Scholar's Top 5: Erica Baffelli on Japanese Religion Online

Japanese Religion on the Internet: Innovation, Representation and Authority (Routledge 2011), the volume I have co-edited with Ian Reader and Birgit Staemmler, draws attention to how religion is being presented, represented and discussed on what we refer to as the Japanese Internet. As we demonstrate, the Internet is multi-lingual and most of users are not English speakers, and thus it is essential, for an understanding of the relationship of religion and the Internet, to examine other increasingly dominant online language contexts (e.g. Japanese) where this relationship is manifest. The aim of the book is to contribute to wider discussions about religion and the Internet by providing an example of how new media are impacting on religion in the East-Asian context and about how they are employed by various parties, from religious organizations to individual critics of religion(s). The book has been structured to provide both a discussion of key issues related to religion and the Internet in Japan (Part.1) and in-depth analysis of eight case studies (including examples from Buddhism, Shintō and New Religious Movements).

If you are interested in the topic of religion and new media in Japan, the following is my recommended reading list.

1. Reader, Ian and George J. Tanabe Jr. 1998. Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. One of the first studies drawing attention to the developing on-line marketing of religious services in Japan.

2. Nanette Gottlieb and Mark McLelland (eds.) 2003 Japanese Cybercultures. London, New York: Routledge. A valuable analysis of Internet use in Japan. It includes also a chapter on religion by Petra Kienle and Birgit Staemmler (“Self-representation of Two New Religions on the Japanese Internet”).

3. Benjamin Dorman and Ian Reader (eds.) 2010. Special issue of Nova Religio on “Projections and Representations of Religion in Japanese Media”, 10/3. The case studies presented investigate some different ways in which religion is represented in media (including new media) in contemporary Japan.

4. Charles Ess (ed. with Akira Kawabata and Hiroyuki Kurosaki) 2007. Special issue of Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication on “Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Religion and Computer-Mediated Communication” 12/3.
The special issue includes 3 papers on Japanese religion and the Internet: Kenshin Fukamizu “Internet Use among Religious Followers: Religious Post-modernism in Japanese Buddhism”; Akira Kawabata & Takanori Tamura “Online-Religion in Japan: Websites and Religious Counseling from a Comparative Cross-Cultural Perspective”; Mitsuharu M. Watanabe “Conflict and Intolerance in a Web Community: Effects of a System Integrating Dialogues and Monologues”.

5. Ishii Kenji 石井研士 (ed.) 2010. Baraetika suru shūkyō バラエティ化する宗教 (Religion Transformed into Entertainment) Tokyo: Seikyūsha and Kokusai Shūkyō Kenkyūjo 国際宗教研究所 (ed.) 2008. Gendai Shūkyō tokushū: Media ga umidasu kamigami 現代宗教2008 特集:メディアが生み出す神々 (Contemporary Religion 2008 Special Issue: Gods Born out of the Media) Tokyo: Akiyama shoten. Two recent publications focusing on current debates about media (including new media) and religion in Japan and on how religion on TV and visual media is being turned into a spectacle.