University of Northern Iowa

“Japanese Religion: A View from the Streets of Tokyo”

Do you have plans to travel to or work  in Japan or elsewhere in East Asia (e.g., Taiwan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore)?  Will you be  teaching or learning in Japan or another East Asian country?  If so, an upcoming lecture is a wonderful opportunity. 

A common misperception about the Japanese people as well as people throughout East Asia is that they are not religious and that religious beliefs and practices, especially in urban areas, have died out in recent decades.  This misperception is largely fueled by ignorance of what religion looks like in Asia.  As a result, UNI faculty and students traveling, teaching, studying or  working in countries like Japan may inadvertently offend their hosts and/or get caught up in awkward conversations that reveal them to be misinformed about fundamental features of East Asian culture.

I invite you to the upcoming lecture that will promote cross-cultural understanding and will enable your to develop an enhanced awareness of Asian religious beliefs and practices.  Professor Steven Heine of Florida International University and I are offering a joint lecture on:

“Japanese Religion: A View from the Streets of Tokyo”

7 pm, Wed., October 23, Sabin 02

One of the most noted authorities on Japanese religion, Professor Heine is the author of 14 books on Japanese religion and has edited or co-edited 13 other volumes. Professor Heine and I will discuss his book, Sacred High City, Sacred Low City: A Tale of Religious Sites in Two Tokyo Neighborhoods.  This groundbreaking work challenges common perceptions that the Japanese are not a religious people and that religious practices have died out in contemporary Japanese culture.  I used Professor Heine’s book as a guide when I visited Tokyo in the summer of 2012. I observed the religious practices to which his book alerted me and took photos, which I will share in the lecture.  Professors Heine and I will engage in a dialogue in which we will draw on his expert knowledge of Japanese religion to add depth and understanding to my reporting on my trip to Tokyo.  The lecture topic has strong transfer value to other East Asian countries because of similarities in religious beliefs and practices throughout East Asia.