While 60 percent of the Japanese population are Internet users, there is at this point relatively little use of the Internet for counseling by Japanese religious bodies. This observation was made by Takanori Tamura (Kanto Gakuin University) and Hajime Kaneko (Kansai University) at a session on religion and information and communication technologies (ICT) organized during the 19th World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) in late March in Tokyo, which RW attended.
There are indeed cases of members of religious organizations who have been using the Internet for counseling, but they face difficulties in finding other people wanting to join their work, while religious organizations are cautious. This may be due to the fact that the leadership is generally older than those generations eager to embrace the Internet, the two Japanese scholars suggest.
According to research conducted by Rev. Kenshin Fukamizu and presented at the same session, more than 35 percent of the chief priests of Buddhist Jodo Shinshu temples have an e-mail address, with huge variations among age groups: nearly 80 percent of the priests below age 40 have an e-mail address, while only 10 percent of those above 70 have one.
Moreover, not all Japanese religious organizations make use of the Internet to the same extent, according to another paper by Hiroyuki Kurosaki (Kokugakuin University): despite the significance of Shinto in Japan, relatively few Shinto shrines have a website. There are approximately three times more Christian Japanese websites, although Christianity makes only one percent of the Japanese population.
Moreover, with a few exceptions of active online promotion, most of the websites of Shinto shrines only provide information on the history, the names of the deities, the ritual calendar and information for reaching the shrine. But there is a more complex background: Kurosaki reported controversies among Shinto priests regarding the use of the Internet, with some suggesting that practices such as virtual visits would defile the dignity of traditional worship. On the other hand, a group of priests think that refusing the ICT is not a satisfactory answer and have organized a Shinto Online Network Association (http://www.jinja.jp/).
— By Jean-François Mayer