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Someone who visits Japan today, even for a short amount of time, will most likely feel caught in a tug-of-war between complacency and crisis. The list of crisis is most likely familiar to those who stay up to date with world news: Japan’s economy is eroding which is threatening the global marketplace. The old political system grew brittle, which, in turn, created a wide-spread feeling of cynicism. The continuation of globalization has created the expectation of material wealth, which has played a significant part in dissolving many Japanese traditions that people relied on to give them a sense of identity and purpose.

But look in any Japanese city today or chat with someone on the street there and there is a broken sense of urgency about all of this. People seem well-fed and content. The trains still run on time, construction sites buzz, and shoppers still jam malls.

So it is with Japanese traditions of belief, too. Religious institutions have experienced stress. Politics and the Internet are scrambling the role that spirituality had in Japanese life and in many Japanese traditions and various forms of belief, worship no longer provides the sense of community that it once did.

But although many forms of religious traditions in Japan have seen a slump in recent years and some are viewed with suspicion, one of the traditions that has seen a notable amount of growth is the Japanese tradition of Tenrikyo (meaning “Religion of Divine Wisdom” in Japanese),which is sometimes referred to as Tenriism. So what draws people to Tenriism? What sets it apart from other religious traditions and how is it similar to other forms of belief? The purpose of this paper is to explore just that. First, their development as a tradition will be reviewed, then the beliefs that are involved in the Tenrikyo tradition, and last, how Tenriistic beliefs impact the live’s of people who identify with it will be covered.


This paper was presented as part of the World Religions course (MSSN 3403) taught by Dr. Barbara Pemberton.

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