Where to start? I’ve been collecting links to web sites on Japanese religions for quite some time now, mostly while doing research for my thesis. With this five-part series series of posts, I’ll try to put them in some sort of order. This first post in the series will just give you some links to sites that deal with Japanese religion(s) in general. The rest of the posts will follow the pattern of Shintō and Folk Religion – Buddhism – Christianity – shinshūkyō (New Religions), which seems to be the norm with most printed standard works on the subject.
A good way to give beginners an introduction to the history of religion in Japan is this short essay by Michael Pye. Of course, when Pye starts off by describing Japanese religion as “a rich tapestry of diverse traditions with a history of nearly 2,000 years”, you know he won’t go too much into detail, but it’s a good starting point.
If you can read German, you’re in for a treat with Bernhard Scheid’s excellent “Web-Handbuch Religion in Japan”. Scheid has put together an eminently readable compendium of information, including a brief religious history of the country that encompasses all major streams of thought, a paper on religiosity in modern Japan, a chapter on iconography, one on myths and legends, and so on.
Speaking of which, the Encyclopedia mythica has a nice (English) glossary explaining “the mythology of Japan, its origins in Shintoism and Buddhism, and the gods, spirits, men, and animals that appear in the many legends and stories” etc., etc.
If you’re seriously into Japanese Studies, you’ve already heard about Nichibunken, but you can’t plug their site too often. Especially noteworthy are their collection of research database and a range of (not just religious) subjects, and their Web OPAC.
Also of note is the Society for the Study of Japanese Religions (SSJR), although their web site could use an update. Their Japanese equivalent would be the Nihon shūkyō gakkai. Also of note is the (Protestant Christian based) NCC Center for the Study of Japanese Religions.
Japanologists from the University of Tübingen have organized their huge link collection into a catalogue of “Self-representation of Japanese Religions” on the web. The site contains dozens of links to official web sites by Japanese religious groups and organizations, from Shintō shrines to New Age networks. Unfortunately, the link collection is somewhat outdated by now. Also from Tübingen’s Klaus Antoni comes this great three-part bibliography on religious history, fairy tales and legends in Japan, and Japanese folk religion. An even bigger link dump is ARI- the Archive of Religions on the Internet from the Kokugakuin (site in Japanese).
Finally, there’s the renowned Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture. On their web site, they present their ongoing research projects etc., all very worthy of attention – but it all pales in comparison to their Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, of which all the back numbers are fully available in digital PDF format – with all essays and book reviews since 1974. I really can’t even begin to describe how useful this is. To top it all, they did the same with Asian Folklore Studies. This kind of open access philosophy is still only being realized very rarely, as can be seen with e.g. the NCC’s Japanese Religions. The NCC unfortunately only provides the tables of contents to the back numbers of its (excellent) journal.
Another good digital open access journal that sometimes carries articles on Japanese religions is The Marburg Journal of Religion. And of course, there’s always the electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned for part 2: Shintō and Folk Religion on the web.