Journal of the Faculty of Humanities and Human Sciences - Volume 3

The Cult Problem in Present-Day Japan

Sakurai, Yoshihide

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KEYWORDS : cult; Falun Gong; Aum; Unification Church; fragility


This paper was originally presented at the International Symposium on Cultic Studies, held on December 6-8, 2007, at Shenzhen China, which was sponsored by Institute of World Religions, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This institution made strong effort to study the activities of the Falun Gong inside/outside of China,because Chinese communist party was very concerned about the upsurge of this religious movement and finally banned any activities of Falun Gong in July 22, 1997. Falun Gong,foundered by Li Hongzhi in 1992, rapidly expanded its missionary in China and evoked cult controversy over believers’devotion to Li Hongzhi in China. Conversely, human rights watch groups and refugees of Falun Gong in western countries criticized Chinese government and strongly demanded immediate cessation of its repression. Although Chinese government as well as Chinese Academy has not changed official position to Falun Gong,they seem to have acknowledged that a cult issue is problematic. Chinese history has too many cases to enumerate spiritual cults and religious millennialism that were heretic(淫祠) and subversive(邪教) from the perspective of successive imperial dynasties. Even if Falun Gong is considered to have the same character, it cannot be sufficient reason of political restriction in a country where freedom of religion constitutionally guaranteed. They consider the necessity of legitimacy not only of Chinese legislation but also of universal criteria, so that they called experts of cult issue from the western countries(England, Germany, Canada, USA)as well as Asian (India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan). I was only participant from Japan and reported Japanese cult controversy in present day Japan. This paper first introduces recent cult controversy and review cultic studies in Japan. Then I will illustrate major controversial cults(Aum Supreme Truth Cult-Aleph in present, Unification Church, and JMS from South Korea) and minor cultic groups (Hallelujah Community Church, Makomo Shrine, and Home of Heart). The latter is small independent Religious Corporation or self-awareness therapy group. Last I will explain about the social background where such cults and spiritual movement emerged in Japan and point out the fragility that some Japanese as well as victimized cult members hold, which should be overcome in near future.