My interests include religion in the modern world, with a special focus on Japan; Religious decline and secularisation; Pilgrimage in cross-cultural contexts- with a special focus on the transformations and developments of pilgrimage in recent times; Buddhism in contemporary Japan; Religion and violence, with special focus on how religious doctrines and practices may give rise to and provide legitimations for violent actions; New religious movements in Japan; Millennialism; Religion and the media, especially how religious groups use media forms to market themselves.
I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Reading in History, graduating in 1970. I then spent most of the next decade travelling around the world (Middle East, India, West Africa, North and Central America), and worked at various jobs (building sites, school teaching, gardening) before getting into academic work- partly because I was not very good at the other jobs I tried. My MA was on African religious practices and my PhD was on Buddhism in Japan.
I started learning Japanese in 1979, and worked for five years at Japanese universities, initially teaching English but later Religious Studies, from 1984-1989 before coming back to the UK.