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Asia Pacific Journal previews emeritus' forthcoming book

by Jeanne Baron

July 1, 2011 | WMU News

KALAMAZOO--Audiences interested in the political use of religious symbols are getting a preview this summer of a forthcoming book on the subject by H. Byron Earhart, Western Michigan University professor emeritus of comparative religion.

That preview comes in the form of an online article titled "Mount Fuji: Shield of War, Badge of Peace" published in The Asia Pacific Journal that may be accessed at The article comes from the final chapter of Earhart's new book, "Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan," which will be published in October by the University of South Carolina Press.

It examines how both the Japanese and Americans used images of Mount Fuji to advance their sides' success during and after World War II. Japanese propaganda used the iconic peak to promote nationalism, while the Americans employed images of the mountain to trigger homesickness and encourage surrender.

An expert in world religions, Earhart first went to Japan on a Fulbright grant in the early 1960s to complete a doctoral dissertation on Shugendo, a distinctively Japanese "mountain religion." He has written more than half a dozen books and edited several others as well as translated Japanese texts.

Earhart's writing has concentrated on Shugendo, folk religion and new religions. His approach to Japanese religion has been to see it as a unified worldview rather than as separate religious organizations, and to place separate traditions and the overall worldview within historical perspective.

Earhart retired from WMU in 2000 after more than 34 years on the faculty. He lives in San Diego and continues to teach online courses in Japanese and world religions.