Media and New Religions in Japan: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Media and New Religions in Japan

1st Edition

By Erica Baffelli


192 pages

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Japanese "new religions" (shinshūkyō) have used various media forms for training, communicating with members, presenting their messages, reinforcing or protecting the image of the leader, and, potentially, attracting converts. In this book the complex and dual relationship between media and new religions is investigated by looking at the tensions groups face between the need for visibility and the risks of facing attacks and criticism through media. Indeed media and new technologies have been extensively used by religious groups not only to spread their messages and to try to reach a wider audience, but also to promote themselves as a highly modern and up-to-date form of religion appropriate for a modern technological age. In 1980s and early 1990s some movements, such as Agonshū , Kōfuku no Kagaku, and Aum Shinrikyō came into prominence especially via the use of media (initially publications, but also ritual broadcasts, advertising campaigns, and public media events). This created new modes of ritual engagement and new ways of interactions between leaders and members. The aim of this book is to develop and illustrate particular key issues in the wider new religions and media nexus by using specific movements as examples. In particular, the analysis of the interaction between media and new religions will focus primarily on three case studies predominantly during the first period of development of the groups.


‘Erica Baffelli’s book breaks new ground by providing us with the first comprehensive analysis of the ways in which Japanese new religions use media forms to create marketable images of themselves and to construct images of their leaders and to transmit their teachings. Her study shows how the charismatic standing of leaders may be constructed and reinforced via media-ised processes, publications and rituals, and how new religions make use of spectacular, media-oriented rituals to attract new audiences. Yet she also shows that new religions at times have problems with new media, as her account of the ways in which they may struggle with the potentialities of the Internet, shows. As such this is a valuable study of importance to anyone interested in Japanese religions, new religions, and the media.’ -- Ian Reader, University of Manchester, UK

Table of Contents

Introduction: What is This Book About? 1. Media and New Religions in Japan 2.The Importance of Media Engagements: Themes 3. Mediating (Buddhist) Rituals: Agonshū’s Satellite Broadcasting 4. Mediating the Leader’s Image: Kōfuku no Kagaku’s Communication Strategies in the 1990s 5. New Religions and Offline/Online Interactions: Aum Shinrikyō, Hikari no Wa and the Internet Conclusions: Mediation Practices and Reception

About the Author

Erica Baffelli is currently a Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester, UK. She is interested in religion in contemporary Japan, with a focus on groups founded from the 1970s onwards. Currently she is examining the interactions between media and "new religions” (shinshukyo) in 1980s and 1990s and the changes in the use of media by religious institutions after the 1995 Tokyo subway attack.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Religion, Media and Culture

This series of Routledge monographs provides both new and established scholars the opportunity to publish original research in Religion, Media and Culture. The series includes a wide range of investigations of media in relation to religious practice and belief in any historical period or geographical domain. Media examined in this series include everyday objects such as statues, dolls, and photographs; visual media such as wood cuts, icons or illuminated manuscripts; and newer media such as radio, film, television, and Internet. Volumes go beyond focusing on how messages are delivered to passive audiences, and contribute to an evolving paradigm of understanding creative audiences for whom media are an integral part of lived religion. Studies draw on a variety of methods for their investigations.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Eastern
RELIGION / Religion, Politics & State