Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Sawada, Janine Tasca

First Committee Member

Schlutter, Morten

Second Committee Member

Smith, Frederick

Third Committee Member

Vlastos, Stephen

Fourth Committee Member

Schnell, Scott


The violence of Aum Shinrikyo has had four observable consequences for new religious movements in Japan: a change in posture by the Japanese government toward new religious movements, stricter laws and regulations regarding new religious movements and tighter enforcement of those laws, a growing skepticism by the media and scholars towards new religious movements, and increasing skepticism about new religions movements among community groups and the public at large. This study will show that the crimes of Aum Shinrikyo have created a shift in Japan's society resulting in a contraction of operational space available to Japan's new religious movements.

For this study `operational space' refers to the sociopolitical boundaries in which a group can operate, in other words, a religion's freedom to believe, practice, organize, and conduct economic activities free from government restriction and undue influence by other individuals or groups.

The proposed thesis will be illustrated by several case studies that look specifically at particular instances of contraction of operational space for Japanese new religious movements including Soka Gakkai, Hono-hana Sanpogyo, The Unification Church of Japan (Toitsu Kyokai) and Panawave Laboratory. Each case study will analyze how interactions between Japanese new religions movements and aspects or segments of Japanese society have changed due to a paradigm shift caused by the crimes of Aum.

The thesis is supported by a theoretical framework that draws on theories of Japanese new religious movements and theories of religion and violence. The research builds upon this framework through in-depth study of writings by leaders of Japanese new religious movements (particularly the writings of Aum leader Asahara Shoko, Japanese and Western scholarship on new religious movements, as well as government documents, media reports, personal interviews and field observations to produce a unique analysis of the Post-Aum Era for Japan's new religious movements.


Aum, Japan, New Religions, New Religious Movements, Religious Violence, Terrorism


iv, 227 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 213-227).


Copyright 2009 Gregory E Wilkinson

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Religion Commons