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To what extent is religion relevant in Japan?

To what extent is religion relevant in Japan?

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EPQ Presentation EPQ Presentation Presentation Transcript

  • EPQ PRESENTATION MELISSA PARNABY
  • Why did I choose this title? My long term in Japan alongside studying led to my curiosity about Japanese religion. I realised that despite having and been passionate about the culture for so long I did not know much about this subject area. I was under the impression that few modern Japanese are religious, so I became as to whether this was true. Once I discovered that Japan is in that traditionally citizens follow two religions, one of which (Shinto) is not found anywhere else in the world, I became very to explore the relevance of religion in Japanese culture. I was especially motivated when I discovered just how different their religion is compared with western religion.
  • Why did I choose this title? During the summer I went on a trip to Japan for four weeks to study. Throughout my stay I was able to experience the religious atmosphere in Japan. There are many beautiful shrines and temples which are well respected and looked after. I even visited them with Japanese friends who taught me shrine etiquette. But I noticed that the number of people who are actively religious seemed quite low. I saw many elderly frequent the shrines but . The young people I made friends with often said that as a child they would often pray at shrines but since growing this has changed. I also noticed that despite the fact that many aspects of culture in Japan come from religion, such as festivals, they are treated more like than religious celebrations.
  • Project Aims 1. My extended project aims to explore the impact of religion on Japanese culture today by exploring its involvement in key aspects of cultural history and traditions. 2. I aimed to provide direction to my project by focusing on a select number of cultural aspects. 3. For each aspect of culture I aimed to explore the connotations, links and involvement with religion in as much depth and detail as possible and link this to their respective role in the formation of society today.
  • ReSearcH
  • CHaNGeS MaDe My original title stated ‘To what extent is religion relevant in Japan?’ which was extensively broad and concerned a vast range of topics which could be discussed. I felt that taking on such a general question would be too much to take on, so I decided to slightly alter the title to ‘To what extent is religion relevant in Japanese culture?’ which is somewhat narrower.
  • CHaNGeS MaDe Initially I planned to tackle four main topics: Imperial Family, Samurai, Matsuri and Japanese Virtues. After planning each section I realised that in order to discuss each topic area in depth I would not be able to stay within the word limit and therefore have to brush over each topic too briefly. I decided to incorporate the content of ‘Japanese Virtues’ into the other topic areas since they are so closely connected. For example Japanese Virtues such as duty, perseverance and loyalty which are embedded in Japanese psychology have clear routes in the Samurai ethical code of Bushido. And the Japanese fussiness over hygiene and cleanliness have strong routes in Shinto and Buddhist teachings.
  • Key FindiNgS When I began to investigate my subject I discovered some fascinating things: Shintoism, a nature based religion, has no God and no sacred texts. It is inherently Japanese and full of mythology. Shinto teaches that there are ‘kami’ (Gods or spirits) which inhabit this Earth in the form of concepts and ideas such as a kami of the mountain. Believers establish shrines in every settlement to thank the kami for the use of their land, and provide offerings. In the 6th century Buddhism was introduced from the mainland, and since then it has worked in harmony with Shintoism, even complementing it. Japanese citizens normally class themselves as both Shinto and Buddhist.
  • Key FindiNgS Christians have been persecuted in Japan for a very long time by the clan leaders and feudal lords and foreigners were expelled during the isolation period. Until the Meiji restoration where a government was established, Japan was ruled by different clans with their clan leaders (Shoguns) at the top. Feudal lords (Daimyo) ruled different areas of Japan and the samurai were aristocratic warriors who served them. The emperor was the figurehead of Japan but the real power lay in the shogunate.
  • Key FindiNgS Japanese culture is highly different from Western. They are a community based culture who honour their families and groups and adjust their behaviour depending on somebody else’s status. In the West people are brought up to be self-sufficient, self assertive and independent – to have their voice heard above a crowd. This is not the case in Japan, citizens can not disrupt the harmony of their community. Japanese religion does not really dictate rules and objective laws. It focuses more on peace, duty, loyalty, harmony, cleanliness and hard work in order to formulate a peaceful and efficient community. It is group-oriented unlike Christianity which is focused on the individual and expects followers to obey God above their family.
  • Key FindiNgS: ImperiaL FamilY In Shinto mythology the Imperial family is seen to be of direct descent from Amaterasu Omikami – the great sun goddess. The Emperor is also seen as an arahitogami – a living god. It’s said that the great deities Izanagi and Izanami gave birth to Japan but the Japanese people were warring with each other so their daughter Amaterasu Omikami sent her grandson Ninigi to become the first emperor and create peace. In Feudal Japan, although the shoguns held the real power they were descended from royalty and often strategically married into royal family.
  • Key FindiNgS: ImperiaL FamilY Prince Shotoku, emperor during the Yamato Period (300538) was hugely inspired by the Buddhist and Confucian ways of China and they became the underlining principles of his government. He was a huge promoter of Buddhism in Japan before it was popularised and founded many of the first Buddhist temples. Another influential emperor was Emperor Shomu who ruled in the Nara Period (710-794) who named Buddhist clergy as guardians of the state.
  • Key FindiNgS: SamuRai In 660 BC Jimmu Tenno became head of a confederation of warlike clans and was known as ‘The Divine Warrior’. His samurai descendants also believed they were divine. In the Kamakura Period(1185-1333) all real political power went to the Samurai. The Kamakura military leadership particularly welcomed the Zen sect. They supported the activities of Zen monks and sponsored the establishment of many Zen temples. Its emphasis on discipline, self-reliant effort and focusing the mind was particularly appealing to the samurai.
  • Key FindiNgS: SamuRai The pure land concept of impermanence (life is short) was especially relevant to Samurai of whom many die young. Pure Land monks taught that followers would be able to escape nirvana and enter paradise after death. Two of the most prominent monks, Honen and Ippen, were of samurai descent themselves. Monks would often accompany samurai into battle to guide and pray to them. The underlying Samurai ethical doctrine and code of conduct is Bushido (born from the Way of the Horse and Bow) . It has strong Shinto origins and was adopted as the ruling moral code for Shinto. Bushido is comprised of seven virtues: Morality(義), Courage(勇), Benevolence,(仁) Respect(仁), Honesty(誠), Honor(名誉) and Loyalty( 忠義) which are embedded in society today.
  • Key FindiNgS: FeStivalS While festivals based on nature and life such as setsubun (coming of the seasons) and shichi-go-san are Shinto based while festivals based on ancestral worship and death are dealt with by Buddhism such as obon week. Citizens pray at shrines and temples for good luck. Shinto festivals are unique in that they are the only time when kami leave the shrines. Families are meant to come together and it is tradition that one prays at three different shrines or temples for luck in the coming year. On the day of the new year the Emperor performs the Shinto shihohai rite where he prays for the wellbeing of the nation.
  • Evaluaion
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