Back to All Events

Filling the "Spiritual Vacuum": The Educational Legacy of Occupation Reforms in Japan

  • University of Tokyo Hongo, Tokyo Japan (map)

Americans justified Occupation-era reforms in Japan by claiming that post-defeat Japanese society was a “spiritual vacuum.” For example, Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur used this phrase to advocate converting the entire Japanese population to Christianity. But the Americans were not alone in thinking that Japanese people were spiritually bereft. Influential Japanese elites also assumed that defeat had loosed Japan from its spiritual moorings and that Japanese citizens were now morally decadent and spiritually adrift. From the Occupation (1945–52) up through the early 1960s, these claims about Japan’s spiritual decline featured in a series of debates about introducing morality education in Japanese public schools. Drawing on publications from the Japan Teachers’ Union, the Ministry of Education, and various political pressure organizations, this talk shows that the Occupation-era concept of the “spiritual vacuum” continued to shape debates over religious education, morality, and patriotism long after the occupiers left.

Featuring commentary by FUJIWARA Satoko and NISHIMURA Akira of the University of Tokyo Religious Studies Department