Native views in solemn place
On this site, I'd like to introduce the traditional religious places in Japan. Those are a 神社jinja (Shinto shrine) and a 寺tera (Buddhist temple). Today, many Japanese people don't see themselves as believers of these religions, but regardless - either consciously or unconsciously - values, manners, and indeed, our very behaviour have been influenced by the thoughts and customs of Shintoism and Buddhism thoughout the years. There are so many examples of ancient thought and local folklores which are alive in our society today.
So many foreign travelers would know well about some facilities of them by reading guidebooks and visiting some famous temples and shrines like Tsukiji-Hongwanji, Meiji-Jingu, or thousands of them in the ancient town, Kyoto. So I'd like to treat those of my neighbourhood and other local places in Japan. Because these are not generally known, it will be a rare opportunity to visit them.
Meaning of temple and shrine
For general civilian, those religious facilities have taken a part of 'spiritual guardian' for their community. They pray for the harvest in rural/fishing village, safety of the voyage in port town, success of business in downtown, safe living in peacefull world, etc. Even so many Japanses have been losing their interest for those religious mattres, the senses and the thoughts of Shintoism and Buddhism are still familier to us as the cutural custom. Through the events of them, we recognize and admire (sometimes with fear) the blessing and the mighty of nature, apprciate the relationship (regardless it is known or unknown) with others and the wisdom from the past, pray and imagine for ideal future.
In Shintoism, they say that all the existence include 神kami (sometimes it is traslated to 'god', but I think it is nearly close to 'spirit') and there are '八百万の神yao-yorozu no Kami(8 millions of spirits)', it means that we are surrounded by them or the functions of them. Some resaerchers point out that it is similar to the Pantheism. Those spirits are derived from the natural phenomenons, the characters of the ancient myth or the folklores in Japan and sometimes the historical persons. They have each own story but Shintoism don't difine faith-theory nor doctrine clearly. When we worship at jinja, the mood and feelings are up to us. May the spirit guide and help you.
Buddhism was from India through the Mainland China and Korean Peninsula in 6th century. After overcoming
some intercultural feud, accepted as foreign religion in the aristocracy. In around 10-11th century, some Japanese Buddhist monks established new sects with new doctorines and interpretatios which were directed to the common people widely. Finally the number of traditional Japanese Buddhist sects can be counted to 13. Because they had to change/establish their new way on occasion, in order to respond to the social trasformations through for over a thousand years. Nowadays, most of them become the place to mourn and remember the deceased.
In the waves of Japanese history, Shintoism and Buddhism are sometimes forced to change their meanings in the society and friction by the political speculation. But it does not matter much for general people in Japan. I think that our basic religious sense is very simple. It'll be the feeling of 'admiring something/someone transcendently superior'.
How to spend the time at there...
For foreign travellers, I think shrines and temples in Japan would seem like gardens. The precinct of them has various kind of plants for every season and visiters can enjoy the landscape and the atmosphere like being in nature. Just only walking around is also fun for you. And you know that they are the place for saying prayers. All the visitors must keep silence and be careful not to disturb the worshipers. And if you are curious about it, you'd better can learn the styles of worshiping. You may find some similarity and differences to your/other cultures and religions, hopefully with interest.
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