The Death and Rebirth of Buddhism in Contemporary Japan


  • George Tanabe University of Hawai'i



Buddhist revivalism, Buddhism and society, Buddhism in Japan


This paper examines the theme of the death and rebirth of Buddhism in contemporary Japan as treated in several works written by Buddhist priests, scholars, and writers for the general public. Though Buddhist rituals and customs are still widespread, most people and even many priests do not understand their meanings. This empty formalism is perceived as the death of Buddhism. There are many calls for reviving Buddhism, and they comprise two types. The first seeks the rebirth of Buddhism through socially and culturally engaged activities that have little or no connection with Buddhist teachings. The second suggestion calls for the revival of traditional doctrines. What is missing is the medieval pattern of truly new interpretations, which by definition must deviate from old understandings significantly enough to be heresies.

Author Biography

George Tanabe, University of Hawai'i

Geroge Tanabe, Jr., Professor Emeritus, University of Hawai'i


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Tanabe, George J. Jr., 2004. ‘Popular Buddhist Orthodoxy in Contemporary Japan’. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, vol. 31(2), pp. 291–313.

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How to Cite

Tanabe, G. (2007). The Death and Rebirth of Buddhism in Contemporary Japan. Buddhist Studies Review, 23(2), 249–258.