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Modernity and postmodernity in Japanese new religion and literature Tanaka, Motoko


This thesis explores the relations between modernity, postmodernity and new religions in Japanese literature. I examine the emergence of new religions since the Meiji period; modernity and religion with particular attention to Takahashi Kazumi's (1931-1971) Jashumonge (The Evil Creed) first published in 1966, and postmodernity, focusing on Shimada Masahiko's (1961- ) Yogensha no Namae (The Name of the Prophet) published in 1992. The development of new religious movements in Japan is intimately related to fundamental social changes that have taken place since the mid-nineteenth century. Rapid modernization influenced the directions and characteristics of new religions. In this thesis, I argue that three modern conditions - in particular, secularization, urbanization, and the spirit of reformation and protest - have had a profound impact on the nature of new religious organizations. In modern societies, religion became one of the social structures that supports meta-narratives such as communalism, the goals of which are to achieve a better life for the group. New religions entered a new phase after Japan entered the so-called postmodern era, the post-industrial, super-consumption culture beginning in the 1970's. New religions entered a new phase as they were influenced by postmodernism's emphasis on individualism, consumerism, and the emergence of advanced information technologies. Since the meta-narratives and perceptions of reality and authenticity are deconstructed in such a society, new religions offer individual fulfillment through virtual reality and fictitious themes as well as doctrines based on globalism. By studying two literary works, it becomes clear that underlying the emergence of religious movements are social and cultural problems such as power struggles, legitimacy, individualism, and hyperreality. Literary works that deal with new religions successfully analyze these problems in detail and articulate the drastic ways in which the mentality of the Japanese people has changed according to social changes and movements within modern and postmodern eras. New religions reflect a heightened awareness of people's daily lives and hopes; they emerge from an implicit critique of conventional religions that have been rather concerned with communities as a whole.

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