Janine Sawada specializes in the religious and intellectual history of early modern Japan. She is currently studying the religious movement dedicated to Mt. Fuji (later called Fujiko) with particular attention to the role of prayer rituals (kaji kito) in its formative phases, during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Janine Sawada's early work dealt with the popularization of Zen Buddhist and Neo-Confucian ideas and practices among the working classes of Japan during the eighteenth century. More recently she researched groups that advocated diverse forms of personal cultivation in the early nineteenth century and later developed into conservative political coalitions in the early Meiji period, including Shinto-type new religions, Confucian-inspired revival movements, divination practitioners, and Rinzai Zen communities. Professor Sawada is currently studying the early modern development of popular religious practices in the Mt. Fuji catchment area as documented in pilgrimage mandalas, talismanic items, sermonic texts, and hagio-narratives associated with mountain ascetics and pilgrimage guides of the area.