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Religion in Japan   By: (1857-)

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First Page:

Religion in Japan:

Shintoism Buddhism Christianity.


George A. Cobbold, B.A.

Pembroke College, Oxford

With Illustrations.

Printed Under The Direction of the Tract Committee.


Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge,

Northumberland Avenue, W.C.; 43, Queen Victoria Street, E.C.

Brighton: 129, North Street

New York: E. S. Gorham



Introductory. I. Shintoism. II. Buddhism. III. Buddhism In Japan. IV. Buddhism And Christianity. V. Christianity In Japan. Publications Of The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Footnotes


It may well be questioned whether, in the course of a like period of time, any country has ever undergone greater transitions, or made more rapid strides along the path of civilization than has Japan during the last quarter of a century. A group of numerous islands, situated on the high road and thoroughfare of maritime traffic across the Pacific, between the Eastern and Western hemispheres, and in area considerably exceeding Great Britain and Ireland, Japan, until thirty years ago, was a terra incognita to the rest of the world; exceeding even China in its conservatism and exclusiveness. And now, within a space of some five and twenty years, such changes have come about as to have given birth to the expression, "the transformation of Japan." The more conspicuous of these changes are summed up by a recent writer in the following words: "New and enlightened criminal codes have been enacted; the methods of judicial procedure have been entirely changed; thoroughly efficient systems of police, of posts, of telegraphs, and of national education have been organized; an army and a navy modelled after Western patterns have been formed; the finances of the Empire have been placed on a sound basis; railways, roads, and harbours have been constructed; an efficient mercantile marine has sprung into existence; the jail system has been radically improved; an extensive scheme of local government has been put into operation; a competitive civil service has been organized; the whole fiscal system has been revised; an influential and widely read newspaper press has grown up with extraordinary rapidity; and government by parliament has been substituted for monarchical absolutism."(1) At the present day, an Englishman travelling in Japan is constantly meeting numbers of his countrymen, intent on either business or pleasure; while at all the principal cities and places of resort, handsome new hotels, fitted in Western style, are to be found. The Mikado may be seen driving through his Capital in a carriage that would not be out of place in the Parks of London or Paris; and at Court ceremonies European dress is de rigueur . English is taught in all the better class schools, and at the Universities the works of such authors as Bacon, Locke, Macaulay, Darwin, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, are in constant request with the students. In short, on every side evidence is afforded, that be it for better or for worse, the old order is fast changing and giving place to new.

The circumstances which have brought about these wonderful changes can only be very briefly indicated here. It was towards the middle of the sixteenth century that Japan first came into contact with the Western world; the first traders to arrive being the Portuguese, who were followed some sixty years later by the Dutch, and in 1613 by a few English ships. To all of these alike a hospitable reception appears to have been accorded; nor is there any doubt that Japanese exclusiveness was a thing of subsequent growth, and that it was based only on a sincere conviction that the nation's well being and happiness would be best consulted by refusing to have dealings with the outer world... Continue reading book >>

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