About religion ~Japanese perspective~

The history of the religion goes back to many centuries ago. For example, Christianity was spread from the Middle East and to Europe and even many countries in the world. There are about 30 % of the people in the world who are Christian. Also there are Buddhism and Islam which are famous in the current world. On the other hand, do you know what is happening in Japan? According to the data which was reported in 2000, it is said that more than half of the Japanese people are with no religious faith. Actually, some of my friends say some religious groups are bit scary and even crazy. Why do people tend to think like this even we go to shrine or temple for traditional events? I would like to consider about it with my ideas.

Originally, Japanese had some kind of religious thing. We have respected all the nature and surroundings, which might be a tree, soil, river, and anything. We had believed that for each of the nature things, there is a god. Compare to the Christianity and Islamic, Japanese religious value is very ambiguous because it is polytheism, not monotheism. Moreover, the gods live in the nature are invisible. They do not have a shape of a body, so it means we rather respect the nature itself, not the gods in the nature.

I think this is one of the reasons why most of the Japanese are without religion. Another reason is because some religious groups caused troubles in the society. Famous one is the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, by Aum Shinrikyo. It was a terrible incident which murdered innocent 13 people. It created the value that the religion is scary and crazy. If your god told you to kill people, would you follow that? It is not a religious problem, but a moral problem. I think most of the Japanese people will continue to live without religion unless some specific religions will grow in Japan. Anyway, I think Japanese value of religion is very interesting because many kinds of religions are mixed in the society. It is a complicated issue.

References http://www.gotquestions.org/polytheism.html “What is polytheism?” http://homepage2.nifty.com/path/shukyo.html 「日本人の宗教観」 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/地下鉄サリン事件 「地下鉄サリン事件」

by Takeshi Sakagami

Japan’s homosexuality is becoming common

A greater amount of gay and transgender characters have begun appearing on Japanese television, with positive portrayals. There are highly successful television series. A number of gay or transgender cultivate such an image as part of their public persona, now.

A number of artists, nearly all male, have begun to speak publicly about their homosexuality, appearing on various talk shows and other programs, their celebrity often focused on their sexuality; twin pop-culture critics Osugi (which means free love and scandals) are an example. Akihiro Miwa, a drag queen and former lover of author Yukio Mishima, is the television advertisement spokesperson for many Japanese companies ranging from beauty to financial products. Kenichi Mikawa, a former pop idol singer who now blurs the line between male and female costuming and make-up, can also regularly be seen on various programs

Some non-gay entertainers have used stereotypical references to homosexuality to increase their profile. Razor Ramon Sumitani a.k.a. Hard Gay (HG), a comedian, shot to fame after he began to appear in public wearing a leather harness, hot pants and cap. His outfit, name, and trademark pelvis thrusting and squeals earned him the adoration of fans and the scorn of many in the Japanese gay community. There is a genre of anime and manga that focuses on gay male romance (and sometimes explicit content) known as yaoi. Yaoi titles are primarily marketed to women, and are commonplace in bookstores. Various terms are used in Japan to refer to yaoi.

“June” which refers to plots containing romance and drama, feature mature, adult male characters. “BL” (“Boys’ Love”) refers to stories that either contain younger characters, or more light-hearted romance (as an alternative to more sexual content). The phrase “shōnen-ai”, translated from Japanese in the past as “boy love”, is used to describe non-sexual homosexuality in either adult male characters or younger male characters. When manga or anime depicts sexual activities between young boys, or young boys with adults (male or female), it is known as “shotacon”, which should not be confused with “shōnen-ai”.

There is also Gei-comi that menans gay-comics. Unlike yaoi comics often assign one partner to a stereotypical heterosexual female role, gei-comi generally depict both partners as masculine and in an equal relationship.

In Japan there is no laws against homosexual activity, and has some legal protections for gay individuals. There are some legal protections for transgender individuals, too. Consensual sex between adults of the same sex is legal. However, The major political parties express little public support for gay rights issues. Despite recommendations from the Council for Human Rights Promotion, the Diet has yet to take action on including sexual orientation in the country’s civil rights code. However, Some political figures are beginning to speak publicly about their own homosexuality. Kanako Otsuji, an assemblywoman from Osaka, came out as a lesbian in 2005. In 2003, Aya Kamikawa became the first openly transgender elected official in Tokyo, Japan.

by Ha SeoIn

Partner Norm in Japan –Japanese herbivore men–

Gender Norm is very important to distinguish what men are like or what women are like. But when we find a partner we love, that norm become stricter. I will call this norm ‘Partner norm’

Unmarried men are increasing more than woman in Japan. It is said that 18 to 34-year-old men who don’t have a partner reach 60%. And 20 to 30-year-old men will be single all their life. Why are Unmarried men increasing? It is said because of economic depression or informal employment. But I think there is another reason which relate to gender and partner norm.

Today’s Japanese prefer to distinguish two types of character. They are 草食系 ‘herbivorous’  and 肉食系 ‘predatory’. Predatory people are active to find partner and interested in relationship. Herbivorous men are the opposite. They are not eager to find a partner and tend to be clumsy in love. 70% of Japanese men feel herbivorous, and They are called 草食系男子(soushokukei-danshi) ’herbivore men’ and often become popular in Japanese society. But Japanese woman have not so good image of them. Herbivore men are clumsy in love and afraid of risk that if they are rejected. So they can’t approach positively and fail to make relationship with partner. Japanese women feel them week-need and not masculine.

Since Japanese women’s idea of ‘herbivore men’ becomes pressure, herbivore men maybe make them more passive. But women have wanted  masculine men so far. Then why are herbivore men increasing in this time? I think Japanese gender norm has completely changed.  Up to the present, Social duty and authority could be used by only men in Japan. These elements were essential to make men masculine. But in the 1980s, women rights have completely changed. Women were advanced to social life, duty and authority that used to be monopolized by men can be shared. That’s why herbivore men are increasing.

Japanese Gender Norm has updated but Japanese Partner Norm has not. I think Japanese people tend to persist old-fasioned partner norm like ‘masculine men’ and ‘sensitive women. Therefore they can’t find their partners. I don’t think they must do have partners, but if they have partners and make a good relationship in this modern society, They should change their partner norm.

by Ayana Hisatani

The mutual relation between domestic violence and media

Do you know what domestic violence is like? Domestic violence is generally defined as a pattern of cruel attitude. And domestic violence happens in close relationship, such as marriage, dating, family, or cohabitation. Domestic violence has a lot of forms. For example, there are physical violence (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects), or menaces such as sexual abuse, emotional abuse in domestic violence. Also controlling and dominating are defined as domestic violence. This is a serious social problem. But especially I think the point that women have become the victims of domestic violence rather than men is serious problem. According to the statistics, 95% of domestic violence is committed by men.

I think gender bias makes many men and boys violent. But how is such gender bias made in our society?

First, the thoughts that how a man should be like or how a woman should be like are made many men and boys violent. In our sociology class, many people said that “real man” is tough, strong, physical, independent, and so on. On the other hand, people said that “real woman” is family-minded, weak, dependent, and so on. These recognitions lead such thought that men dominate women. The research of Tokyo prefecture shows that the person who is positive about gender role tends to forgiveness for sexual violence or mental violence. Also, the research of WHO points out that the domestic violence is correlated with the perspective of gender role.

But why many people think “real man” should be strong or dominant. I think media has a great influence on such perspectives of gender.

American teenagers spend 31 hours a week watching TV, 17 hours a week listening to music, 3 hours a week watching movies, 4 hours a week reading magazines, 10 hours a week online. That is to say, they are exposed to media for 10 hours and 45 minutes a day. It is not too much to say that media creates our image of gender.

Women have 3% of top position in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising. Also, women are comprised of 16% of all writers, directors, producers, cinematographer, and editors. Media creates consciousness. But the media is created by perspectives of men now. So I think media has sent distorted information.

Also, women’s bodies sell as products in advertisements or magazines. These media makes distorted perspectives of gender; men are dominant, and women are dominated by men.

We have to recognize that perspective of gender role is false. Also, we have to recognize society makes such dangerous perspectives too.

And we need to think how we change our society.

by Mari Ryoha

Unique religion of Korean ancestor

In this post, I want to talk about a unique way of life which has unique religion.

As modernization progresses, wooden buildings are replaced by concrete building. When people live in wooden building in the past, they don’t have any technology that protect and make lives plentiful. So they believe spirits live in their house, and guard them. As they have this belief, their life style was always based on this too.

Before the medical technology developed, there are many cases that children died early by such as infection. Ancestor try to solve this problems by pray to ‘Samshin’ which is the three gods governing childbirth. they lay a jaw with put rice in it. And in the child birthday, people hold memorial services to this spirits.

Secondly, Korea ancestors consider fire as sacred. Because of fire can burn down everything, they thought there is sprit in fire which has a power of purify.  As fire usually used in the kitchen, ancestor thought spirit of fire live in the kitchen. So, housewives keep a bowl that holds water beside the oven. She renews this water everyday praying to the sprit for family’s security.  Korean ancestors believe spirit live in the toilet, too. So, they used to give a cough to notify themselves to the toilet spirit, before they get in there.

As stated above, Korean ancestors have a special belief which is ‘spirits live in the house and always protect us’. Therefore, they have unique life style based on this belief. We can inference how religion occupy big parts of people life and it make up their way of life.

by Ha SeoIn

We need supermoms, what about superdads?

On this week’s sociology class, the professor talked about something related to supermoms and we watched a video about how a supermom can change her baby’s diaper and continue the interview at the same time. It is true that we almost all admit that mothers always do the housework and do not get paid. It is absolutely unfair. But, what about fathers? They get chances to work with adults and there is no baby crying beside their office, no diapers, fathers seldom need to concern about when should feed their kids or when should change their babies’ diapers. However, does that mean fathers contribute to the family less than mothers? I think I cannot agree with that. Sometimes, we ignore the importance of fathers who hold the whole family.

Think about it, when mothers are all doing housework at home, who holds the family? Who takes the responsibility to support all the financial spending of the family? Fathers do. Because most mothers are required to take care of their babies, so the responsibility of bringing income to the family has become more serious than the days before the babies were born. So, that means fathers have to make more money to support the whole family, including their babies, their wives, and themselves. It is not easy for men to do that, except he is a manager or some who receives high salaries.

My father used to be one of those who take the responsibility of holding a family when I was a baby. He used to have one full-time job meanwhile did two part-time jobs. At that time, my mother was a full-time housewife, and in order to made her not worry about the financial spending, my father had to do three jobs at the same time. Therefore, we can see that not only women are receiving more pressure since they have to take care of the babies, but also men are doing their best to make money to raise the family. It seems unfair for those women who can only stay at home but their husbands are working outside. However it is also unfair for men to raise the family of three (or more) by themselves. So, in a word, men raise the family and women do housework is somehow fair for both sides.

by Harry Xu

Why men tend to work and why women tend to do housework in social role?

“Men tend to work” “Women tend to do housework” are expected behaviors that are connected to gender. Then why it is said that men tend to work and women tend to do housework ? That will go back till ancient time. First of all, a structure of body differs between male and female biologically. As a result, men engaged in heavy labor and played an active part as a combatant since ancient time. Because women can bear children and can breast-feed, women engaged in domestic works since ancient time.

In present-day Japan, it is mainly concerned with the division of work “a man is work and women are housekeeping, child-rearing, and shopping”. In Japanese rapid economic growth, because family economic got  stable fame convert did not need to work.

One reason why sex working role extended is industrialization of Japan. Secondary sector of industry needs blue color workers so it is difficult to engage a woman in rough work. On the other hand, in urban area  women became high academic achievement and advanced to a place-of-work gradually. The organization of Homemaking course teacher felt a sense of crisis so for female student homemaking was a compulsory subject.

In 1990s-2000s because having two incomes was increasing gradually gender role has been improved. In recent years the female has advanced to a place-of-work place but a male housekeeping assignment has not advanced. So I think that we should consider not only female gender role but male gender role.

by Shinji Nishiura

Japanese and Chinese Beliefs

Remember in sociology class, professor Moorhead showed us the statistics about the “Percentage of National Populations That Rated the Importance of God in Their Lives as ‘10’”. Japan only has 5 percentages of people that regard them as devout believers. This kind of situation can also be found in China. Congregations are regard as minority. But in New Year Eve, I got a chance went to kitano-tenmangu (北野天満宮) where most people would go to pray and ballot to see their fortune in next year. This kind of situation also happens in China, people would like wait in line for 5 hours and also have to pay large amount of money to get the first chance to knock the bell. This makes me think which god are we pray for? Are we really atheist?

In imperial era, Buddhism is very popular in China. Buddhist ideology began to merge with Confucianism and Daoism, even in Yuan Dynasty, emperors made Esoteric Buddhism an official religion of China. Even in some fictions, people would add some Buddha or immortal who behalf justice and also have the special ability to help people overcome problems. But in today’s society, people would find that they don’t know what to trust, some people in China call this phenomenon “belief lost”. I also read an article which was written by a Tibetan whose fellows was self-immolated in order to aware Chinese government not to put them under martial law and with soldiers everywhere. They use self-buring this kind of abusive way to show their loyalty to their belief. The author also mentioned that it is kind of loyalty that we cannot understand.

Why people in China and some other East Asia countries do not have such belief or religion? I think one of reasons might be too many theories existed in China. During the period of A.D.770—A.D.221, it was the war time while hundreds of theories came out, such as Confucianism, Taoism and so on. And god existed in everywhere, the tree, the river, the land. There are so many gods that we can choose to believe, but we cannot be devout believe in one god like western. Also, Chinese do not have a whole theory that teach people how to behave in daily life, only in emergency or nervous situation, they would pray for Buddha as a kind of implication to be relax. Because of these reasons, people in East Asia would have the phenomenon that we do not have explicit belief but still will go to temple to pray.

by Chen Siyuan

The Differences between Sex and Gender

In these days, the meaning of sex and gender are regarded as the same thing. I am not sure which one I usually use and I thought that they have exactly the same meaning before I took this class.  Sociologist created the differences between sex and gender so as to make it clear the social role of gender in society.  I think I am going to discuss gender and sex from biological and sociological aspects.

Generally, the creatures living on the earth are usually divided into two or more categories called sex. Typically, sex is defined as male and female. This definition is created by biological and physiological aspect. For example, men generally have more massive bones than women, or men usually have Adam’s apple while women do not. In this perspective, everyone can be recognized from this figure.  However, this point of view would create the distinction.

From those points of view, sociologist made the differences obvious by creating the meaning of gender. Gender refers to the social norms, behaviors, and activities that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. Gender is an inner feeling whether you are man, woman, both, neither, or somewhere between men and women. Gender role is kind of expectation to some extent. For example, in most countries, suppose one men and women have exactly the same job, women earn less than man, or women do more housework than men do. These are the typical social norms or expected things for men or women.

However, this expectation for each gender sometimes makes prejudices on the people who think that s/he is feels between the men and women.

From my point of view, I think every kind of gender like men, women, or between should be accepted in this society.  In order to do so, I believe it is important to understand the differences between sex and gender so that you may be able to fit in the society.

by Shoya Tai

Are Japanese people really indifferent to religion?

Today it is said that we Japanese are not interested in religion compared with other countries. One street questionnaire says people who don`t believe any religion are 70%. Then really aren`t Japanese people indifferent to religion? I don`t think that.

I think religion which Japanese people think about have two patterns. pattern ① is uncertain consciousness which is not aware. It means that religion serves as an unconscious custom of the community. For example, people who don`t believe any religion hold funeral by a Buddhism formula  or go for the first visit in the year to a shrine. These people are not conscious of it as a religion. The pattern ② is certain consciousness. It is the people who ask self-consciously to religion and people who study the sacred books or practice asceticism. I think many Japanese belong to pattern ① so they don`t look interested in religion external.

And the reason why Japanese don`t think pattern ① is not religion is the process of translation. In Meiji period, because scholars read books to translate from English into Japanese they translated the word “religion” as the word which is used in sophisticated books of religion. So when Japanese use the word “religion” we came to be strongly conscious of pattern ①.

Japanese also have doubts against religion. In March 20 1995, the terrorism using a biological weapon occurred in subway. The criminal of this incident was a founder of a certain religious group. I think this incident made Japanese have a doubt against religion and people who don’t want to have to do with religion increased in spite of religions taking root in our daily.

From these reason, I think Japanese aren’t indifferent to religion but don’t realize that we are deeply related to religion.

by Shinji Nishiura