Karma and Punishment: Prison Chaplaincy in Japan from the Meiji Period to the Present
Lyons, Adam J.
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AbstractThis dissertation analyzes prison chaplaincy (kyōkai) in Japan from the Meiji period (1868-1912) to the present day focusing on the chaplaincy activities of Shin Buddhist sects, Christian churches, Shintō shrines, and new religions like Tenrikyō. The sources for this study are drawn from archival research, interviews with chaplains, and site visits to prisons and religious institutions. I argue that the Japanese model of prison chaplaincy is rooted in the Pure Land Buddhist concept of doctrinal remonstration. I trace the history of Japanese prison chaplaincy by examining the development of chaplaincy discourse and the politics surrounding it. I found the discourse of chaplaincy to be a form of theodicy that derives an existential meaning from the crime and rehabilitation process. The chief limitation of this discourse is that its interpretation of crime focuses solely on the private troubles of individuals without considering criminal conduct as a reflection of broader public issues. An analysis of the politics surrounding the prison chaplaincy shows that the development of chaplaincy reflects the changing place of religion in Japanese society. Religion has been conceived as both a private affair and a public benefit that the state has a vested interest in promoting. The chaplaincy reflects both of these qualities in that chaplains are specialists in matters of the heart whose work is thought to contribute to the peace. I found that the practices of individual chaplains exceed the limitations of their discourse as they attempt to help their charges as best they can, often going beyond the requirements of their official responsibilities.
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