Jolyon Thomas

Jolyon Thomas
Assistant Professor
Japanese Culture,
Religion and History
Contact Information
Office Address: 
854 Williams Hall
Office Hours: 
Spring 2017: Wednesdays, 1:30PM to 3:30PM or by appointment
Email Address: 


My research covers the politics of religious freedom and religion-state relations; religion and material and visual culture; and relationships between religion, sex, and gender. These interests inform my courses on Japanese religion, pop culture, and history.    


PhD, Princeton University, 2014

MA, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, 2008

BA, Grinnell College, 2001

Research and Teaching Interests: 
  • Japanese visual media and popular culture (especially manga and anime)
  • Buddhism, Shintō, and other Japanese religions
  • Religious freedom, secularity, and religion-state relations
  • The Allied Occupation of Japan (1945–1952)
  • Religion and education
  • Religion and capitalism
  • Religion, sex, and gender
Recent Courses: 

Click the course title to see a video syllabus!

Spring 2017 EALC 502: Japanese History and Civilization (no video syllabus)

Spring 2017 EALC 207/607: Sects and Violence in East Asia

Fall 2016 EALC 257/657: Asian Religions in the Global Imagination

Fall 2016 EALC 069: Japanese Popular Culture

Spring 2016 EALC 760: Japanese Religions (no video syllabus)

Spring 2016 EALC 235: The Politics of Shintō

Fall 2015 EALC069-0011:  Japanese Popular Culture

Work in Progress: 

I am now revising a book manuscript on policies & politics related to religious freedom in modern Japan (1890–1952).

I am just beginning research on a new book about religion and public school education in postwar Japan. 

Brief Biography: 

I specialize in the history of Japanese religions and contemporary Japanese culture and society. 

Other Professional Activity: 

I edit book reviews for the Asian Traditions section of the Marginalia Review of Books. I also write articles for Sacred Matters, an online magazine of religion & culture. I have also written outreach articles for Tricycle (a Buddhist magazine), the Guardian newspaper, and Dissertation Reviews (a website featuring reviews of dissertations and introductions to scholarly archives). I am also a member of the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future, which helps bridge the worlds of academic and policy expertise related to Japan and U.S.-Japan relations.  

Curriculum vitae: 


Selected Publications: 


2016 "The Buddhist Virtues of Raging Lust and Crass Materialism in Contemporary Japan," Material Religion 11, no. 4: 485–506.

2016 "Varieties of Religious Freedom in Japanese Buddhist Responses to the 1899 Religions Bill," Asian Journal of Law and Society 3, no. 1: 49–70.

2015 "Free Inquiry and Japanese Buddhist Studies: The Case of Katō Totsudō," Japanese Religions 39 (1–2): 31–51.

2014 "Religions Policies during the Allied Occupation of Japan, 1945–1952," Religion Compass 8 (9): 275–286.

2012 "Horrific 'Cults' and Comic Religion: Manga after Aum," Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 39 (1): 127–151.

2007 "Shūkyō Asobi and Miyazaki Hayao's Anime," Nova Religio 10 (3): 73–95.