Easternization of the East? Zen and Spirituality as Distinct Cultural Narratives in Japan

Jørn Borup


Zen Buddhism has for decades fascinated the West, and the former elitist tradition has in contemporary times become part of broad popular culture. Zen is for Buddhists, but it is also part of a general “Easternization” and alleged “spiritual revolution” narrative. In Japan, both Zen and “spirituality” are important factors in both media and the lived religious environment. This article aims to investigate how and to what extent “Zen” and “spirituality” are related as narratives and religious practices in a contemporary Japanese context. While there are overlaps, it is argued that the two domains are separate and that such a division is based on general differences in culturally constrained narratives (Western/Japanese, Zen/spirituality). Besides focusing on a concrete Japanese context, the article also contributes to research on global and transnational (Zen) Buddhism as well as to the field of comparative spirituality.


Japan; Zen; Easternization; spirituality; new age; circulation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1305983


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