Japan

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Japan is a country made up of a number of islands in the northern Pacific Ocean off the Asian mainland. From the 7th century onward the country absorbed Chinese culture, including Buddhism, which became and remained for many centuries the religion of the majority of the people, although Shinto and Confucianism have always been important too.

Zen, the contemplative branch of Japanese Buddhism, had a profound influence on the arts especially painting, calligraphy, gardening and flower arranging. Dogen, probably the most brilliant and creative Japanese thinker, was a Buddhist monk. Buddhism was disestablished in 1870 and since then it has struggled to make itself relevant to Japan’s dynamic consumer society.

Buddhism has been declining, but like many Asian nations, the Japanese belong to more than one religion and some studies count some Japanese as exclusively Shinto, when in fact they follow both Shintoism and Buddhism, although nominally. Surveys have shown that about 50% to 95% identify as Buddhist as one of their religions. An accurate figure would be somewhere in the middle of that range of about 80% Buddhist.

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