Manga depicts struggles of growing up in nonmainstream religious households in Japan

From the manga “Raised in homes where God lives”
Courtesy of Bungeishunju Ltd.
Mariko Kikuchi

A nonfiction manga expressing the struggles of people who feel troubled or conflicted as a result of being raised by extremely religious parents went on sale earlier this month.

Mariko Kikuchi, the artist of “Kamisama no Iru Ie de Sodachimashita” (Raised in homes where God lives), is herself from such a background. She interviewed others who grew up in similar situations and presents seven of their stories — including her own — in her manga, which was published by Bungeishunju Ltd.

“I won’t reject religion itself, but I hope parents will also respect their children’s freedom of religion,” Kikuchi said.

Kikuchi’s father was an alcoholic and her mother was a member of a new religious group. Kikuchi also joined the group, but when she was 14, her mother committed suicide, worn out by her relationship with her husband and her involvement in religious activities.

“Why did my mother have to suffer despite being a fervent believer?” Such thoughts led Kikuchi to abandon her faith.

Kikuchi later became a manga artist and has published such work as “You to Bakemono ni Naru Chichi ga Tsurai” (It’s painful to have a father who becomes a monster when drunk), which is based on her own experience.

After holding an event about growing up in a religious household, she began serializing her manga on that topic online last year.

In the book, each of the seven people, all with different religious and family backgrounds, tell a story about their experiences up to the time they left their religion. As they grow up, they start to have doubts, but they stick with it out of love for their parents and not wanting to create problems at home. Even after leaving their religion, they continue to feel as if they have to punish themselves. The characters’ words are vivid and raw.

“I’ll always be looked at as if I’m strange. But it wasn’t even my choice,” says one.

“My human rights are being eroded.”

Kikuchi said: “Little children cannot distinguish between the teachings of the religion and the teachings of their parents. They tend to think they won’t be loved by their parents if they don’t believe in their religion.”

As the book was being prepared for publication, the shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July drew attention to the issues surrounding people who were raised in households where parents are fixated on religion.

“Instead of viewing [those who grew up in such families] as different, please imagine the pain they’ve been through,” Kikuchi said.