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Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 126.7 million (July 2016 estimate). A report by the government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA) indicates that membership in religious groups totaled 190 million as of December 31, 2014. This number, substantially more than the country’s population, reflects many citizens’ affiliation with multiple religions. For example, it is common for followers of Buddhism to participate in religious ceremonies and events of other religions, such as Shinto, and vice versa. Also, the definition of follower and the method of counting followers varies with each religious organization, according to the ACA. According to the ACA, religious affiliation includes 92 million Shinto followers (48.5 percent), 87 million Buddhists (45.8 percent), and 1.9 million Christians (1 percent), while 8.9 million (4.7 percent) followed other religions. The category of “other” and nonregistered religious groups includes Islam, the Bahai Faith, Hinduism, and Judaism.

The indigenous Ainu people mainly practice an animist faith and are concentrated in northern Honshu and Hokkaido with smaller numbers in Tokyo. Most immigrants and foreign workers practice religions other than Buddhism or Shinto, according to a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in close contact with foreign workers.

International Religious Freedom Reports
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future