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Accreditation system and attainment targets
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about this qualification

About this qualification

The specialist in religious culture is a qualification awarded to those who have deepened their understanding towards religions and broadened their perspectives about the history and current status of Japanese religions and other world religions by learning from educational experts. The specialists in religious culture are expected to foster socially applicable knowledge about the historical development of major religions, about characteristic religious teachings and practices, about the relation between culture and religion and about the role and function of religions in contemporary society.
In order to acquire this qualification, it is necessary to have attended university modules that comply with the three attainment targets below, to have passed 16 credits worth or more of those modules and to have subsequently succeeded in the certification examination.

Requirements and application procedure

Certification examination
(1)Certification examinations will be held twice per year. However, there will be only one examination in 2011. This is planned for 13 November 2011.
(2)The first examination will be held simultaneously in several cities, such as Tokyo (Kokugakuin University), Sapporo (Hokkaido University), Sendai (Tohoku University), Nishinomiya (Kwansei Gakuin University), Tenri (Tenri University), Ise (Kogakkan University).
(3)The examination includes two types of questions: multiple-choice (60 minutes) and open-ended (60 minutes):
①There are 50 multiple-choice questions. A certain number of correct answers are required to pass the test. Detailed information including sample questions is available under the rubric “examination” (see menu on the left).
②There is 1 open-ended question. This question requires an appropriately developed, argument-based answer. More information is available in the rubric “examination”.
③Fulfilling the requirements of both multiple-choice questions and the open-ended question will lead to a ‘pass’ grade.
(4)Examination fee and certification fee
①The examination fee is \5,000. However, applicants who are deemed not eligible to take the examination (see criteria below) will be reimbursed.
② The certification fee for those who have passed the examination is \5,000.

Eligibility criteria
(1)It is, in principle, necessary to have at least passed the first three years of a university undergraduate degree and have acquired 16 credits worth of courses that conform to the attainment targets described below. However, students who have already acquired 12 credits and are reading for the remaining course(s) are also eligible to take the examination.
①Only university graduates who have acquired their degree within two years from the date of the examination can, in principle, take the examination.
②Returnee students, non-degree students and other special cases will be subject to a separate screening.
③Postgraduate students can count in their undergraduate module credits.
(2)Junior high and high school teachers are also eligible to take the examination. In this case, a schooling history of 5 years or more in related subjects (such as ‘society’ and/or ‘religion’) is necessary.
(Further questions regarding the eligibility criteria can be addressed directly to the CERC)

Application and certification procedures
(1)The applicant submits the exam application form by the due date (the envelope containing the application form for the 1st examination must be postmarked between 1 September and 15 October 2011) together with documents proving the applicant’s acquirement of relevant credited courses (degree transcript, course transcript etc.). The envelope should also contain a copy of the receipt of the transfer of the examination fee to CERC’s bank account.
(2)The CERC sends to eligible applicants their exam admission slip.
(3)The applicants in possession of their exam admission slip take the examination at their chosen location.
(4)The results of the 1st examination will be announced on 13 December 2011.
(5)The successful examinees pay their certification fee after the announcement of the exam results.
(6)The CERC sends the certificates to the successful examinees.

Accreditation system and attainment targets

◎Process of recognition of modules
Method (1): The university department or faculty submits to the CERC a list of modules available to the aspiring specialists in religious culture. In case this list is accepted by the center, students will be able to acquire the necessary number of credits by attending modules figuring on the list and subsequently applying for the certification exam at the CERC.
Method (2): In other cases, the student who considers that the modules (s)he has attended fulfill the attainment targets set by the CERC, may request recognition of his(her) credits by the center. Upon verification, the center will then inform the student whether (s)he is eligible to take the certification exam.
Method (3): In both of the above cases, the candidate needs to submit documents (transcripts) that prove his(her) successful passing of the relevant modules and acquiring of the necessary number of credits.

N.B. The universities which are due to submit a list of modules (see method (1) above) are as follows: Kwansei Gakuin University, Kogakkan University, Kokugakuin University, Taisho University, Tenri University, Tsukuba University, Tohoku University, Hokkaido University.
For further information, please contact the university staff in charge.

◎Attainment targets and examples of corresponding subjects/modules
  Attainment targets Examples of subjects/modules
1 Ability to understand the meaning of religious education, including religious teachings, rituals and myths. (1)Introductory modules on: comparative religion, sociology of religion, anthropology of religion, history of religions, ethnology of religion, psychology of religion, phenomenology of religion, philosophy of religion and other similar subjects
(2)Modules on the relation between religion and culture: for example, religion and literature, religion and arts, religion and fine arts, religion and music
2 Ability to acquire basic knowledge about major religious traditions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Shinto. (1)Modules on the history of religions such as Shinto Thought, History of Shinto, Buddhist Thought, History of Buddhism, Christian Thought, History of Christianity, Islamic Thought, History of Islam, History of Taoism, History of Judaism, History of Hinduism.
(2)Modules introducing concrete examples within the frameworks of comparative religion, sociology of religion, anthropology of religion, history of religions and so on.
3 Ability to hold a generally applicable knowledge about the role of religions in the various issues which people are facing in the contemporary world. Modules on contemporary theory of religion, religion and politics, religion and society, religion and economics, religion and ethics, religion and gender, thanatology.


 ◎Evaluation criteria
(1) There are 50 multiple-choice questions. Samples demonstrating the format and content of the questions are provided below. It is necessary to respond correctly to a certain number of questions.
(2)There is 1 open-ended question. The candidate is required to develop an argument that responds appropriately to the question.
(3) Fulfilling the requirements of both multiple-choice questions and the open-ended question will lead to a ‘pass’ grade.

◎Samples of multiple choice questions (more will be added soon)
For the answers, please click here (opens a new window)

Q1: Choose among the following, two sentences that correctly correspond to a situation in which you happen to be talking to a foreign exchange student on the campus of a Japanese university.
a) to a student from Iraq: “Muhammad was born in your country, right?”
b) to a student from Italy: “Jesus was born in your country, right?”
c) to a student from Germany: “Martin Luther was born in your country, right?”
d) to a student from South Korea: “Lao Tzu was born in your country, right?”
e) to a student from India: “Bodhidharma was born in your country, right?”

Q2: Choose among the following, two places to which you would accompany a foreign exchange student who wants to visit thousand-year-old shrines and temples.
a) The student is attending a university in Tokyo, so we will visit Meiji Shrine which is very popular among worshippers during New Year’s Holidays.
b) The student is attending a university in Shimane, so we will visit Izumo Grand Shrine where there is the largest sacred straw rope (shimenawa) in Japan.
c) The student is attending a university in Aichi, so we will visit Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya.
d) The student is attending a university in Kyoto, so we will visit Higashi Hongan Temple and Nishi Hongan Temple.
e) The student is attending a university in Kanagawa, so we will visit the Zen Buddhist Enkaku Temple in Kamakura.

Q3: Choose among the following, two travel destinations which you would suggest to someone interested in religion and world heritage sites.
a) To someone interested in Protestantism, I would suggest visiting the archaeological site of Olympia in Greece.
b) To someone who is interested in Buddhism, I would suggest visiting the Taj Mahal in India.
c) To someone who is interested in Catholicism, I would suggest visiting the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres in France.
d) To someone who is interested in Islam, I would suggest visiting the pyramid complex of Giza, in Egypt.
e) To someone who is interested in Mahayana Buddhism, I would suggest visiting Bulguksa, in Gyeongju, South Korea.

Q4: Choose among the following, two statements that correctly describe what are generally called in Japan the ‘world’s three major religions’.
a) If we were to put the world’s three major religions in chronological order, this would be: Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.
b) The world’s three major religions, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are all monotheistic religions.
c) The combined population of believers of the world’s three major religions exceeds one billion.
d) All of the world’s three major religions have worship facilities in Japan.
e) The cradles of the world’s three major religions are all located in the Middle East.

Q5: Many of the world’s religions follow principles described in scriptures. Choose among the following, two statements correctly describing those scriptures.
a) Islam’s religious text, the Qur’an, is based on a compilation of texts in which Muhammad describes his ascetic training.
b) The Four Books and Five Classics is the generic term used in China for the scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism.
c) The Jewish Bible is called the Ancient Testament by Christians, who consider it to be a sacred scripture together with the New Testament.
d) Shinto is a folk religion and therefore the stories about the kami (gods) are solely based on word of mouth.
e) The teachings of Buddha were not written down immediately after his death, but were compiled into sacred scriptures several hundred years later.

Q6: Choose among the following, two statements that describe Japanese Christianity correctly.
a) The population of Japanese Christians is approximately 10 per cent.
b) Japan has the highest percentage of Christians in East Asia.
c) Christian churches are closed on Christmas day.
d) Easter is an important religious ritual for Christians too.
e) There are many cases of non-Christians holding wedding ceremonies at Christian churches.

Q7: Choose two statements that correctly describe Islam.
a) The recitation of the Shahada is the most important activity for Muslims.
b) The five times per day prayer has to be done facing north regardless of the location.
c) Even pork, if it is prepared by a Muslim, can become halal and be eaten.
d) It is forbidden for Muslims to drink alcohol.
e) It is forbidden to eat day and night during the month of Ramadan.

Q8: Choose two statements that correctly describe Japanese annual events.
a) During Hatsumode, more people visit shrines than temples.
b) Setsubun was originally a ritual celebrating children’s growth.
c) Many people visit their ancestors’ graves during the Higan holidays of Spring and Autumn.
d) Obon is a shrine festival during which gods are thanked for the year’s harvest.
e) The Tanabata festival was originally a Christian celebration.

Q9: Choose two statements that correctly describe the discipline of religious studies.
a) The study of world religions using natural science research methods is the most active field of religious studies.
b) Eliade is generally considered to have established modern religious studies in the nineteenth century.
c) The theory of ‘the evolutionary origin of religions’ was the most popular theory during the pioneer days of religious studies in the nineteenth century.
d) In religious studies, an approach that some researchers call ‘epoche’ consists of studying religion without committing oneself to subjective value judgments.
e) Due to the long opposition between religious studies and theology, religious studies have mostly remained underdeveloped in Catholic areas such as France and Italy.

Q10: Choose two statements that correctly describe the type of thinking characteristic of the discipline of sociology or religion.
a) People who are not affiliated to any religion have not been influenced by their country’s religious culture.
b) Religions are generated according to God’s will.
c) When a religion is transmitted to a different region/country, it undergoes structural transformations and changes of its rituals.
d) Research in the sociology of a certain religion cannot be undertaken by non-believers of that religion.
e) Grand-scale social changes influence religions too.

◎Samples of open-ended questions:

Q1: The following five people express their opinion about the status of religion in contemporary Japan. Choose a statement that you mostly agree with or that you deem important and write your own opinion about it (600-800 characters).
a) “Visiting temples in Kyoto is just a tourist attraction and the number of Japanese Christians corresponds to only 1 percent of the entire population, so, based on these observations, I think that the Japanese are non-religious.”
b) “No, I think that Japanese are fairly religious. For example, if you look at the total number of members of new religious groups, you will see that they compose 10 percent of the entire Japanese population.”
c) “Well, it is true that a lot of Japanese go to shrines during Hatsumode and even more of them visit their ancestors’ graves regularly, but that behavior is not religious. I think that the religious devotion of the Japanese is superficial.”
d) “I disagree. Shinto and Buddhism are traditional Japanese religions. You can’t say that Japanese lack religious devotion. Look at Hatsumode! It’s a purely religious activity!”
e) “I don’t think that we can understand Japanese religious behavior just by looking at Shinto and Buddhism. How about the rising number of Muslims in Japan?”

Q2: The following four people express their opinion regarding the relation between religion and politics. Choose the statement that you mostly agree with and write your own opinion (600-800 characters).

a) “The separation between religion and politics is stipulated in the Japanese Constitution, and according to surveys, the Japanese prefer that religious groups do not get involved in political activities.”
b) “I agree. Although religion and politics have been strongly related since ancient times, in contemporary societies several religious cultures may coexist within a single country and, in those cases, the involvement of religion in politics can cause serious problems.”
c) “It is difficult to completely separate religion from politics. Despite the principle of separation between church and the state, many European countries promote religious affiliation.”
d) In Muslim countries the separation of religion and politics is considered difficult to realize, so we should understand that the Japanese way of thinking cannot persist everywhere in the world.”

Participant universities

The following universities are participating in the center’s activities as pilot sites.
The staff in charge at these universities will be coordinating the application procedures.
Those who do not belong to any of the universities below can also apply to take the certification examination.
Kwansei Gakuin University Kogakkan University Kokugakuin University
Taisho University Tsukuba University Tenri University
Tohoku University Hokkaido University Kansai university
Japan Lutheran College

List of staff in charge at the universities listed above:

Kwansei Gakuin University, School of Theology: DOI Kenji.
Kogakkan University, Faculty of Letters: KAWANO Satoshi.
Kokugakuin University, Faculty of Shinto Studies: INOUE Nobutaka, KUROSAKI Hiroyuki.
Taisho University, Faculty of Human Studies: MURAKAMI Kokyo, YUMIYAMA Tatsuya.
Tsukuba University, College of Humanities: YAMANAKA Hiroshi.
Tenri University, Faculty of Human Studies: OKADA Masahiko.
Tohoku University, Faculty of Arts and Letters: KIMURA Toshiaki.
Hokkaido University, Faculty of Letters: SAKURAI Yoshihide.
Kansai University, Faculty of Letters: ODA Yoshiko, MIYAMOTO Yotaro.
Ryukoku University, Faculty of Agriculture: SUGIOKA Takanori.

For those wishing to renew their certificate, it will be possible to participate at a refresher course. A plan of organizing refresher courses every five years is currently under consideration.

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