Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

The Failed Prophecy of Shinto Nationalism and the Rise of Japanese Brazilian Catholicism

Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

The Failed Prophecy of Shinto Nationalism and the Rise of Japanese Brazilian Catholicism

Article excerpt

This article deals with the main religious transition that accomplished the redefinition of Japanese Brazilian identity after the Second World War. State Shinto was the main world view of the Japanese immigrants in Brazil until the 1950s, playing a key role in the Japanese resistance of Brazilian acculturation process and in the cognitive dissonance that resulted in the Shindo Renmei movement. The Catholic Church began its proselytizing inside the Japanese community in the 1920s, initially attending to Japanese Catholics and the nisei. After the Second World War the Church participated in the clarification campaigns against Shindo Renmei. With the collapse of Shinto nationalism the missionary activities were especially directed towards the nisei and for that the incorporation of Japanese Catholic symbols proved highly effective. The combination of Japanese and Brazilian Catholic elements represented the development of a hyphenated religiosity, facilitating the trend of Catholic belonging and at the same time offering some cultural continuity.

KEYWORDS: Japanese Brazilian - Shinto State - Shindo Renmei - Japanese Catholicism - Nikkei

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

The invention of fumie (literally, pictures to be stepped on) is credited to two shogunal commissioners of Nagasaki, Mizuno, and Takenaka, between the years 1626 and 1633. Utilized until the nineteenth century and transformed into an end-of-year ritual in Nagasaki, fumie were effective instruments for the identification of Christians. All suspected Christians were requested to desecrate Christian sacred images, especially images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Around three thousand Japanese Christians preferred martyrdom, and many were exiled as prisoners. Little more than three hundred years after its use in Japan, fumie were again imposed on the Japanese, a minority in Brazil, in order to identify people that believed that the Japanese had won the Second World War (kachigumi). Members of nationalistic movements, kachigumi were responsible for terrorist activities that had shaken São Paulo society after the Second World War.

At least half of the Japanese Brazilian community participated directly or contributed financially to the most important of these movements, the Shindo Renmei (League of the Subjects Way) a group that promoted the view that the Japanese had won the Second World War, and that threatened and even murdered Japanese people in the group that divulged the opposite view (makegumi). About thirty thousand Japanese were interrogated or arrested during that period (Morais 2000, 331), many having been obliged to step on the figure of the Japanese emperor and a Japanese flag as a way to show that they were not involved with the nationalistic movements and their terrorist acts. Having been educated from the end of Meiji Era through the beginning of Showa Era, the majority of the Japanese in Brazil had learned to cultivate the Japanese spirit (yamato damashii), to believe in the divinity of the emperor, and if necessary to die for him and for the Japanese imperialism that was to result in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (daitoa kyoeiken).

The use of fumie in Brazil indicates the inversion of values imposed on the Japanese in Brazil, aimed at the forcible abandonment of nationalistic Shinto. Before the Second World War, the spiritual formation of the Japanese was directed to Shinto ideology, and Japanese schools in Brazil were quasi-religious institutions promoting this worldview. In this sense Shindo Renmei aimed at the continuity of Japanese nationalism after the process of cognitive dissonance passed through by the community after Japan's defeat (Maeyama 1997). This dissonance was caused initially by linguistic isolation and abandonment by Japanese government representatives and later by the hope of return to Japan or of new immigration to the Japanese colonies that were expected after the Japanese victory. …

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