Research Articles

Mass Media and Religion in Japan: Mediating the Leader’s Image



The development of the new Japanese religions (the so-called shinshukyo), right since their first appearance at the end of the 19th century, has always been wholly tied to the development of the means of mass communication. Numerous studies have investigated Japanese new religious movements, but there has been little study of the role played by the media in their development. This article presents an analysis of the relationship between new religion and media through the example of a group called Kofuku no kagaku, founded in 1986 and particularly noted for having related its success to its communication strategies. The analysis will focus especially on the twoyear period 1991-1992 when the sacralization of the body of the leader – brought about through a massive publicity campaign in 1991 – is then contrasted with the attempt at de-legitimisation carried out by the press in the same period (the so-called Kodansha affair). The relationship with the media is revealed, therefore, in its double role as an instrument of legitimisation of the authority of the leader and the danger for his ‘aura’.

Keywords: Criticism., Ritual, Advertising, Leader, Media Strategy, New Japanese Religions

How to Cite: Baffelli, E. (2017) “Mass Media and Religion in Japan: Mediating the Leader’s Image”, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 4(1). doi: