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The Stereotyping of Religion in Contemporary Japan*

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Abstract This paper offers an analysis of the nature of information related to religion presented on television news programs in contemporary Japan. The author maintains that information coming from television programs plays an influential role in formulating people’s perception of religion. This includes not only incidents that have occurred in the case of new religions (e.g., Aum Shinrikyō and Hō no Hana Sanpōgyō), but also events related to well-established religious traditions, such as Buddhist and Shintō denominations, and religions outside of Japan, in particular Islam. Through the use of data on TV broadcasting compiled by a database-producing company, the author examines information about religion aired on the news programs of NHK (Nihon Hōsō Kyōkai) and Nihon TV. In this context, the author categorizes four types of religion-related programs that are aired on TV: (1) religious programs provided by religious organizations themselves; (2) general educational programs that feature religious elements; (3) news reporting on religion; and (4) religious programs as entertainment programs. The author concludes that news reporting on religion in Japan today follows predictable patterns, contributing to what he calls “the stereotyping of religion.”

Affiliations: 1: Kokugakuin University Tokyo Japan


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