The article states that "Buddhism in Japan is often called “funeral Buddhism,” a reference to the religion’s near-monopoly on the elaborate, and lucrative, ceremonies surrounding deaths and memorial services. But that expression also describes a religion that, by appearing to cater more to the needs of the dead than to those of the living, is losing its standing in Japanese society."
The article further states that "Perhaps most significantly, Buddhism is losing its grip on the funeral industry, as more and more Japanese are turning to funeral homes or choosing not to hold funerals at all.
“That’s the image of funeral Buddhism: that it doesn’t meet people’s spiritual needs,” said Ryoko Mori, the chief priest at the 700-year-old Zuikoji Temple here in northern Japan. “In Islam or Christianity, they hold sermons on spiritual matters. But in Japan nowadays, very few Buddhist priests do that.”
“If Japanese Buddhism doesn’t act now, it will die out,” he said. “We can’t afford to wait. We have to do something.”
I'm not sure how to interpret this article. On one hand, my impression is that Japanese people today are not as religious as people in other countries. When I read about Japanese history, I have the belief that the people of Japan used to be much more religiously fervent in the past but that religion, both Shinto and Buddhism, no longer play as important a role in their lives.
On the other hand, maybe the article missunderstands Japan and Japanese beliefs, especially relating to religion. Japanese people may very well have a high level of spirituality that just does not manifest itself the way religion does in Christian, Muslim or Jewish countries.
My feeling is that it is somewhere in between what the article states and reality. Religion probably is not as important in Japan as it may have been 200 years ago and the Chief Priests concerns may have some validity. At the same time, Japanese people will always have some level of spirituality.
I do hope that what the article states is not true. It would be sad if Buddhism was dying out in Japan. I think Buddhism is a very important part of Japanese culture and tradition.