Helen Hardacre, Reischauer Institute Professor of Japanese Religions and Society, has recently been conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, from the Japanese government. One of the oldest and highest national decorations, this award recognizes Professor Hardacre’s extensive contributions to the development of Japanese studies in the U.S. and the promotion of understanding toward Japanese society and culture.
A leading scholar in her field, Professor Hardacre has conducted research on modern Japanese religious history, including contemporary Shinto and Buddhist religious organizations. Among her many publications, major works include Shinto: A History (2016), Shinto and the State, 1969-1988 (1989), Kurozumikyō and the New Religions of Japan (1986), Lay Buddhism in Contemporary Japan: Reiyūkai Kyōdan (1984), and Marketing the Menacing Fetus in Japan (1997), which won the Arisawa Hiromichi Prize and has recently been translated to Japanese.
At Harvard, Professor Hardacre teaches a variety of courses on religion both in Japan and in the U.S., and she has mentored a generation of students who have since come to occupy prominent positions in the field. She also belongs to the Executive Committee of the Reischauer Institute and served as Institute Director from 1995-1998. As the founding director of the Reischauer Institute Research Project on Constitutional Revision in Japan, she has engaged in research on the debate surrounding the revision of Japan’s postwar constitution and its effect on foreign relations and civil society. In anticipation of the upcoming Emperor’s accession to the throne, she is currently focusing her research on Japanese enthronement rituals.
Devoting service to the Japanese studies community, Professor Hardacre is a member on the advisory boards of Monumenta Nipponica, the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, and the Harvard Journal Asiatic Studies, as well as the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies. She was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003, elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014, and named a Walter Channing Cabot Fellow at Harvard University in 2017.
Before joining the Harvard faculty, Professor Hardacre taught at Princeton University (1980-1989) and Griffith University, Australia (1990-1992). She began her study of Japanese religion at Vanderbilt University, earning her B.A. in 1971 and M.A. in 1972, and she earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1980.