Mark Williams (May 2023) - click here for recordings

'The Japanese Religious Melting Pot and the Significance of Christianity'

How are we to account for the fact that two (ostensibly equally reputable) censuses cite the percentage of Japanese who claim affiliation with the indigenous Shintō tradition as 80% and 3% respectively? The answer depends, in large measure, on how one defines the concept of religious “affiliation” – and it is certainly true that few Japanese would describe themselves as “Shintō believers”. Equally significant in this regard, however, is the nature of Japanese religiosity itself. In this talk, we shall be exploring the context that leads to such divergent data – and the reasons behind the seemingly disproportionate influence of Christianity, an imported tradition typically seen as never having reached more than 1.5% of the Japanese population in the more than 450 years since its introduction into Japan, on contemporary Japanese society.

'Voices in the Wilderness: Writing Christianity in 20th century Japan'

Building on the first lecture, this lecture will focus more specifically on what I shall be citing as the inordinate influence of the series of authors of Christian persuasion active on mainstream literary circles in twentieth century Japan. With particular emphasis on the contribution of Endō Shūsaku, Japan’s best-known author in this regard, this talk will include analysis of the struggles that Endō shared with several of his peers as a result of their all-too-frequent categorization as “Japanese” “Christian” ”authors”, and, with examples from a series of their fictional constructs, will seek to analyse the literary qualities of these works.

Mark Williams is Vice President at International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo. He took his BA in Japanese Studies at the University of Oxford in 1979 and a PhD in Japanese Literature at the University of California, Berkeley in 1991. He joined the University of Leeds in 1988 where he helped start the Japanese Studies programme. Between 2011 and 2014, he was seconded to Akita International University, Japan, where he served as Vice President for Academic Affairs. He joined ICU in 2017 where his remit includes responsibility for international academic exchange. He has written extensively, in both English and Japanese, on the role of Christianity in the Japanese context. His major published works include Endō Shūsaku: A Literature of Reconciliation (Routledge), and co-edited volumes such as Christianity and Japan: Impacts and Responses (Macmillan); Representing the Other in Modern Japanese Literature: A Critical Approach (Routledge); Imag(in)ing the War in Japan: Representing and Responding to Trauma in Post-war Japanese Literature and Film (Brill); The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Japan; Tenkō: Cultures of Political Conversion in Transwar Japan; and The Handbook of Japanese Christian Writers (Japan Documents). He is also the translator of Foreign Studies and The Girl I Left Behind, two novels by Endō Shūsaku.