Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Shinto vs. Buddhist Japanese

Sayaka and her mom outside the Shinto shrine.

So what exactly is the difference between a Buddhist Temple and a Shinto Shrine? Well, the Shinto shrines all have electricity and modern conveniences of renovation, whereas the Buddhist temples stay plain without the desire of any conveniences. I guess that's the primary distinquishing factor, because for a foreigner they look very similar. Buddhist temples also happen to be lived in by the Monks, and are elaborate and layered with intricate design and craftsmanship, whereas Shinto tend to be a more standard style.

A drum hanging from the ceiling?

I neglected to ask the significance of this, but I thought it was cool. Everytime I passed under it I wanted to go Donky-Konga on it and just start thumping away to my jungle beat rhythem, however considering we were at a formal event to honor Sayaka's father's grandfather who died in World Ward II, I thought against it.

Sayaka's father Kazutaka happens to come from a Shinto background, whereas her mother is Buddhist. Buddhist households often have a little alter in whith the photo and belongings of a deceased loved one set upon it. Just think of it as a little closet or cubby where you keep the ashes of your deceased loved one. On specific days important to the loved one they will open the cubby and light insense and pray to their ancestors. Shinto households have another feature which includes a small shrine or alter which hangs just above a doorway. To me it looks like a shelf with little figurines and objects placed on it. You clap at this and say your prayers. The strict followers clap at this wooden alter whenever they enter or exit a room with one of these no matter where they are at. However, I'm no expert on either religion, so I can only tell you what I know from experience.

Gong it to me baby!

Below is a front shot of the inside of the temple. I asked if it was okay to take a photo, as most religions have certain rules about photographing the holy items, most often it's taboo to do so and you're not allowed to, but the priest/holy man said it was okay. However, I was not allowed to walk up onto the first step, as only those who practice Shinto, and mainly the holy men, are allowed to walk on the highest rung. For some reason I thought of Jim Karey in "Ace Ventura II: When Nature Calls" Shakaka! For a brief moment I contimplated hopping up on the step when no one was looking and doing myself a little jig... Shakaka! But at risk of starting a religious war, I decided I better just settle for the pictures. But darn it if it doesn't make me itch! Why must we create stupid rules like this in the name of man made relgion? Anyway, no religious wars here, Buddhism and Shinto are entirely peaceful towards each other and always have been, and always will be.


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