Today, Andy spoke to us about Religion in Japan.  In earliest times they had Amaterasu – the sun goddess who emerged from a cave and brought light to the universe.  The sun on the Japanese flag is an homage to Amaterasu.  Then came the Shinto religion where everything in the natural world is a living spirit or Kame.  Confucianism is prevalent in Japan through the influx of Chinese, although people have argued that it is a philosophy more than it is a religion.  Buddhism is a large part of Japanese heritage, but Christianity came late, only after Europeans arrived.  It is strongest in the South, but it still constitutes only 2% of the country.

In 1868 the military tried to suppress religious thought and substitute Emperor worship.  Called the Maiji period, from 1868 through 1912 it was the duty of every Japanese to give their life to the Emperor.  This persisted through WWII when Hirohito said the purpose of your life is to give your life to the emperor.  This made life at the end of WWII very confusing because God had lost the war.

In modern times, surveys reveal that the Japanese are very religious but they resist joining a religion.  Borrowing aspects of many religions is common.  They partake of ceremonies from many traditions.

Japanese resist the “revealed religion” where the spirit is revealed through doctrine or through a book.  The folk religion is a natural religion.  Life experience reveals the spirit.  Three practices are particularly followed.

Hatsumode on January 1st is the time that millions of people go visit a shrine or visit family.  Transportation systems are overwhelmed.

Obon is in August and it commemorates the home, the family, and one’s ancestors.

Higan is water veneration and it happens at the equinox.  The idea is to take water from the place you were born and pour it on the place where your ancestors are being memorialized.

There are many other traditions and ceremonies that the Japanese have started and borrowed.  The meaning is what you bring to it.