Date of Award

8-2005

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Comparative Religion

First Advisor

Dr. Stephen G. Covell

Second Advisor

Dr. Brian Wilson

Third Advisor

Dr. Donna M. Weinreich

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only

Abstract

My thesis will investigate the meaning and roles of religious rituals and services in the life of the elderly in contemporary Japan. The investigation will be made through the analysis of how religious factors and concepts in Japanese society affect and appear in people's behaviors, perceptions, and attitudes regarding different areas such as aging, illness, and dying. The existing studies on this subject are available but limited both in English and Japanese. They often fail to provide a larger meaning and impact of these factors and concepts on the life of Japanese elderly and to emphasize their importance as much as they desire. By primarily focusing on Japanese Buddhism, this thesis will attempt to provide a better understanding of the meaning of aging and the elderly in contemporary Japan.

As the number of elderly in Japanese society rapidly increases, Japanese Buddhism has actively engaged in social welfare services that are uniquely designed for the elderly. The elderly have also engaged in religious behaviors to help them spend their later years as best they can. A pokkuri death (sudden death) and a rôsui death (death of old age) are identified as two ideal ways to die by Japanese elderly. This thesis suggests that for the future, a collaboration of the elderly, their families, Japanese Buddhism, social welfare organizations, and the efforts of national and local governments is necessary to create a better quality of life for the elderly in Japan.

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