MJHW (Online Meeting) on Religious Propaganda in 1920s-1930s Japan - Friday, May 14th

Joelle Tapas's picture

Please join us for the next meeting of the Modern Japan History Workshop on Friday, May 14th at 6 pm JST.  Our presenter this month will be Ivan Triola (University of Cambridge), who will present his work on religious propaganda in 1920s-1930s Japan (details below).

This month’s session will be held online through ZOOM, and can be accessed using the following sign-in information:

Meeting link: https://u-tokyo-ac-jp.zoom.us/j/82183369679

The password for the meeting will be posted at the top of the MJHW website from May 10th onwards.

The workshop is open to all, and no prior registration is required.

Please direct any questions to Joelle Tapas at tapas@fas.harvard.edu.  We hope to see you there!

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Religion on Your Doorstep: The Magazines and Newspapers Craze that Revolutionized Religious Propaganda in Japan between the 1920s and the 1930s

Ivan Triola (University of Cambridge)

In the early twentieth century, religions risked becoming irrelevant because of the pressure to conform to the international standards of the modern nation, in which science-based thought was considered superior and more adequate to the new era. However, religious organizations found a way to legitimize their belief systems in modern Japan and potentially attract new followers: regular publishing. By the 1930s, magazines had become a medium of national mass consumption. Production and distribution of religious magazines/newspapers started as early as the 1890s but became widespread only after the 1920s. Recently, scholarship on media and religions has focused particularly on digital media, often overlooking the role of print, especially in the case of newer religions (known in religious studies as New Religions and New-New Religions) which became popular in the 1900s. Yet, to understand the dynamics behind the growth of New Religions, it is imperative to explore the historical significance of print media in shaping their success, as print remains the only constant of propaganda in the twentieth century.

By investigating the history and content of newspapers and magazines published by three New Religions (Tenrikyō, Ōmoto, and Kurozumikyō), I argue that increased circulation of mainstream monthly and weekly papers in the late Taishō (1912 – 1926) and early Shōwa (1926 – 1989) Japan became also the base for a revolution in proselytism and helped religions maintain currency. This paper concludes that religious propaganda underwent a revolution for three main reasons: 1) to answer the demand coming from a modern society of consumers by adapting to the market requests: i.e. people loved magazines, religious organizations provided them; 2) subscription-based papers eliminated the necessity of proximity to conduct propaganda, facilitating national (and even international) scale expansion through doorstep delivery service; 3) finally, magazines and newspapers dethroned (Buddhist) scriptures from their long-held monopoly of religious print by providing fresh content, being affordable enough to attract followers, and especially conveying religious teachings in a light, palatable format while also creating print-based religious communities.

Will this lecture be recorded and available after the event? For scholars on the US East coast the event begins at 5 am so some may be discouraged.

I sure hope that the organizers will link the video recording to this post...

Thank you for your interest in last week’s session.  It was indeed recorded, but the speaker has asked for the recording to be primarily for his own files, as opposed to publicly distributed by the workshop.  If you would like to request access to the recording, please contact the speaker directly.

(His contact information is listed under his entry here.)