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New Religions, Depopulation, and the Aging Population

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Konkōkyō and Risshō Kōseikai

image of Journal of Religion in Japan

More than 20 percent of Japan’s population is over the age of sixty-five, and 45 percent of all cities, towns, and villages in Japan are classified as “depopulated” by the national government. Researchers have long been aware of the challenges that the aging population and depopulation pose to traditional Buddhist temples. In contrast to those temples, many new religions were formed when people moved from farming villages to cities. This history of providing urban forms of belonging that sometimes fed off of the depopulation that traditional Buddhist temples struggle with has led scholars to overlook ways that depopulation and the aging population might be affecting new religions. This article asks whether and how population change in contemporary Japan is affecting new religions. More specifically, through the use of statistical data, interviews, and newsletters from Konkōkyō and Risshō Kōseikai, two new religions that have locations throughout Japan, it shows that new religions are facing many of the same issues as traditional Buddhist temples. Comparing the organizational form, practices, legal structures, and membership size of these new religions, this article looks at ways that they are affected by depopulation and the aging population and how they are working to serve aging members in depopulated areas.

Affiliations: 1: Meiji Gakuin University


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