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Conflict and compromise in a Japanese village Hawkey, Thora Elizabeth

Abstract

This study is based on field work done during a period of eight months when I lived in the Japanese farming village described in the paper. The project was carried out under the financial auspices of the Japanese Government. The religion Tenrikyō is what I describe as a 'totalitarian' system. That is, it regulates the lives of its members in all of their roles of life. The values and ideals of the religion emphasize the individual and his struggle to attain salvation. Each believer is expected to devote himself and everything he owns to the final fullfillment of the goals of Tenrikyō. The values and goals in operation in village Japan are in direct opposition to values such as those outlined for the religion. Community solidarity is of utmost importance to a Japanese village. In order to attain this solidarity each member of the village must subject himself to the will of the community. Thus the village too may be described as a 'totalitarian' system. When Tenrikyō entered the village of Sakōdo the meeting of the two 'totalitarian' systems produced a conflict which the village attempted to solve by formally ostracising the converts to the religion. This action was not satisfactory since it resulted in a weakening of the inner strength of the community. The only recourse was to accept the religion and make it dependant upon the village. This action eventually destroyed the 'totalitarian' nature of the religion and strengthened that of the community. This paper is an examination of this conflict and compromise and illustrates the type of reaction which occurs upon the meeting of two 'totalitarian' systems which hold opposing values and ideals.

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