Religion in Japan

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Sep 12, 2010 07:34
Talking about religion in Japan to Christian people is sometimes tricky. Because they don't know much about Buddhism, or, needless to say, Shinto.

Shinto has its origin in Japan. It has at least ~1500 years of history and its ancient form is supposed to be more like animism. The myth of Shinto tells the current Emperor of Japan is a direct descendant of Shinto gods. 'Eight million gods and goddesses' is a common phrase describing Shinto's feature.

Of 127,000,000 people living in Japan, Shintoist, Buddhist, and Christians occupies ~85%, ~70% and only 2%, respectively, according to an official survey. As you noticed, the sum of these percentages far exceeds 100%, indicating vast majority of Japanese people consider themselves as both Shintoist and Buddhist at the same time.

I assume having double religions sounds quite weird to Western people. But this is real. Many Japanese have two religions.

More interestingly, many of them, especially young generations, might say they're atheists when asked what is their religion. In fact, true atheists are rare. Most of them are just unaware what is their religions. They go to Shinto shrines at the beginning of a new year. They do funerals in a Buddhists' tradition. At the mid of August, they visit tombstones of their ancestors to pray their piece in another world.

Thus, their attitude towards religion is quire 'ambiguous.'

When Ohe Kenzaburo, an author, won the Nobel prize, he gave a talk entitled "Japan,the ambiguous,and myself:" あいまいな日本の私. I agree with him in that this ambiguity is a remarkable characteristic of Japanese culture.