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Japan’s faith industry

thomas

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14 Mar 2002
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In the light of mounting scrutiny of the Unification Church and its political connections in Japan, the FT looked at the seeming contradiction of Japan being a secular, or at least not terribly religious country and the fact that there are over 180,500 registered religious organisations, roughly one for every 700 people or three times the national tally of convenience stores.

The point where membership of a rapacious cult becomes embarrassing, an elderly former adherent told me some years ago, is at the local supermarket. That moment when, as a pensioner, you buy 10kg of the most expensive fried tofu and everyone knows you plan to throw it all into the river to propitiate a fox-god. Other ex-cult residents I met in Komoro — a rural Nagano town whose mystical Shinto sect once held thousands in thrall across Japan — showed me cupboards stashed with what were once tokens of zeal, but were now mementos of financial regret. Bottle after bottle of healing potion had been purchased at the shrine for Y60,000 ($434) each, and contained tap water. The question for Japan — a nation famous for a collective refusal to move its enormous savings from bank and post office accounts into anything more risky — is whether anyone in government or the financial sector could ever match religion's level of salesmanship.

Source: Abe's assassination has shone a light on Japan's faith industry
 
In the light of mounting scrutiny of the Unification Church and its political connections in Japan, the FT looked at the seeming contradiction of Japan being a secular, or at least not terribly religious country and the fact that there are over 180,500 registered religious organisations, roughly one for every 700 people or three times the national tally of convenience stores.



Source: Abe's assassination has shone a light on Japan's faith industry
I wonder how many of those are either fronts for some questionable activities, to dodge taxes for example (assuming religious organizations don't pay tax in Japan), or small "cult" type of "churches". We have a lot of those weird cult-ish types around Chicago, and a lot of the tax dodging ones as well. You see them pop-up in old storefronts, members only, and if you ever see any members ever they are always dressed up in odd costumes. One just opened in what was a dry cleaners near my place. Didn't even know until I saw some of them this weekend. Entrance from alley only, storefront completely covered over to prevent entrance or even a glimpse in from the street side. Small sign with a ridiculously long and odd church name and a hand painted sign of "members only". We saw them in the alley and it was just weird. Funky see-through nylon dresses and hats for the women, the dresses almost looking like wedding dresses. The men were in long slim "dresses" as well but they were dark brown instead.
 
Yes, many of them might be doing it for tax reasons. I have asked my wife whether we couldn't set up a shrine in our parking lot and apply for tax immunity. :LOL:

Seriously though, imagine if just 0.1% of these organisations were bad apples à la Moonies or Scientology extorting and exploiting their members. I am glad the shooting triggered a debate about these cults in Japan and put their practices in the limelight. I have talked to Japanese, who told me they now understand what pushed the shooter (without condoning the assassination, of course).
 
I have asked my wife whether we couldn't set up a shrine in our parking lot and apply for tax immunity. :LOL:

I don't think its that far-fetched. My understanding is that families who own huge rural tracts of land do this, and if its happening in inaka, I'm sure there are enterprising urban land-owners who are turning parking lots into shrines for tax reasons.
 
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