BA East Asian Studies with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Religion in Japan

Course unit fact file
Unit code JAPA20211
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module examines religion in Japanese historical and contemporary contexts, with a particular emphasis on the modern period.  It introduces the main religious traditions (notably Buddhism, Shinto, the folk religious tradition and the new religions) and practices that have shaped the Japanese religious and cultural landscapes, and examines the historical emergence and development of religious traditions, their relationships with state and society, and their rituals and practices. Furthermore, it examines issues of religious change in the late 20th/early 21st century.


Available on: Japanese Studies programme


•    To provide students with an understanding of main topics concerning the study of religion in Japan
•    To introduce the religious traditions and their dynamics in modern and contemporary Japan, in particular the interactions between culture, religion and society. 
•    To help students understand the main issues related to the place of religion in Japan today. 

Knowledge and understanding

•    demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key major issues relating to the role of religion in modern and contemporary Japan
•    demonstrate critical understanding of key analytical concepts related to the study of religion in contemporary Japan

Intellectual skills

•    engage in informed critical analysis of Japanese culture, especially religion
•    read and watch critically 
•    write analytically

Practical skills

•    have the skills to discover good sources independently
•    experience reading academic texts building on their earlier or parallel learning in cognate course units

Transferable skills and personal qualities

•    have honed their skills for reasoned presentation, discussion and argument 
•    be able to find and use critically a range of materials such as books, journals and web-based resources relevant to the topics studied in the course.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The course will develop a range of abilities that are essential for much higher-level employment. These include gathering, critically selecting, and organizing information and ideas; analytical, critical thinking; interpreting and assessing sources; articulating coherent, logical and convincing arguments and supporting them by relevant evidence; articulate participation in oral discussion; working independently and to deadlines.
In addition, it will develop critical understanding of a different society, which is valuable for employment with an international dimension. It will develop understanding of a number of key aspects of Japanese society related to its religious traditions which will be invaluable for those seeking employment in Japan or seeking employment where engagement with Japan is important.

Assessment methods

Assessment task  

Formative or Summative 


Weighting within unit (if summative) 

1 essay on agreed topic/s 




1 written examination 





Resit Assessment

Assessment task  


1 Essay on agreed topic 


Feedback methods

Feedback method Formative or Summative
In writing: written feedback on essay outline Formative
In class: response to contributions and to questions asked, along with any other participation. Formative
In writing: written feedback on essay (via Blackboard/Turnitin) Summative
In person: additional one-to-one feedback during the consultation hours or by making an appointment. Formative


Recommended reading

  1. Barbara Ambros Women in Japanese Religions. (New York and London: New York University Press, 2015)
  2. Mark Rowe Bonds of The Dead: Temples, Burial and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism (Hawai‘i University press 2011)
  3. John Breen (ed) Yasukuni, the war dead and the struggle for Japan's past (Oxford University Press 2008)
  4. John Breen and Mark Teeuwen, A new history of Shinto (Wiley, 2010) 
  5. Paul L. Swanson and Clark Chilson (eds)  Nanzan guide to Japanese religions. (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2006) 
  6. Inken Prohl and John Nelson (eds)  Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions (Brill, 2012)
  7. Ian Reader  Making Pilgrimages: meaning and Practice in Shikoku (University of Hawai‘i press 2004)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 161

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Erica Baffelli Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Return to course details