Wednesday, April 1, 2009

religion in japan

Religious life in Japan is very diverse spanning many different traditions. With its beginnings rooted in Shinto mythology, Japan acquired the traditions of various Buddhist sects throughout its long history. Many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples representing all time periods can be found scattered in cities and countrysides across the country. Although many religious traditions are still practiced as they have been for centuries, I have found that most of the activity occurring in these temples and shrines are people just like me going to enjoy their community and beauty. The first picture shows a market put on at the Senoji Temple in Asakusa in Tokyo. Market vendors were set up on the grounds of the temple selling food and souvenirs side by side underneath paper cherry blossoms foreshadowing the spring. In the second photo, taken at a Shinto shrine in Kyoto shows a man taking his own photo of the scenery. Like these two photos, you often see Japanese people partaking in activities such as drinking beer or taking pictures in settings that may be seen as defiling in other religions. With the exception of the inner buildings of these shrines and temples, people are free to explore the area, let their kids run freely and laugh, take photos with their friends in front of the gates, or enjoy an afternoon yakisoba and beer. When I have gone to visit such sites, I have often seen after sending their short prayers to the gods, many Japanese people engaging in the same "touristy" activities that I am. From this I get the impression that the Japanese religious experience is more about paying respect and appreciation for the traditions and history than a strict reverence and faith. I think this adds to the religious identity of Japan and ultimately keeps its tradtions alive and continually cherished as time goes on.


  1. One might question, perhaps like many Japanese themselves, whether such activities constitute religion...