The latest Gallup poll revealed a much higher percentage of Christians in Japan compared to previous surveys, including a surprising high number of teens who claimed the Christian faith.
In a country where only one percent is Christian among those who claim a faith, findings from one of the most extensive surveys of the country ever taken showed a Christian population of six percent. Meanwhile, the most popular and traditional religions – Buddhism and Shintoism – suffered declines.
Of the 30 percent of adults who claimed to have a religion, 75 percent considered themselves Buddhists, 19 percent Shintoists and 12 percent Christians, according to the Gallup Organization. Japanese youth revealed even more alarming statistics. Of the 20 percent who professed to have a religion, 60 percent called themselves Buddhists, 36 percent Christians and Shintoists.
"These projections mean that seven percent of the total teenage population say they are Christians," said George Gallup Jr. who called the numbers "stunning."
The study - the single largest study ever attempted, according to the social scientists in Japan - examined preteens, teens, young adults, adults and seniors.
"When they saw the design of the questionnaire, Japanese experts argued that the Japanese would never answer the socially delicate and/or the highly personal questions," said Bill McKay, project research director. "However, it was our professional hunch that the Japanese were ready to talk and when they did they told us more than we had asked for. The data is the most revealing look behind the face of Japan and shatters many WWII myths of the Japanese culture."
McKay is also one of the producers of a documentary that is slated for release later this year. The poll was conducted in association with American Trademark Research and MJM Group in 2001 for use in the documentary.
"In my 50 years of polling, there has been no study that I would consider as important as this one, because it provides insight into a fascinating culture," said Gallup.
Delving into more specific attitudes, the poll also found a note of hopelessness in the responses to questions related to morality, spirituality and general views about life.
"And there is little evidence of eternal hope, although a considerable number do believe in some form of life afterlife," noted Gallup. And "there is little belief in 'absolutes,' and this is true across the all-generational groups."
In comparison to teens in the United States, Japanese teens showed a pessimistic outlook on life. Previous studies found that 85 percent of teens in Japan wondered why they existed while 22 percent of U.S. teens had the same thought. Additionally, 13 percent of Japanese teens always see a reason for their being on Earth compared to 76 percent of teens in the U.S, and 11 percent of Japanese teens wished they had never been born while 3 percent of U.S. teens wished the same.
Within an estimated population of 127.4 million in Japan, academics estimate that 20 to 30 percent of adults actively practice a particular faith, but the Agency for Cultural Affairs reported in 2003 that 213,826,700 citizens claimed a religion, according to the U.S. Department of State's latest International Religious Freedom Report.