from Raw Japan:

Jesus Christ Superstar meets kabuki

February 20, 2009

When I was 14, my best friend and I were obsessed with the rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar", and we played the album until we had it memorised.

Japanese have first Catholic prime minister, and few know it

September 25, 2008

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, 24 Sept 2008/Toru HanaiJapan installed its first ever Roman Catholic prime minister this week, a milestone that has attracted media attention around the world — but hardly a word in his home country. It is doubtful whether most Japanese citizens are even aware that their flamboyant, manga-cartoon reading new leader, Taro Aso, has any particular religious beliefs.

Where does religion have its strongest foothold?

September 18, 2008

Indonesian Muslims pray at Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque during Ramadan, 5 Sept 2008/Supri SupriThe answer is Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. At least that was the conclusion of the latest Pew Research Institute survey of attitudes about religion around the world — a look at 24 countries based on thousands of interviews. Indonesia came in first with 99 percent of the population rating religion as important or very important in their lives — and it topped everyone else in the “very important” slot at 95 percent. Beyond that 80 percent of those surveyed in Indonesia say they pray five times a day every day — adhering to one of the five pillars of Islam.

On remote Japanese island, a church forgets how to baptise

By Reuters Staff
December 20, 2007

Yasutaka Toriyama of Japan’s “Kakure Kirishitan” or Hidden Christians conducts Christmas Eve ritual, 16 Dec, 2007.When journalists write about churches in decline, we usually cite facts such as falling attendance and dwindling vocations to illustrate the trend. On a recent trip to the remote southern island of Ikitsuki to visit descendants of Japan’s Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christians), a Reuters team discovered a surprising new indicator with a fascinating story behind it. Apart from suffering from dwindling numbers, some congregations in this unique branch of Christianity no longer know how to baptise new members.

Science helps religion in stem cell debates

December 12, 2007

A microscopic view of undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells.Science and religion are sometimes portrayed as adversaries, especially by the “new atheists“, but the real picture has always been more complex. The latest breakthrough in stem cell research shows how quickly opposing sides can become allies. On Nov. 20, two research teams announced they had transformed ordinary skin cells into stem cells without destroying human embryos in the process. That meant that scientists could solve an ethical dilemma they had effectively created when they began using human embryos to produce stem cells.