Visiting Religious Places for Prayer in Japan: How Does Religious Identity Affect Religious Behavior?

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This paper examines how religious identity is associated with religious behavior in Japan. Prior research suggests that ritual practices rather than doctrines and theology are more important for Japanese religiousness. While many studies discuss various ritual behaviors in Japan, few researchers adopted statistical analysis to explore the Japanese practice of visiting religious places for prayer. Moreover, although prior United States-based research has demonstrated that religious identity is associated with religious behavior, little is known about whether such an association exists in Japan. In this study, I analyze a nationally representative sample of Japanese adults and examine whether the subjective importance of religious identity is associated with the frequency of visiting places such as temples, shrines, or churches for prayer. The results show that there is a bivariate relationship between religious identity importance and the frequency of visiting for prayer. Multivariate analyses reveal that religious identity importance is positively associated with visiting even when controlling for religious affiliation and other demographic attributes. Moreover, the results indicate that religious affiliations (Buddhism, other religions) are positively associated with visiting. However, the effect of other religions is much stronger than that of Buddhism. Given the existing scholarship on Japanese religiousness, the findings suggest that the behavioral implication of religious identity could differ by religious affiliation. Overall, this study extends prior research by empirically demonstrating the substantial role of religious identity for religious ritual behavior in Japan and further advances our theoretical understanding of Japanese religiousness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-65
Number of pages21
JournalReview of Religious Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Mar 1


  • Japan
  • Religious behavior
  • Religious identity
  • Social context

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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