Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Religion in Japan

Omamori, Charms

Ema, Letters to the Gods

Fushini Inari, Shinto Deity For Rice

For This Post I decided to talk about religion in japan. As I am taking religion class this semester; my professor Kenney asked us to do an interview to discover a little bit if young people are religious in japan and how much they know about religion in their country and i thought about sharing my interview in my blog.
For my interview I chose to talk to my good friend who also happens to be my speaking partner. Her name is Maki; she is 22 years old; she was born in Osaka, and has no Siblings. In her family they consider themselves as followers of the Buddhist religion but sometimes they go to shrines so Maki corrected herself at the last minute and said that it is Shinto and Buddhism. She has been in the USA before as well as France, and she just graduated from Kansai Gaidai with an English major.

Set of questions and Answers:

Do you consider yourself as a religious person?

Yes; because I go to temples and shrines.

Which religion are you following?


Why? Because of your parents or personal believes?

When I want to refresh myself and settle, I go to a temple and I believe some gods make me feel better and see the truth. I believe that they protect me. That’s why I think I’m Buddhist and It is my personal believes.

Why do you go to shrines if you consider yourself as a Buddhist?

I don’t really distinguish between the 2 religions. Although I consider myself as a Buddhist, when I have hopes and dreams and want them to become true I go to Shrines not temples.

Do you have a Butsudan in your house?

Yes for my grand mother.

Do you worship it?

Mine is only like Greetings “ Good morning, thank you for today, good night…”

Regarding food, my family gives food to her but sometimes forgets.

When you give her food, what do you do with it afterward?

If its cooked food, we through it away. If its snakes, fruit, we eat it if it’s not spoiled.

When you travel, do you bring her souvenir?

Yes, I bought her souvenirs from Paris and put it in the Butsudan.

She is your Father’s Mother right?

No, my mother’s mother.

It is a bit of a special situation. My mother’s brother is Christian because of his wife, so he cannot take care of her. That’s why my mother decided to take care of her mother. If my mother does not care, we will put her bones in some temple.

If you don’t take care of the Butsudan what will happen?

I think something bad will happen like accidents or failure in work/ school/ relationships…, but I have never experienced anything yet.

Do you buy charms?

Omamori? Yes I like it.

Do you think they have power or you buy them only as accessories?

Not as accessories. I buy them to protect myself. I think that they have powers. For example, In my wallet I have a charm for coming happiness and in my cell phone I have one for chance.

What do you do with them when your done?

It is for 1 year, so when it is over a year, I return them to the temple, say thank you and buy new ones.

Do you celebrate other religious holydays beside the Buddhist ones?


I don’t think that it offends my Buddhist gods since celebrating Christmas does not mean ( for me) that I am celebrating Jesus.

Personal Notes.
After asking some of the questions above to other Japanese friends and getting almost the same answers about not distinguishing between Buddhism and Shinto, I wonder if the act of going to shrines and temples, and buying charms is not really just something cultural more than religious. I also remember Maki saying that she was not religious the first semester I met her, and while discussing the religion together, she suddenly said that, since she was doing all this rituals, that must make her religious. However, she still couldn’t distinguish between the 2 religions.


  1. Actually I don't think young people are so concerned with religion. And most Japanese people refer to themselves as "mushukyo" or having no religion.

    Does this interview come from Kenney sensei's Religion class?

    It might be helpful to provide some links or references about Japanese religion in this post.

  2. hey,

    sorry I haven't had time to reply. Glad you are having a good time your second semester in Japan. I have been really busy with school. Have a good one!