101 words (3.43%) have only one homphone, so that means only one word of the two will need to use a special symbol.
 
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