Japanese Religion

It is said that Japanese people are irreligious. Actually, 70 percent of Japanese are so. There is no religious role except the time of ceremonial occasions in Japan. For example, a funeral is by a Buddhism formula, a marriage ceremony is held at a church and paying our first visits of the year in a shrine. There are some reasons for this. I’ll divide it into four points and explain these.

First, Japan is island country and not invaded or occupied from the old days. So, Japanese race could live without depending on some religion.

“The irreligion” of Westerners is a way of thinking that is almost “atheism”, but the Japanese “irreligion” has a plan that “it is natural religion”. Since ancient times, it was thought that God dwelled in all things in the universe in Japan. This is called “YAOYOROZUNOKAMI”. They do not oppose to each other, and in other words, it is polytheism. This is very different from monotheistic such as Christianity and Islam.

Third, Japanese policy is also its cause. In the Meiji era, the government wanted to assume Buddhism a state religion but the other religions was powerful in the world. Because of this, the government did not ignore these and could not decide a state religion. As a result of this, the government did not take a religious line clearly.

Finally, in the other side, the case which was done by the religious body was happened in the past. Aum Shinrikyo scattered sarin which is nerve gas on a subway, and a large quantity of victims came out. Therefore the image of religion became to be extremely bad.

I think that the Japanese religious idea is good, though it is often criticized by other country’s people. However, this expresses Japanese generosity and splendid sensitivity that people are careful and thank to everything. I think that Japanese people should maintain this Japanese irreligion stance as an identity.

 by Ayaka Hori

2 thoughts on “Japanese Religion

  1. Quite interesting. As you mentioned, Japan seems to have no single religious object not as some of other countries have.

    Between your paragraph about Aum and Meiji, I want to mention another point of Japanese religion. That is Emperor (Tennno) as the God. During the war time, the God in Japan used to be the Tenno. Everyone used to believe in.

    After the end of the war, he (Tenno) had to go around Japan to declare that “I am a human”. That must have been absolutely shocking for everyone in Japan. I cannot imagine such a situation if I truly believed in something as God.

    What do you think about the significance of this historical point on today’s Japanese religion?

    Anyhow, we can still see Yaoyorozunokami in our daily life.
    That is “Itadakimasu(いただきます)” culture, which states “I will eat your lives(rice, fish, vegetables, anything!)” 🙂

  2. This is quite an interesting topic. I’ve been living in Japan for almost 2 years and I know that religions only play roles in certain ceremonies as you mentioned above.

    For me, it’s hard actually to categorize Japanese as polytheist or atheist. In some ways, Japanese do seem to follow some religions but I’m not sure is that really because they believe in that many religions or only because its in the culture so they just follow what the older generation did without thinking about it.

    And no offense to Japanese, but in my view, the fact that they do ceremonies from various religions makes them look lost and cannot decide which faith they believed in so they just jumbled everything in. You may think that that shows the generosity and sensitivity of Japanese but people who believe in one religion only can also respect and honor other religions without blending all into one. We can definitely live in harmony even though our religions are different. All we need to do is having an open mind.

    And a country definitely doesn’t have to be attacked or occupied for a religion to spread. In South East Asia for example, some religions were spread through international trades.

    Regardless, I feel kinda sad that with only one bad event/tragedy, the image of religion is tarnished horribly.

    ps: I do hope you could explain more on the Japan policy thingy. Why couldn’t Japan legibly stating Buddhism as national religion? What do you mean by other religions are powerful so Japan can’t do it?

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