Over the past centuries, atheism has spread all around the world – nonetheless, many non-religious and agnostic people are still dealing with a fair amount of discrimination in certain countries. Japan is known as one of the countries with the highest rate of non-religious or agnostic people, as statistics reveal that only a quarter of the country’s population claim that religion is truly important to them.
When it comes to Japan, it must be mentioned that there are two main religions that can be met here: Buddhism and Shinto. A study that was conducted back in 2009 on no less than 50,000 people from 57 different countries, has revealed that 31% of Japan’s population claim they are “convinced atheists”. This makes Japan the second country on the list, after China where over 45% of the population claims to be non-religious.
There are other religions present in Japan as well, such as Judaism, Christianity of Hinduism, but in considerably lower percentages. At the same time, Japan is one of the countries with the highest degree of what is known as “organic atheism”, along with other countries like Canada, New Zealand and certain nations in Europe, like Sweden or the Netherlands.
As mentioned above, Shinto is another popular religion in Japan, although it is not uncommon for Japanese people to switch religions throughout the course of their lives or marry people that have different religious beliefs. On the other hand, those who do have religious beliefs (be it Buddhism, Shinto or both) seldom go to shrine on a constant basis – they usually go once or twice a year. The true Japanese traditional religion is based on philosophical thinking, and the popular Zen principle.
Contrary to popular belief (where many people seem to consider Japan as a country that is full of spiritual mystics and strong beliefs), most people here consider themselves spiritual rather than religious. Also, some of the most commonly met religions in Asia (such as Taoism or Confucianism, the latter being the cornerstone of the traditional Chinese culture and history) can be seen in Japan as well. Taoism is somewhat similar to Shinto (which was originally an indigenous religion), and it is considered to be the inspiration for most spiritual concepts that can be met in the Japanese culture.
Speaking of Shinto, the Matsuri is certainly one of the most visible elements in this religion as every shrine has one annual festival of this kind. Also, every religious Shinto community in Japan has at least one shrine, and sacred items are brought here once a year, to be cherished and admired by religious people.
The Bottom Line
To sum it up, Japan is very open and tolerant in terms of religious beliefs and this is what makes it one of the least religious countries in the world. Given the statistics mentioned above, it is safe to assume that Japan is truly an atheist paradise for free thinkers and non-believers. Maybe part of this flexible and tolerant approach is related to the country’ history and tradition. For further details and statistics that reveal the current number of atheists by country, click here.