Japanese Millennial Movements

Helen Hardacre

in The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780195301052
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Japanese Millennial Movements

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This article introduces the Japanese millennial movements, which came into contact with its western counterparts in the nineteenth century. While periodization has been intrinsic to millennialism, the Japanese had no period-based idea of millennialism, marked by the return of a messiah. Pre-Buddhist Japan did not have much to do with temporal demarcations. The loosest attempt at periodization came from the observation of the harvest seasons. Omoto (1892–1935) and Aum Shirinkyo (1986–1995) are Japan's most notorious tryst with millennialism. While the former, launched by a peasant woman Deguchi Nao, preached the return of the mythical figure “Ushitora Konjin”, to salvage man, and the latter, the most notorious, founded by Asahara Shoko, was involved in various nefarious activities, including the infamous Sarin gas incident on the Tokyo subway (1995). Shoko and several members were arrested and sentenced to death. Post Aum, millennialism lost influence in Japan.

Keywords: Japanese millennial movements; temporal demarcations; harvest; periodization; millennialism; Sarin gas incident

Article.  9372 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Buddhism ; Comparative Religion

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