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How religious are Japanese people?

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Every so often, I get asked by friends or relatives overseas if Japanese people are religious. It’s not an easy question to answer. Books have been written about the subject, dealing in-depth with all kinds of topics ranging from Shinto, Buddhism, Yasukuni Shrine and organizations such as Soka Gakkai to the importance of the humble neighborhood shrine. Japan is certainly fertile ground for religious cults, sects and the like. According to the Cultural Affairs Agency, as of 2011, more than 180,000 groups across the country were licensed as religious corporations by the agency and prefectural governments.

My view is that Japanese people are spiritual rather than religious. Most Japanese I know say they do not believe in a deity or profess to follow any religion. Yet they go in droves to shrines during O-bon and New Year. Prayers are written on votive tablets at shrines on the eve of important exams, Coming-of-Age Day, a job interview or in the quest for a suitable husband or wife. Furthermore, Shinto priests are always on hand to bless baseball teams before spring training begins, and at ground-breaking ceremonies for new buildings, or when machinery or vehicles that have been in use for a long time, are retired.

While some Western observers would call these observances superstitious, I find them to be a very deep-rooted part of Japanese society. Shrine visits are a cultural tradition rather than a religious observance, especially when you consider that neighborhood shrines have been an important part of Japanese communities for centuries.

When I first came to Japan in the mid-1980s, I knew a little but not much about Shinto and Buddhism, and what role, if any, they played in the lives of Japanese people. An elderly Japanese gentleman once jokingly said to me that Japanese are born Shinto and die Buddhists. However, to me, a Catholic who goes to church every Sunday, I thought that anyone who didn’t go to church on Sunday could not be considered “religious.” Back then, my conclusion was that Japanese could not possibly be religious.

In many ways, Japanese people treat religions – domestic and foreign - in much the same way as they do with fads and traditions from overseas – borrow, adapt and use aspects when necessary or convenient. A good example of this is the popularity of “Christian-style” weddings in churches and hotel chapels.

Even though they may not be very knowledgeable about other religions, Japanese are very respectful of them. In the 30 years I have lived in Japan, not once have I ever heard a Japanese person make fun of another person’s faith or mock someone for “believing in fairytales,” as some ill-mannered non-Japanese are apt to do. Rather, they only tend to become critical when believers of a cult, say, run amok.

Some 27 years ago, our church in Roppongi started the Rice Patrol whereby we make onigiri and feed the homeless people every day of the year. Though it was started by Catholics, it has expanded to include many non-Catholics, including Japanese, for whom the project has been a real eye-opener. At first, they were curious as to why we did this, but a few were happy to come along and help feed the homeless. There was no preaching, no attempt to convert anyone; it’s just a simple act of charity that resonates with any decent person.

Since the March 11, 2011 disaster, I’ve started to see a strong sense of spirituality among Japanese people, though I am sure it has always been there. I see it every time relatives gather at the scene of a disaster, an accident or murder to pray for the souls of victims. Earlier this month, a stalker murdered an 18-year-old former girlfriend in Tokyo. A few days after the crime, the victim’s parents released a statement to the media in which they described their pain and suffering and how they were now sending their daughter to heaven. It was a very poignant expression of both their pain and a hope that one day they will be reunited with their daughter.

In times like that, I think Japanese are no different from anyone else in the world – we all look for answers in the face of tragedy. Whether people choose to call that religious, spiritual or superstitious doesn’t matter.

© Japan Today

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56 Comments
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"I think Japanese are no different from anyone else in the world"

Are you kidding? They're a stark world apart from those violent bigots in the Mideast, North Africa and South/Central Asia. And that's a good thing.

There is no real religion here. Shinto is a just collection of pagan rituals with no binding ideology. As for Buddhism, how many Japanese salarymen do you know are on a quest for nirvana?

The absence of religion in Japan's political, social and intellectual worlds is one of its most admirable qualities.

21 ( +31 / -10 )

I wouldn't say my wife was religious but she will on occasion dive off into a shrine for a quick prayer. And when we were in Cowara, NSW, we visited the graveyard of Japanese POW who died in a jail break. Again she kneeled and offered a prayer. But never otherwise shows any religious inclination. Not religious but spiritually respectful is how I would put it.

But my favourite quirky Japanese religious site is the temple near Matsubari where we lived for a few years where people take their stuffed toys. I kid you not. In the grounds of the temple are these large boxes come shrines that you leave your old stuffed toys in. And the wife explained to me so matter of fact that the toys carry some of the owners spirit so need to blessed before being cremated. Somehow her saying this to me just made me love her that little bit more. It was such an innocence that many Japanese have.

19 ( +21 / -2 )

SimondB, your comment was more interesting than the artical.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

The blight of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc will disappear only when humans evolve to the point where they no longer fear death. In that sense, it is indeed a refreshing pleasure to live in Japan where the acceptance of death is more realistic, natural, and far less sentimental than in the West.

12 ( +19 / -7 )

Japan has so many temples and shrines including many events and festivals of a religious nature therefore it might seem obvious that they are religious. However surveys will indicate that they are not religious meaning they don't practice or are devoted to any specific religion. In Japan, people have a different concept of what religion is. They refer to organized and revealed religion like Christianity and also believe religion is about doctrines and rules. They are not conscious of religion because of the way Japanese culture and religion is intricately connected. The Japanese people are not the keenest religious people. It's complicated and they don't have a religious mind like Christians. Thus if we were to characterize the way in which people are religious in Japan, it would be closely linked to the family and to tradition emphasizing the things people do rather than the strict adherence to a set of doctrines.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I think the Japanese have a quiet spirituality that is informed by religion.

My wife (from rural Japan), her family, and friends have this very natural spirituality that features quite often in their day to day life, often in very subtle ways. It's quite constant, quite varied, but not very overt.

I would say that the spirituality, at it's core, is this really strong sense of 'place' and link to that. Ancestors, traditions, beliefs and a very strong but subtle connection to the land and the people around them. It's actually hard to articulate as I type this, but it's a very gentle type of spirituality that always impresses me.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Personally, I am quite happy with the fact that Japan is not under the effect of other main stream religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc...). Those bring nothing but headache. I hope Japan never falls under the sway of such religions.

11 ( +15 / -4 )

Nice piece. I would say the Western concept of God has never set foot in heathen Japan, and it's both a good thing and a bad thing. Since there is no God as the Jews and Christians and Moslems see it, and such God belief is superstitious and silly, yet at the same time, the Japanese have never had a personal relationship with a higher being to make them a more moral and upright people. So it works both ways. In general, they are lucky not to be religious.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

'Religious', no; intransigently dogmatic, YES.

Religion is not a huge factor here, because the lessons that most religions seek to teach are already deeply embedded into their culture. You just have to pay attention: they honor Job, Jesus, Cain/Enoch, and even Moses/Seth (to a lesser extent); they fear/give-due-respect-to Lillith/Eve/Abel...

Japanese are anything BUT ignorant, when it comes to religion.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I'm interested in knowing what people think the difference between spirituality and religion is....

A different point entirely, when discussing religion/spirituality in Japan you should probably cover the cults. There are a lot of them.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Not so much religious as superstitious. And thankfully, none of it is in-your-face.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I guess after the 'Emperor' debacle they people have become a harder sell.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There is no real religion here.

JeffLee, are you aware of how insulting you sound with this one sentence? Who are we to judge what "real" religion is? I'm not trying to pick a fight, but you might want to be careful with how you word things in the future.

-13 ( +5 / -18 )

@Kara Catherine

I'm not trying to pick a fight . . .

Well you're certainly doing a good job of it. It is perfectly clear that Jeff was referring to "organized religion," which is not in the least insulting. So what's your problem?

6 ( +9 / -3 )

ben4short

It is perfectly clear that Jeff was referring to "organized religion," which is not in the least insulting.

Shinto is disorganized, then? Tell that to the Emperor.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

ben4short -

Do you truly believe acceptance of death in Japan is more realistic, natural and less sentimental? Based on what?

Daily examples abound to the contrary. Clinging to life at all costs, and the refusal to accept the inevitable is the backbone of the medical system here.

A lovely japanese lady friend of mine(she's 73) who is a lay-pastor lives every day fully. She has no fear in life and no fear of death - because it's all god's will and she will be blessed in heaven. She is a volunteer counsellor helping lots of fearful non-christian locals esp re sickness and death.

As an atheist, although I don't agree with her beliefs at all, I can see how such a faith as hers allows her to enjoy a life of smiles admist adversity. I confess there is an element of envy re her joy, but then envy is a sin - neh!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

One of my students told me that lots of "religions" here are really cons. Meaning that when you're getting married, or somebody dies, the "religious" figures swoop in and demand payment, in exchange for a few minutes of mumbling some "sacred" script.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

It's interesting to see how many comments chriticise the role of Abrihamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), implicitly condemn their followers and positively reflect on their limited influence in Japan. Contrast this with the tone of the article: "not once have I ever heard a Japanese person make fun of another person’s faith or mock someone for “believing in fairytales,” as some ill-mannered non-Japanese are apt to do."

1 ( +9 / -8 )

I agree with many things that Mr. Betros has to say, but I'd put it a little differently. The concept of "dogma" is central to many Western religions, a litany of "what we believe" and (more often) "What to do and what not to do". I've always found it very limiting since there are always a couple of items that don't resonate with everyone, but most Western religions insists you accept the whole package without alteration or you're booted out of the club.

My Grandfather was a protestant elder, and once he said to me, "Every man before his own God.". At the time I thought it meant one thing, but as I've matured and experienced more of life I begin to understand what I think he meant. Our relationship with God, or the Divine or the Universe or Life... however you choose to put it. Well, it is intensely personal. One doesn't need to subscribe blindly to a set list of dogmatic statements to believe in the divine or to live a good life.

As for generalizing about the religious orientation of an entire nation? I'm sorry, there I disagree. One's relationship with life and the divine presence in your life... well, that's personal.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Most Japanese are very "religious" as I can say. They born as Shinto or Buddist, married as Christian/Catholic, celebrated X-mas every year, and died as ???....everything mixed. Forgive if I misunderstand, so far I knew Buddist monks all over the world are not allowed to get married....but in Japan, they are all married and some of them are drinking alcohol and eat meat (????)

Anyway, we can't judge them...it's their relationship with their God (s), that's really personal. Their religions are theirs, my religion is mine. Peace to all :)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It depends on what religious mean. If that means the based on monotheism sense. No Japan is not a religious country at all. However, Japan is inconspicuously spiritual nation. Our morality comes from "Otentosama ga miteiruyo" The sun is watching you. Our morality is not a guilt base. We do not believe One GOD system but feel and know some Godness. And many people believe a wisdom(Not knowledge) or Buddha nature within our life. If someone can not explain to you does not mean they do not believe this.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In my parents' house, there is a small shrine alter to which my mother offers a cup of rice and water and pray every morning and in the Ozashiki (Jpanese room) there is a buddhist alter (with my father's picture) to which she offers the same. She calls a buddhist priest every month on the same day( when my father died) and have him recite sutras. After that She gives the priest small money and a box of gift she orders for the event from a nearby confectionary. She hosts a gathering for family members and relatives to come and pray for my father once in a few years. When we get any sweets or cakes, we offer them to my father's soul first, then later we eat them as if we were just eating my father's leftover. In my husband's parents' house, his mother is doing the same. So, I think our daily lives are very much centered around spiritural things. I didn't think about it before.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

From my understanding, much of the structuring of society and 'morals' are strongly influenced by Confucianism, but this never seems to be pointed out. For example the reverence for age and use of honorifics, strict rote learning and exams systems. Please do correct me if I am wrong

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There is a narrow, blinkered view of religion within some of these posts.

When one person's religion is different from your own, you say they are not religious - you call it spirituality and superstition. Just because people worship in different ways and believe different things from you, doesn't mean they have no religion, no faith.

Just because people don't go on about religion as a 'thing' to discuss and argue over, it doesn't mean they aren't religious. Religion in Japan can be hard to recognise because it is so much part of daily life. This is actually as it should be - people should live with their religion.

I will disagree with the author on one point, regarding respect of other religions: I still shudder when I see people wearing rosaries as trendy accessories. It just isn't right...

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I see plenty of Japanese at my Church every Sunday morning!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

@maria

I will disagree with the author on one point, regarding respect of other religions: I still shudder when I see people wearing rosaries as trendy accessories. It just isn't right...

That and the fake church weddings. I think it is really disrespectful to build a copy of a religious building and to have someone dress in a costume an imitate a pastor or priest.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

while christianity, over the ages, has killed millions in the americas and in europe (for the crime of not believing in their so called god), in japan wars have been fought for other reasons. at least this shows great tolerance in japan regarding religion with its imaginary "gods".

2 ( +4 / -2 )

TakahiroDomingoOCT. 27, 2013 - 03:41PM JST while christianity, over the ages, has killed millions in the americas and in europe (for the crime of not believing in their so called god), in japan wars have been fought for other reasons. at least this shows great tolerance in japan regarding religion with its imaginary "gods".

Wasn't Japanese imperialism done in the name of the emperor, who is a 'God' according to traditional beliefs?

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Most Japanese will tell you they have no relegion. They live in a society dictated by norns and rules. When they are born, a Shinto ceremony might be performed, and at most funerals (soshiki) I have attended, there has been a buddhist priest. No Japanese I have ever met could explain to me the meaning of the ceremony. Even Japanese I have met who converted to Christanity did not feel to be real Christains to me. A Japanese wedding ceremony is the joining of two families, thus the emphasis on all the friends and gifts; both are showing their power and clout to each other. The fake Christian minister is just there for show, it has nothing to do with the ceremony in a Western sense. I have met Koreans who were real Christians, and some Japanese Americans. Faith in a relegion has little importance in Japanese life. When Japanese say "kamisama" it could mean a thousand different dieties.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

'not once have I ever heard a Japanese person make fun of another person’s faith or mock someone for “believing in fairytales,” as some ill-mannered non-Japanese are apt to do.'

While I agree that Japanese generally don't mock others' beliefs, I challenge the idea that non-Japanese who do are ill-mannered. In Japan, it's rare that anyone is compelled to have religious beliefs. That's quite a contrast to my own childhood when I was threatened with eternal hell every Sunday by a man in a pulpit if I didn't believe and obey the word of god. A religion that compels others to believe can't complain when people turn round and vent their feelings. In Japan too, when you do hear contempt for religion, it tends to be towards the actively proselytizing groups. My wife is a practicing Buddhist. But never once has she or the members of her group pushed me to join or threatened me with eternal damnation for not doing so. They respect me and I respect them.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"Shinto is disorganized, then? Tell that to the Emperor."

You inadvertently raise an interesting point. Several rituals during the Akihito's coronation in 1989 had to be redrafted because the imperial household forgot the original ones. The relevant records couldn't be found. "Disorganized," yeah, but more like they make things up as they go along.

As an atheist, I've no problem with that at all. Better than a certain other group who abide by very specific and clear-cut passages in their scriptures that exhort followers to cut the heads and fingers off non-believers.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I guess, the Emperor was the top religious lider like the Pope, but I think that he quit this position a long time ago. Now no one have have really any religion))

2 ( +2 / -0 )

First of all define "Religion"....I am currently reading the last book written by the recently departed Ronald Dworkin : Religion Without God. Very thought provoking.

Most Japanese I know say they do not believe in a deity or profess to follow any religion.

To quote Dworkin.

Many millions of people who count themselves atheists have convictions and experiences very like and just as profound as those that believers count as religious. They say that though they do not believe in a “personal” god, they nevertheless believe in a “force” in the universe “greater than we are.” They feel an inescapable responsibility to live their lives well, with due respect for the lives of others; they take pride in a life they think well lived and suffer sometimes inconsolable regret at a life they think, in retrospect, wasted. They find the Grand Canyon not just arresting but breathtakingly and eerily wonderful. They are not simply interested in the latest discoveries about the vast universe but enthralled by them. These are not, for them, just a matter of immediate sensuous and otherwise inexplicable response. They express a conviction that the force and wonder they sense are real, just as real as planets or pain, that moral truth and natural wonder do not simply evoke awe but call for it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Most....not very at least in Tokyo

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think the Japanese are quite religious, but the only national religion is "being Japanese". About the official so-called religions out there, they are quite laissez faire....and I love that. Being born Shinto, marrying Catholic, dying Buddhist --- I think that is great. They should throw another couple of religions into the mix.

Religion is OK, as long as it is not taken seriously. Japan is one of the few countries which understands that.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The author writes:

My view is that Japanese people are spiritual rather than religious

I wonder: based on what?

We know they are not religious. Polls over the past 60 years show 70 -80% do not consider themselves religious. Data on spirituality is harder to come by. People may differ on their impressions. I certainly do with the author.

Indeed, one of most notable, and pleasant things from my perspective, things about Japan is the near lack of spirituality in the public sphere. Japan is in this way a truly religiously tolerant society.

Thumbs up if you agree.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I'd say Japanese are mostly agnostic. Shinto / Christianity for weddings, Buddhism for funerals / death. Being an atheist, it's something I have always found very intriguing!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I decided to make Japan my home in order to get away from guns and religion. I made the right decision on both counts.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

To say that the doctrinal religions that came from the Middle East (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) are Western ignores the fact that the largest Islamic country in the world is Indonesia. Islam is throughout Southeast Asia and about 20 million Muslims in China. The Philippines are primarily Christian and Christianity is a major religion in South Korea. The monotheistic religions are very much Asian religions. They have been there for centuries. Confucianism is doctrinal in the sense it states how people are to behave in society. Society is to be very orderly and don't go against these expectations. Look at the use of honorifics in East Asia which includes Japan. Japans expectations of behavior can be like religious dogma. "Do this and don't do that".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I generally agree with the 'more spiritual than religious' viewpoint, but perhaps it requires some time out of the big city to see this in its full form. In the countryside, established families and communities may have, in the course of a year, literally dozens of ceremonies, festivals, and rituals to be observed and handed down, some more agrarian-based Shinto traditions, others Buddhist. They all acknowledge--and some honor--the presence of a god, gods, or some other 'higher power' (the souls of dead relatives, for example), in terms that attest to the belief that these are real influences on daily life. I think this goes well beyond the condescending "superstitious."

As for whether or not Japan's religions are "organized," anyone who has seen the rituals and observances that take place at any major Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine would likely find it hard to argue that these are 'casual' faiths. The high Buddhist ceremonies sometimes outdo the Catholics in their splendor, and it certainly takes a highly organized religion to muster the lay parishoners, resources, and catechism that has kept these rituals alive for so many centuries. Obviously one could argue that these things are no longer relevant as young people drift away from the observances of their home towns and elders, but that's true of many other faiths worldwide.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I also agree, superstitious sums up the country better than religious. I'd also add in cultural. I wager few people actually think about diety when they go to temples or shrines, they just do it because that's what tradition states you should do - kind of like watching Kohaku on NYE.

More intriguing to me is not the number of believers in a God vs unbelievers, but the percentage of people who sit on the fence (about 1/3 of the population according to statistics). This is, as far as I can tell, the highest percentage of any country.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Echoing some other peoples comments, I am for one glad for the lack of influential doctrine based on the large monotheistic religions, it is a factor in wanting to stay here.

I actually feel a bit upset when I see the people with the signs and loudspeaker promoting brand-x religion in Japan, other than some very self interested people in power in governments and corporations I find for the most part Japanese people to be extremely giving and caring.

Spiritual... I always wonder what people mean when they say that.

In the same way that modern "christianity" re-engineers what they call god to suit the times, I find "spirituality" to be an equally vague and more or less meaningless.

I would say rather there are cultural practices and traditions, and there is nothing wrong with a bit of culture and tradition provided we keep the good bits and use our common sense to continue to move away from the harmful practices.

As a side note anyone know of any sceptic/atheist groups in Japan?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

The absence of religion in Japan's political, social and intellectual worlds is one of its most admirable qualities.

HA one of the funniest things I've read today! You mean the same Gov't that is founded around a religion? Official visits to Yasukuni Shrine? What you really mean is Japan's erosion of religious freedom is what you like about it. If you die while in service to the JSDF it doesn't matter if you are atheist, Christian, or anything you will be enshrined at a Shinto shrine by the Gov't regardless of your families wishes. The issue is that Shinto can't be separated from Japan or the idea of "being Japanese". Most people do things because its what is expected of them culturally. Some public holidays, annual ceremonies, Ise Grand Shrine and Yasukuni Shrine these are all Shinto things that play a part in "preserving" the Japanese nation.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It's interesting to see how many comments chriticise the role of Abrihamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), implicitly condemn their followers and positively reflect on their limited influence in Japan. Contrast this with the tone of the article: "not once have I ever heard a Japanese person make fun of another person’s faith or mock someone for “believing in fairytales,” as some ill-mannered non-Japanese are apt to do."

Will Timms - well said, and that underscores another difference to be found in the Japanese people.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

hatsoff.. A few points, In Japan they are unlikely to be critical of those beliefs exactly because they have limited impact here. Perhaps ask some Japanese people what they think about some of the more extreme groups to have risen in Japan over the years, they are likely to be very critical of those groups.

Questioning beliefs and not accepting things on religious faith isn't being ill mannered or mocking anyone, people's beliefs have real and tangible effects in this world, not only for them but others in society so they must be subject to the same scrutiny that we would apply to any claim someone makes.

I would suggest that while the Japanese tendency to not to want to cause a problem or disturbance can be beautiful and wonderful it can also have its issues looking at the political and corporate issues Japan currently faces.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Are Hindus religious? How about Tibetans and Nepalis when they follow their many gods? People have no problem believing that Indians are religious when they visit their temples but when Japanese people go to Shinto temples and shrines, give donations and buy all sort of things it isn't religion anymore. Japanese people are religious when they visit their shrines at certain appointed times and milestones in their lives etc. We are missing the point when we compare Japanese religious beliefs to those of Christianity, Islam etc. a far better point of comparison would be with the many pantheistic religions which also have no central authority. Most of us would think that many Hindus are devoutly religious, so why not Japanese. Also it is common point to pantheistic religions that they are able to absorb practices from elsewhere and that is why Japanese have no problem with a faux-christian wedding, as Hindus have no trouble incorporating Jesus into their pantheon of millions of gods or even jokingly refer to Sachin Tendulakar as a god. Japanese people are not being offensive when they have faux-christian weddings because from the pantheistic point of view no one god deserves special consideration. Anyone who says they are merely superstitious don't get that many people could also see christians in the same way. Are all the stories in the bible really true?

Many of us conclude that Japanese people are not religious because when we ask them if they are religious they say no, or when surveys ask them they say no. We are asking them the wrong question in my opinion- better ask them if they go to visit the temple at new years day, when their child is 100 says old, before they have an exam etc. The reason that many Japanese people don't see this as religious is because it has become such a deep part of their culture and therefore doesn't look like religion anymore.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

I think the Japanese are quite religious, but the only national religion is "being Japanese".

Agree there, WilliB. Unless involved in some sect like Soka (which very few Japanese are), "religion" here is a reflection of cultural awareness and belonging completely absent of dogma. Acknowledgment of the overriding culture and the imperative of participation pervades life on a subconscious level and acts as a determinant of attitudes and actions.

The role of non-Japanese in this word is complex. I find that I am welcomed - even encouraged - to follow tradition to a rather superficial level but prevented from being involved beyond that. For example, I am welcome at all festivals at the shrine that borders my house, but I have never been invited to become a "shrine elder" despite the facts of my support, my proximity, and that my father-in-law was one.

Not that I mind. The 'cult of being Japanese' belongs to my neighbors, my wife, and even to my children. To me, it is simply cultural quirkiness.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@pochan

Japanese people are not being offensive when they have faux-christian weddings because from the pantheistic point of view no one god deserves special consideration.

Since I was one of the people who said that, let me ask you this. Has any Japanese person said this to you, or are you just assuming. Not a judgement, an honest to goodness question. From all the people I know, they got married in a 'church' because they are 'trendy' or 'fancy' and they want to wear a western-style white dress. No one I know ever related it to the Christian faith or God

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I wouldn't say my ex is that religious, but a couple of years ago we were at a shrine and she went and prayed... I'm an Athiest so I felt it would be wrong for me to go too, but when I was watching her clap her hands and close her eyes it was just a beautiful moment.

Sometimes I wish I could be like the Japanese.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

justbcuzisay

I think you missed my point. But anyway you are right that I am making an assumption and could be quite wrong but since that is what most of this thread is about I thought I would put an idea out there.

But Yes I believe that not one Japanese person is intentionally aiming to offend christians when they have their wedding. The point I was trying to make was that they would not see it as being offensive because the christian god is no more special than any others, not that there is any religious aspect to the wedding itself, which is why I have called it a faux-christian wedding. Christians can be offended by such things because they think their god is special.

Sometimes I wish I could be like the Japanese.

That club is far too exclusive for you to join but if they ever let you in you would be screaming to be let out again.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Chris, great article and really "right on" in your analysis. I was a Catholic missionary in Japan for many years and I would concur. By the way, glad to know the Rice Patrol is still alive and well. Shalom!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Hmmm, toleration, eh? What about the Japanese who become Christians and then do not offer prayers to the dead, etc., do not attend Buddhist or Shinto rituals their company has. Sometimes they might be tolerated, but all I know surely have not been tolerated very well by their families, workmates, etc. I know a few who've been told they don't belong to the family anymore. A couple I know didn't get promotions everyone knew they should have had.

Oh well, all this toleration mess ain't always working out so good.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As long as Japan has an Emperor, Shinto is the state religion. It has been under the surface for years but exam the years before WWII. Students were indoctrinated in Shinto and the Emperor. It has been very liberal times for decades but that seems to be coming to an end. You have the 'Kimigayo" controversy. You have more and more government officials visiting Yasukuni. I always found it interesting that the Emperor is supposed to be descended from the SUN goddess Amaterasu and yet Japan is so adamant about having a male successor. Seems wrong somehow. Japan tolerates other religions until it doesn't, it tolerated Buddism until it didn't as in the just before and continuing in the Tokugawa period. Christianity was tolerated until the same period. If it looked like it may interfere with the State, it was put under control. The period just before and during WWII, the wars could be considered a holy war, a Jihad, waged by Japan on the rest of Asia. So is Japan a religious country? It kind of depends on your definition and what time frame you examine.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I find for the Japanese, the reinforcement of their cultural practices, including religious rituals, is far more important than the original faith itself. These days the Japanese religion is 'being Japanese'. It's not a state of belief but an expression of culture.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"People have no problem believing that Indians are religious when they visit their temples but when Japanese people go to Shinto temples and shrines, give donations and buy all sort of things it isn't religion anymore."

Because the Japanese don't believe it. They don't believe in the Amaterasu creation myth and they don't believe that the emperor is divine, and so on. The Japanese are non-believers...of their own native religion. That's why we're cynical.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don't understand why some of you think you have to believe in a God to have morals. Look at the crime stats in Japan. I can't believe America is still stuck in bronze age ideals. It's very confusing with all we've learned about the world and such. Kind of frustrating.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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