The 28th Global Japan Studies LectureFilling the "Spiritual Vacuum": The Educational Legacy of Occupation Reforms in Japan

Date and time: October 25, 2019 (Fri.) 1:00-3:30PM
Venue: Main Conference Room (3F),
Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia,
The University of Tokyo
Speakers: Jolyon Thomas
(Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania)
Fujiwara Satoko
(Commentator; Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, UTokyo)
Nishimura Akira
(Commentator; Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, UTokyo)
Zhong Yijiang
(Chair; Institute for Advanced Studies of Asia, UTokyo)
Language: English

Americans justified Occupation-era reforms in Japan by claiming that post-defeat Japanese society was a "spiritual vacuum." For example, Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur used this phrase to advocate converting the entire Japanese population to Christianity. But the Americans were not alone in thinking that Japanese people were spiritually bereft. Influential Japanese elites also assumed that defeat had loosed Japan from its spiritual moorings and that Japanese citizens were now morally decadent and spiritually adrift. From the Occupation (1945–52) up through the early 1960s, these claims about Japan's spiritual decline featured in a series of debates about introducing morality education in Japanese public schools. Drawing on publications from the Japan Teachers' Union, the Ministry of Education, and various political pressure organizations, this talk shows that the Occupation-era concept of the "spiritual vacuum" continued to shape debates over religious education, morality, and patriotism long after the occupiers left.

1:00-1:50 Lecture by Jolyon Thomas
1:50-2:10 Comments by Fujiwara Satoko
2:10-2:30 Comments by Nishimura Akira
2:30-2:50 Responce by Jolyon Thomas
2:50-3:30 Discussion and Q&A

Pictures of this event

Organizer: The Global Japan Studies Network (GJS)
Co-organizer: Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA)
Contact: gjs[at]