This article attempts to address the lack of terminology concerning the long-standing but often overlooked relationship between religion and entertainment in Japan, arguing that these two seemingly discrete and opposing fields are often conflated. Examining the underlying thought behind the animation films of director Miyazaki Hayao, and investigating audience responses to those works, the article suggests that this conflation——religious entertainment or playful religion——can best be described by the neologism shûûkyôô asobi. Composed of the words "religion" and "play" in Japanese, shûûkyôô asobi jettisons the artificial distinction between popular entertainment and religion in favor of describing the common space between them, as well as describing the utilization of that space by various interest groups. This deployment of simultaneously religious and playful media or action can result in the creation of entirely new religious doctrines, interpretations, rituals, and beliefs.
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