Dan’s blog

Integration of Religions

Throughout this class I have started to learn more about not only the study of religion in Japan, but also more about their culture.  I have always loved studying cultures that are different then our own.  Japan is one of the most differentiated places on Earth.  They can integrate many different ideas into the culture without a problem.  They integrate not only the religions of different cultures, but they also take ideas from the business world and the arts.  Some ways that all of these have integrated into the society are just like how parts of both Buddhism and Christianity have been taken and used by the society at large.  This shows that they are willing to use any cultures ideas as long as they fit into their own society.  Throughout the entirety of this class we keep coming back to this thought because this is what happens in Japan with many things.  They not only bring in the concept, but they also make it their own.  Changing whatever it is to suite what they want, just look at Christmas to see they don’t believe but still use the idea.

Pop Culture

Japan has not only integrated the religions of other cultures, but they also have brought in many other cultural references.  They have brought in many cultural elements from other places around the world.  Some of the pop culture references they have brought in were video games, comic books, and cartoons.  These forms of expression have been taken in by the Japanese and they have been changed to what Japanese people wanted to see.  Video games got things like Final Fantasy, comic books became Manga, and cartoons became anime.  All of them are art and have changed to the forms that the Japanese prefer.  They have also added in more of the religious ideals that are in Japan as well.  They add in architecture of religious places, religious practices, and even add in the idea of spiritual beings that are around us.

Cartoons becoming Anime

When cartoons became anime they completely changed and went from being just funny or action oriented programs to being able to be very complex.  They not only added drama and other stories to the roster they added in part of the Japanese culture at the same time.  This means not only adding what they do on a regular basis, but also religious elements into them.  They have had many stories that have elements of spiritual beings, like kami.  Not only this, but also some shows have brought in religious festivals from certain areas.  These can be very specific festivals and some are fake, but very accurate to what could happen in a festival of that type.  Before this class I had never seen the real differences between our festivals and theirs, let alone the differences between the different festivals.  They all have meanings to them and can be for many different things at the same time.  Some of the meanings are pretty difficult to understand if a person has no context to the area in which the festival takes place.

Soiling of Religion in Japan

Japan is completely different to the rest of the modern world when it comes to religion.  Religion in Japan is not seen as important and many people say they are not religious or even follow a religion.  Some of the reasons for this have been contemplated in class most of the time.  Some of the main reasons we have put forth why the Japanese don’t connect themselves to religions are that it has been used and soiled by those who used it.  The ones that have used it the most have been the government themselves.  They have used both Buddhism and Shinto to get people of the “lower class” to follow them.  They wanted to get most of the population to do what they wanted them without a problem.  There have also been some other groups that have soiled religion to the point of Japanese not trusting them at all.  One group that made the most public experience that made most Japanese dislike religion was Aum Shinrikyo.  They used seren gas on the subway and injured many people in the process and even killed some people.  This was not only about religion, but it was also political because of where they set this off.  They had set it off in the station in front of the government buildings at rush hour.  These events that have happened in Japan have soiled religion and have made people not trust any religion and therefore only do religious acts that are done on a normal basis.  They are still not seen as religious to the people.

Practice not Religions

In Japan Buddhism and Shinto are the two main religions.  This is not from the amount of people that consider themselves to be Buddhist or a Shinto follower.  The reason that they are the two main religions is that their practices are followed on a fairly regular basis.  People also only use parts of the religions that they want when they want to.  This is like when people take a new born to a Shinto shrine to purify them, or when people have funeral rites performed for the deceased.  These are all done for this-worldly benefits and also done for the ancestors.  The way these two work in Japan is completely different than any other religion in the world.  That is why it is hard to categorize religious beliefs in Japan.  History in Japan has changed both of these religions and the way they are seen by the public at large in Japan.  They have become syncretized with each other and have been used for certain objectives are two main reasons they have changed.  Also, most religions put a lot of emphasis on the teachings, but these two have become just practiced physically and not by the teachings.  This means that people do not know why exactly they do something; they just know that they were taught to do this throughout their lives.

One Response to Dan’s blog

  1. Doc Roemer says:

    There are some good comments here.

    A couple that require some more thought are, “Japan is completely different to the rest of the modern world when it comes to religion. Religion in Japan is not seen as important…” What is it about Japan that you think is ‘unique’ to the rest of the world? I think there’s much more in common than what you’re considering (or possibly more than what you’re aware of). The idea that Japan is unique is not new (that’s the focus of the Nihojin-ron movement), but it is highly debatable.

    Also, religion is “important” in Japan, depending on how you measure it. What did you have in mind when you wrote that? (just curious)

    Careful with such sweeping (and ‘othering’–“they’re so different from us”) claims. Different, yes. Odd, weird, unique? Not so much. These claims lose objectivity, and that’s important in the academic study of religion.

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