Sunday, January 2, 2011

Shinto is so festive

On New Year's right outside the shrine you can buy a balloon of your favorite character.

You can eat crepes (notice the Engrish..."every one's favorite seet! wold you like one?").

You can buy good luck charms.

You can buy a fortune

and tie it up. (Happy Year of the Rabbit!)

And you can watch a bonfire!

Plus, on New Year's Day we saw this on the way up to the shrine:

No one was dancing along or even bopping their heads, of course. But still, there's a rhythm, people in cool outfits, carrying a mini-shrine and making a spectacle.

We popped over to our town's Buddhist temple to see what they were up to.
Here's what we saw:

Don't get us wrong, it's beautiful how they raked the rocks after the snow had fallen and all, but it wasn't exactly this:

Without Shinto, this town would have no celebrations at all. No Onbashira festival, no New Year's celebration, nothing, since all community events seem to revolve around the shrines. This is probably a very outsider view of things though. Most Japanese people we've asked don't consider themselves especially religious. They'll say they're not but they do agree that they visit the shrine and whatnot. Being Japanese is being Shinto and being Shinto is being Japanese. They're so entwined that you can't really separate them.

Shinto sure does a good job at getting the kids interested though. It seems other faiths could really take a cue from them. Japanese kids are probably begging to go to the shrine so they can get dressed up, get toys, eat treats and get a fortune. It's very different from the rather austere Catholic tradition we were both brought up in. We're curious to learn more about Shinto but our experiences with it so far make it seem like one of the most casual and fun religions we've encountered.

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