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October 10, 2010

The sound of one hand clapping and David Lynch

The question, "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" is perhaps the most famous Zen Koan. The gist is that if you know the answer then you get a bit of enlightenment. I have heard someone suggest that it is the sound of fingers slapping a palm! No, surely not.

Or again that it is simply un-thinkable, beyond the bounds of that which a human mind can frame, and so, to frame the answer, requires that one takes a step back, into the chaotic, emptiness of the flowing, floating world. That sounds more likely, and more difficult.

Shinto.... I don't find to time to go to a Shinto shrine often. Shrine visiting for me has always been part of my jogging. I am more of a joggist than a Shintoist. Lately, or for the past several years, my jogging route does not end, or turn back, at a Shrine. It ends instead by the side of a river and there I pray, Shinto style, by bowing twice, clapping twice and bowing once again.

I have feelings for the river! It is quite magnificent. In flood it threatens to overun its banks, and the first floor of our house. It is a powerful little, and sometimes big, river. I try to see it as god or a Spirit or at least at the end of my run in my slightly befuddled, adrenalined state to feel the awesomeness of the place, and I clap, to the river, as earnestly as I can, "clap clap." First, an aside about hats. Someone opined that in Shinto it is more polite to be hatted than to be hatless. I remember ages ago I went into the cathedral in Bath (UK) with my hat on a member of the congregation 'tsk-tsked' me to take my hat off. I am sorry.

In Christianity it is polite to be hatless, but perhaps in Shino it helps to be wearing a hat. Anyway, in these winter evenings, when I stand at the end of my jog, I look out of the gun emplacement of my hatted mind at the river. I would like you to imagine a photo taken not from a camera at my brow, but from a camera shooting from behind my eyes, that sees the band of hat framing the river. And I clap. I hear the two clapping sounds. Then sometimes it seems to me as those my clapps are my speach, they, "pachi, (clap)" "pachi (clap)" are my prayer to the river. They are my greeting, my "thank you," my "yoroshiku (be nice to me)."

Normally I think that I identify with the presumed origin of my speach, especially my self-speach in the worded silence of my mind. "God be good to me, yoroshiku" "There goes someone with a saxaphone," whatever, I figure myself to be the thing that says the words, a thing inside my head. But when I do the Shinto clap, clap praying bit, it is like the center of myself moves from within my head to my hands. Out out damn self!? Well, I don't achieve enlightenment, but I do get this feeling that I am the clapper, not the speaker. And yet I can see my hands, and see that there is nothing between them.

Now for a bit of David Lynch! (Can this have any relevance at all? I would not blame you for wondering.) In two David Lynch films ("Blue Velvet", and "Mulholland Drive") the protagonists have a powerful, rather painful it seems from their expressions, experience before a mime artist. In both cases the singer sings a Roy Orbison song. Blue Velvet (particularly at 1:23)

or Mulholland Dr. (particularly at about 6:00)

In the latter there is greater emphasis on the deception of mime, on the fact that in mime, it really looks like someone visual is making a noise, when in fact the noise and the vision are not linked. Well, going back to the clapping, at the river, it seems to me that there is the river, and there are the hands, and the hands come together and there is a sound and yet, does the sound really come from the same place, that place where the hands meet?

The sound track of my clapping and the visible act want to be together. They clap a love song to the river, but from different places. What is the opposite of mime? When is it ever the case that sound comes from vision? And, to return to the question, "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" I can't answer. But, first of all, it makes better sense to me to understand the question in the context of Shinto prayer.

And further, I wonder whether the sound of one hand clapping is any different to the sound of two hands clapping. Did two hands ever clap? Did they ever make a sound? Thanks to Christine and Mr. Tachibana for the inspiration to write this post.

Posted by timtak at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

Central Figures in Shinto

Who are the major figures in Shinto, I was asked perhaps by someone attempting to write a report for their religion class. My answer was Amateras the spirit of the sun.

Some would argue that she is not all that important at all and only became important as a result of the post Meiji imperialisation of Shinto but, being a fan of the Kurozumi Kyou sect I am inclined to put her (she was once a guy) in the top spot as orthorodox and nationalist scholars would agree.

 In second place, for my money is Amaterasu's father, Izanagi who helped to pull the world out of the brine and is the Adam or perhaps Eve of Japanese myth of the fall. Then their is his wife, Izanami who is perhaps the origin of all scariest of Japanese Horror movies. Then, as a fan of Kagura I would have to recommend Susanoo as the slayer of that eight headed dragon, Amaterasu's sister and a god of war.

Then for those that like Shinto old style, more natural perhaps, before the arrival of the Shining princes, then Ookuninushi the chief of the spirits of the land that resides in the Grand Shrine at Izumo, who helps those who come and pray to him, good luck in love. Hachiman or Oujin deserves a mention since there are more Shrines to him than to any other spirit.

There are plenty of other spirits that are important but, with regard to humans the nationalist Shinto scholars Motoori Norinaga and Hirata Atsutane also deserve mention as thinkers that shaped the way that Shinto is percieved.

Posted by timtak at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

Overcoming Fear

Fear is the mind killer, said James Herbert.

To overcome fear, I guess that perhaps a Shintoist might go to a shrine to have a priest perform a sweeping (harai), purification ceremony, wherein the 'ethereal vampire' which is your fear would hopefully be swept of into nowhere you would, hopefully, be left feeling pure and free of fear.

It would be difficult, to say the least, if not impossible, to perform this ceremony upon yourself, but there are instructions for making the paper wand used in the ceremony at the bottom here and prayers used in the ceremony can be found here. You may be able to get a friend to perform it for you.

Better still perhaps, another method of purification is ritual rinsing (misogi) of which there are various techniques, including getting under a waterfall (preferably not such a big one) or into a stream or river, and reciting perhaps the misogi prayer also included on the page above.

People do Misogi in Watefalls, rivers (I think that this may be Rev Barrish, in Oregon) and in the sea.

I think that it helps if the water is not warm, and you are in a natural setting. I used to do misogi in a little waterfall up on Kora mountain in Kurume, Kyushu, and I highly recommend it. Getting under a mountain waterfall and reciting something can cure you of all manner of concern, if only via brain freeze and general numbness, leaving you with a pleasant warm feeling afterwards. Please don't over do it though.

My Buddhist Beckian interpretation of both rituals is that they aim for 'emptiness' or freedom from 'automatic thoughts.' Under this interpretation, the ethereal vampires are ideas or words going round and around in your head and these can be swept away by concentrating on something else, nice white pieces of paper fluttering around, cold running water, and with the help and belief in your favourite spirit.

Posted by timtak at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

Space in Shinto again

In Japan one does not say that a room in a house measures "10 by 12" but rather one counts room area in spaces, that is to say the number of tatami mats that would be needed on the floor of the room. In the West we seem to be thinking of the boundaries of space, in Japan the Japanese seem to be thinking of the space itself. Typical Japanese house floor plan (scroll down to see numbers that show numbers of mats)

Typical Western floor plan

Japanese roads are not given names. Japanese addresses are given by area name. Japanese houses are given numbers according to where they are in an area not where they are on the street(spatial boundary). Again this seems to suggest that space (or areas) in Japan is named, and thus emphasised, rather than the roads, lines or limits of space. This can make Japanese towns difficult to navigate

compared to even London towns where one can give a street name (the link below to where I grew up)

In Japanese houses there are a lot

of named spaces such as the "tokonoma" where wall hangings are put up and ornaments are placed, or the holes at the top of walls, or the gaps in partition walls. Here are some diagrams showing the various "spaces" created in traditional Japanese architecture

Japanese traditional architects seem to enjoy making houses that are akin to 'rectangular Swiss cheese', with all sorts of spaces to enjoy by virtue of the interplay and presentation of spaces.

Western interior design seems to emphasise boundaries such as walls and their coverings, and *content not space*, particularly a in traditional English interior

Corridors and hallways are given prominence as spaces over and above their practical uses as passage-ways. Japanese pottery is often sparsely or "naturally" decorated and rather than using geometric shapes, its is the "foot print-like" (kutsugata-chawan, kutsu-chawan) shape of bowls, their deformation and texture and individuality that is prized. This at least demonstrates a lack of interest in geometrical lines, and a greater interest in texture and perhaps encapsulation of space. Again this may suggest the importance of space itself in Japanese aesthetics.

 In Japan spaces themselves are related to power more so than in the West, I think. Such as there is a lot of emphasis placed upon where people sit in a room, at a table, in a car, or in a lift. Space or spacing is perhaps inscribed with more meaning. Some pages describing the relative importance of the positions in a room.


Behaviour in Japan is especially 'spatially contingent', with some behaviours allowed in some spaces but not in others. Rules concerning the appropriateness of behaviours depending on the place in which they are carried out, are applied in the West too, but in Japan to an even greater degree. Such as in the almost anything goes 'red-light-district', Kabukicho, Tokyo

Or the fact that the (spatial) addresses of Yakuza, are publically listed (in Japanese):

Indeed in Japan it is rare that one should hold a dinner party at home, or allow non family members to enter the home, since the family in Japan is defined spacially (as "ie"). Entering a home in Japan, almost defines one as family member. [Sad aside: The tragic and brutal murder of 22yr old British, English teacher, Ms. Lindsay Anne Hawker, by a twisted 28 year old Japanese man may have been precipitated in part by different conceptions of the importance of space. As is often pointed out, there is less violent crime in Japan. One article claims that there is a kind of lurking violence in the "honne" as opposed to "tatemae" of Japanese culture.

 Be that as it may, I think that one of the problems arose from different interpretations of the fact that Ms. Hawker entered the murderer's appartment. As far as I am aware, entering a man's room is a vastly more value-laden in Japan than it is in the UK. While I believe the rape statistics that show that one is far less likely to be raped in Japan, as far as I know it is almost impossible to convict someone of rape in Japan if the victim enters a private space. Japanese women are aware of this and thus are far more reticent to enter a private space with a man. Unknowingly, Ms. Hawker may have sent a message to her murderer that she had no intention of sending. This does not of course excuse the murderer. I hope they catch him soon.] In the Japanese Garden

1) The relationship or spacing of the elements in the garden is very important, perhaps more important than the things themselves. Thus the Japanese garden contains a plants that might not be all that much to look at on their own (unlike a rose bush perhaps) but gain their beauty by the interspacing of elements.

2) The relationship between the garden and the surrounding environment, as far away as mountains in the distance, is also and important part of the garden design.

3) Geometrical patterns - that emphasise lines - are rarely used but but rather it is spatial relationships between elements that are prized.

4) The parts of the garden may represent much larger spaces, such as a whole inland sea, Japan as a whole or a whole cosmos.

5) Rather than will natural look of the English country garden, or the trimmed artificial look of the stately home garden, the Japanese garden aims for controlled nature, a nature more natural than nature. I don't know if or how this last point connects to conceptions of space but it relates to Japanese conceptions of nature.

Rerturning to Shinto Shinto is all about sacred spaces. Shinto shrines like Japanese culture are "wrapped"

their spacing is emphasised by gates,

boundary markers such as rice straw with zigzag strips of paper "shimenawa"

 boundary guardians such as "koma" dogs

boundary rituals (such as washing ones hands) the

nested structure of the shrine building

and the layers of wrapping around the spirit-body (goshintai). There are no pictures of the spirit body (goshintai) of a Shinto shrine, because they are wrapped in far more layers, but omamori talismans are wrapped in a similar way (and it is equally important not to remove the wrapping apparently)

"Res Extensio" is, as Descartes doubted it, not 'mere' (Aristotle) space but it is in the dimension in which the sacred is revealed. Finally [few would agree] John Brenkman("Narcissus in the Text.?h Georgia Review. 30.2 (1976): 293-332) argues that Westerners culture appreciates voice and voice as consciousness, above "body" and "image" - and that is to say space I believe. I think that he also argues in a more recent paper, that even aesthetics, what is beautiful, becomes a sort of discussion about aesthetics. "[Kants] key assertion restates and extends his central tenet that the experience of the beautiful "gives pleasure *with a claim for the agreement of everyone else*." So perhaps Western gardens, with their geometry and their guided tours ("This is a grandiflora: Queen Elizabeth") are designed to be explained, discoursed upon whereas, Japanese gardens are appreciated in the immediacy of the visual/spatial experience. If so then all the pontification in this artivle shows that I do not understand Japanese gardens at all well:-) And, if so, it may be essentially difficult to explain the beauty of a Japanese garden. This is a machine translation of the Japanese Garden wikipedia page. Top ranking gardens

Posted by timtak at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)

Gay and Lesbians in Shinto

Generally speaking there is less "coming out" in Japan. I can think of a few possible reasons for this

1) Groupism In the tight knit groupy world which is Japan, coming out will mean that one brands ones family has having a "not-normal-person" (from the point of view of the prejudiced majority), so people are less likely to admit their peculiarities, for fear of bring disrepute upon their groups. In general groupism promotes the need for harmony, and sameness. I don't happen to believe that the Japanese are particular collectivist, so I don't subsubcribe to this explanation.

2) A greater degree of taboo on homosexuality. This is even less likely since there is historically a respected tradition of homosexuality in Japan among the clergy, and warrior class. There was a time not so long ago, when it was looked upon as rather noble c.f. the novels of Ihara Saikaku such as the famous Great Mirror of Male love "5 women who love love" which I recommend some scholarly works, such as the following introduction, some of the jokes in "the chrisantemum and the fish"

3) Generally less importance placed upon sexuality as being definitive of the person. This is what I have argued in previous posts. In Japan there are people that are transsexual in that they prefer to behave as expected of the opposite sex. They, some of these "okama" or queens are quite famous, often express a sexual preference for people of the same sex. However, there seems to be a dearth of interest in defining ones sexual orientation, in isolation. For example, there was a fairly popular humorous manga in which one of the male characters enjoyed anal sex with his girlfriend's shoes, and generally the pleasures of anal sexuality and even the pleasures of homosexual sex between men seems to be something that that is presented as having a more general appeal. Sexual "orientation" is thus presented as more of something that one does rather than who one is. Hence defining ones sexual orientation "Am I more into boys or girls?" and further then defining who one is on the basis of ones sexual orientation, "Am I a gay" does not seem to be so common, due to the less central, less self defining, less sacred-and-tabooed position that sex has in Japanese society.

Posted by timtak at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

The Last Judgement East and West

A Comparison between the Christian Judgement and the Judgement of King Enma

The concept of a post death judgement is one which is shared by a great many religions to a greater or lesser extent.

For the ancient Egyptians, post death judgement was central to their religion.

According to the Christian bible, humans will ressurected and they all be judged at the same time, some going to heaven some going to hell.

In The Book of Revalations, in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, the process of judgement is described as follows.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. Revelation 20:12 (p. 921)

Hence, according to this Christian rendition of judgement, the dead are judged by what is written in the book of life. Sometimes we hear that Saint Michael looks to see whether our name is written in the book, but Revelations is quite clear that it is not our name but what we have done that is written.

Shinto Saint Peter of the Pearly GatesThe concept of judgment is not as strong in Japan as it is in the West, but there exists a "Buddhist" tradition that the judgement of the dead is performed by "Enma-sama" (Mister Enma) or "Enma-Ou" (King Enma). Enma is a god that is inherited from an Indian god, via China, with Daoist influences. Enma also has a prominent place in the Tibet Buddhist "book of the dead." Enma is the most famoust of the ten kings or Buddhist gods that are worshipped in Japan and is believed to be an avatar of Jizou Boddhistatva. Enma stands at the entrance to hell (rather than heaven) and decides which of the 6 paths a dead person will take. Some people go to straight to hell, some are born again starving, some are born again as an animal, some are born into the world of war, some are born again as a human, and some are born again in heaven.
Enma holds a wooden staff staped like a ruler, such as held by the judges of the Sumo ring. He also has a book, but he usually seems to have a pen so that the write the verdict in the book rather than read from it. According to popular tradition in Japan, the first thing that Enma does to the dead when they arrive at his court is tear their tongue out, presumably so they cannot complain or speak out against his verdict. Enma reaches his verdict by looking in the "Jouhari" Kagami in which he can see the dead person's life, particularly any of the nasty things that the dead person has done. Accordng to some he also has a "Enma-register" in which the dead person's ill deeds are written. In an Edo period picture drawn by a Buddhist priest trying to discourage women from killing their children, Enma is shown looking into the mirror to see a younger version of the dead person before him, suffocating a child with a pillow.

There are many similarities and differences between these traditions. In both those that are deemed free of sin fare better than those that are judged to be guilty. The latter go to some sort of hell which often depicts humans being torn part and or roasted. In Christianity judgement takes places at the same time - at "Judgement Day." In Japan, on an individual basis. In Christianity the judgement takes place at the gates of heaven or by good, or someone heavenly, in Japan it takes places at the gates of hell by someone much more fearful: the god of the dead. The difference that I would like to draw attention to is that in both cases we are judged based upon a record of our lives. In Christianity our lives are written in a book. In Japan, lives are recorded as images in a book too but more importantly, as we stand mute before a mirror.

Soka Gakkai Study Materials state
The benefit Shakyamuni attained through his practices shows clearly the working of the law of cause and effect expounded in his Buddhism, and how the present effect is always the result of a past cause. President Toda often drew an analogy to the Johari Mirror when he talked about this subject. The mirror hung in the palace of King Enma, and was also called the Mirror of Karma. When King Enma interviewed the deceased he said, "You have done this much wrong while you were alive, haven't you?" But the deceased tried to deny it, "I have done nothing of the sort, I can assure you, sir." The king retorted, saying, "Take a look in the Mirror of Karma over there!" Much to his surprise, the deceased could see all the evils he committed when he was alive in the mirror. (HTML version here)

King Enma and his attendents Sculpture at the Kyoto Nation Museum.
In Japanese

A Series of Annotated Paintings Showing the Eight Stages of Hell

The Ten Buddhist Kings including King Enma, with photos if you click on the links. You will notice that many of the other Kings, that also take part in the judgement process, are reading from books. It seems however fair to say that it is Enma, with his mirror that captured the imagination of the Japanese.

A page about Hell as represented in Buddhist Japan.

All about Enma"A page explaining the Ten Kings faith that spread from China emphasising King Enma, that was linked with the already popular Jizou Boddisatva (Jizou Sama, the little stone statues you see at the sides of roads. This pages also gives photos, and the names of the temples, of King Enma statues throughout Japan.

Posted by timtak at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

Shinto Shrines Worldwide, Outside of Japan

This is a list of Shinto Shrines worldwide, outside of Japan, to the best of our knowledge. Please send corrections as comments or to my mail address at my homepage. Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America & Tsubaki Kannagara Jinja Shrine Director: Rev. K. Barrish 17720 Crooked Mile Rd. Granite Falls, Washington 98252 ph. 360-691-6389 - fax. 360-691-6389 email: Kannushi(at) website: Bright Woods Spiritual Centre & Kinomori Jinja Shrine Director: Rev. Ann Evans. 250 Holmes Road Salt Spring Island, BC V8K British Columbia, Canada, website: Japanese Dutch Shinzen Foundation (Part of Yamakage Shinto Sect) Drs. Paul de Leeuw Windroosplein 184 1018 ZW Amsterdam Tel: 020 6272180 Website: Mizuya Jinja Temple Komyo-In La Montagne 89350 Villeneuve Les Genets France Tel. 03 86 45 45 79 Resident (predominantly Buddhist) Priest : Rev. Thierry Modin Affiliated Shinto Preistess: Rev. Mami Takebe Web announcement: Japanese site: Konko Churches (Shinto Sect) of North America 2006 - 6th Street; Sacramento, California 95818 888-400-5262 Rev. Yomisu Oya North American Diocese Office: Fresno, Gardena, Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, Whittier-Rose Hill, and Chicago Websites: Honmichi (Shinto related sect) 4431 Wilshire Boulevard; Los Angeles, California 90010 Tel. 323-939-2212 Brasil Dai Jingu Estrada De Santa Isabel, KM40.5 CX Postal 54 CEP 07400, Aruja-Estado Sao Paulo Brazil Tel. (011) 466-0759 Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha-Dazaifu Tenmangu' 1239 Olomea St Hawaii 16817; Honolulu Hawai'i 96817 Tel. 808-841-4755 Rev. Masahiko Takizawa Hawai'i Izumo Taisha 215 Kukui Street; Honolulu Hawai'i 96817 Tel. 808-538-7778 Rev. Daiya Amano Hawai'i Daijingu 61 Puiwa Road; Honolulu, Hawai'i 96817 Tel. 808-595-3102 Rev. Akihiro (?) Okada Hawai'i Ishizuchi Jinja 2020 South King Street; Honolulu, Hawai'i 96826 Tel. 808-949-1575 Guji: Rev Shimura, Assistant: Rev William Motofuji Hilo Daijingu 10 Anela Street; Hilo, Hawai'i 96720 808-959-8611 Rev. Watanabe Maui Jinja 472 Lipo Street; Wailuku, Hawai'i 96793 808-244-4048 Rev. Toyoko (?) Arine - 92 year old priestess (as of 2005) Konko (Sect Shinto) Missions in Hawai'i 1744 Liliha Street; Suite 304; Honolulu, Hawai'i 96817 Tel. 808-536-9078 Rev. Yoshitsugu Fukushima Hawai'i Diocese Office: Hilo, Wailuku, Honolulu, Hanapepe, Wahiawa, and Waipahu Tenrikyou (Shinto Sect or Shinto Related Religion) Tenrikyo Sect Shinto Tenrikyo Hawaii Dendocho, 2920 Pali Hwy., Honolulu. Tel. (808) 595-6523. BORDEAUX KYOKAI 84-86 Cours Aristide-Briand 33000 BORDEAUX TEL : 05 56 92 13 86 MAISON SHIKITO DE LA MISSION TENRIKYO 172 Rue Etienne-Dolet 94230 CACHAN TEL : 01 45 46 09 73 TENRIKYO NAGOYA-PARIS 95 Rue Adolphe-Pajeaud 92160 ANTONY TEL : 01 42 37 03 61 FRANCE MON ROUGUE 10 Rue Auguste-Demmler 92340 BOURG-LA-REINE TEL : 01 46 83 94 97 MAISON UCHIKO TENRIKYO DE PARIS 33 Rue des Lauriers 91330 YERRES TEL : 01 69 49 53 07 TENRIKYO ALSACE 24 Augustin-Fresnel 67200 STRASBOURG-CRONENBOURG TEL : 03 88 26 87 63 TENRIKYO LYON VAISE 8 Rue de Saint Cyr 69009 LYON TEL : 04 72 19 71 68 UNITED-KINGDOM TENRIKYO U.K. 45, Barn Rise, Wembley Park, Middlesex HA9 9NH TEL : 020-8904-9345 U.K. NISSAN 26, Wycombe Gardens, London NW11 8AL TEL : 020-8458-3310 KYOKUSHI LONDON 50, Masefield Avenue, Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 3LP TEL : 020-8954-2694 LEEDS MISSION STATION 15, Alder Hill Avenue, Stonegate Road, Leeds LS6 4JQ TEL : 0113-278-6939 LONDON SAKURAI FUKYOSHO 40, Chanctonbury way, Woodside park, London N12 7JD TEL : 020-8446-8846 GERMANY KIYAMA-MÜNCHEN-MISSIONSHAUS Hatzfelder Weg 13d, 81476 München TEL : 089-755-1592 SPAIN MADRID Ascao 68, 2 Decha, 28017 Madrid TEL : 91-407-1372 GALICIA CASA MISIONERA C/ Historiador Vedia 32, 15004 La Coruña TEL : 981-269-572 ITALY CENTRO DELLA MISSIONE DEL TENRIKYO "DAI-ROMA" Via Fibreno 4, 00199 Roma TEL : 06-8620-7660 SWITZERLAND HON ROGER Sonneberg 476, 9055 Bühler TEL : 071-793-2690 List compiled with the help of blog member John Doughill, Shintoml list members particularly Arthur Harding, and Rev. Yoshimitsu Kaneko of the shrine priests' list.

Posted by timtak at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

First Shinto Shrine in Europe

A Shrine was <a href="">inaugurated in France</a>(<a href="">pdf</a>) last week on the 25th of March. It claims to be the first Shinto shrine in Europe.

It is attached to a Shingo sect Buddhist temple about 170 km South South East of Paris on the A6 near <a href="">Joigny</a>.

The shrine is a subshrine (bunsha) of <a href="">Mizuya Shrine</a>(<a href="">English</a>) of Mie prefecture.

According to the article the priestess in attendance, Rev. Mami Takebe, does Jodo (a kind of martial art using sticks) at a <a href="">dojo in Paris</a>, and is the daughter of a priest.


Posted by timtak at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

Shinto, World Baseball Classic and Ichiro Suzuki

The television channel that I watch on Tuesday claimed that the Japanese baseball team were ("kami ga yadotta") filled with the holy spirit (?). Below are some possible links between Baseball and Shinto, with a Japanese translation at the end.

1) The naive sincerity of the players, particularly but not only Ichirou. Suzuki Ichiro is an unusual Japanese man, but there is something about his Samurai-cum-schoolboy-ishness that tastes a very Shinto. Western heroes tend to be cooler, more "mature" or perhaps "fake." But Japanese heroes can be just as cool at times - and Ichiro is ice cool - while behaving like little boys at others. Japanese mythology is full of heroes (Izanagi, Susano, Ookuninushi, Yamasachihiko, Yamatotakeru) that, even has they vanquish powerful enemies, show their weak side, cry, shout and wreak mischief. The players do not seem to have removed or repressed anything from the complexity which is human nature. (Not so Japanese women, but that is another story)


Incidentally, however, Jesus of Nazareth is also described as crying, and having doubts and fears and died, Mark and Matthew tells us, saying "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (even as the beginning of psalm 22, this is a psalm that is frank about human weakness) But, despite having a God that cries, it seems to me that the heroes of Anglo-Saxon culture, the James Bonds and John Waynes, and the sportsmen too, seem to have a much stiffer upper lip. Things may be different in France

2) The Wordlessness of the Sportsmen
This is especially true of Japanese sumo wrestlers who almost seem to be bound by an unwritten rules that, during their career as wrestlers they should not be verbose, but grunt from a local lexicon of no more than 50 phrases, such as "I think I managed to do my own wrestling." They raise their eyebrows and look from the sides of their eyes in what seems to be an attempt to express themselves, but it is clear that they are speaking from beyond language, like Zen "kyo-gai-betsu-den" (the other trandtion from beyond the scripture - a good way of describing Shinto IMHO).
Similarly Matsuzaka, the WBC MVP, and other Japanese baseball also appeared to have this a-linguistic quality, or purity. Shinto is not based upon a book, and the Word did not become flesh and dwell among the Japanese baseball players.

3) The Sense of Gratitude
The most obvious difference between Japanese and Western sportsmen seems to be the way in which they attribute their success. While western sportsmen are able to mention their preparation, the Japanese always seem to be thanking this person and that person, and stressing that they did not do it on their own. This is only a question of degree, and to a certain extent it is a formality, but I think that it demonstrates a greater belief
in the interdependence of humans, and the collective nature of human action. I think that the Japanese festival tradition (mikoshi etc) helps to teach this.

4) The Sports People Look Good
I think the kami watch us. They are eyes in the sky, as it were. Thus compared to a God that listens to the narration, that reads the book of the game, in Shinto-land is not only the actions and the result that matter, but also *the way that it looks*. And the Japanese players do look very good. I think that this is one of the reasons why Japanese teams have not been as strong as they might be, because when it comes to the crunch, they give embarrassed smiles and lose, rather than give it all they have got, for fear of ceasing to look cool. Fortunately, this time, they had SuzukiIchiro, who looks cool even when he is angry.
I think that he and Sadaharu Oh pushed the players pass the "embarassed grin" stage.

Posted by timtak at 05:47 PM | Comments (0)

The constraints of Shinto: Shinto as dance

Someone asked "How is Shinto constrained? Is it Japanese social conditioning?" And this is how I responded.

This is a big issue. And there are quite a few things going on.

You seem to be exploring the limits of Shinto, wondering whether it has limits, and how these are defined. And also here you mention the issue of the extent to which Shinto is bound up with being Japanese.

In my opinion, dealing with the constraints first of all, Shinto does have limits of a short. It is not "any thing goes," libertine, unconstrained. It may appear that way for several reasons such as, in my humble opinion:

1) Shinto is not the same
Shinto constrains things that other religions do not constrain, and does not constrain things that other religions do constrain. Take for example, being naked. Shinto does not constrain nakedness (or at least male nakedness). For Christians, the fig leaf is one of the most primal constraints. So Shinto can be, is, really liberating in this area. You can take your clothes off! But that is not to say that it does not make you put other things on. It is, I believe, constraining in other ways.

2) Shinto comes in waves
Shinto emphasises festival. There are a lot of festivals in Shinto. And, as the theorists
will tell you, and as is obvious from taking part, festivals contain quite a lot of liberation. Christianity contains festivals too, and there is some liberation. Otherwise relatively puritan, non-extravagent Protestants may suddenly eat lots and give each other a
lot of things at certain times of year, before going back to being Protestant again. But it seems that generally Christianity is more time constant. The rules are the rules, and they do not change much from one day to the next. Shinto on the other hand comes in waves. There are times and places where things are allowed, and other times and places where they are not (this relates to your post about the localisation of Kami). So coming from the West to a Shinto *festival* one may gain the impression that Shinto is one big party but that would be missing the preparation for the festival, or even the strict bits - the rituals - within the festival itself.

3) Shinto is like a dance
Not withstanding Shakers and "The Lord of the Dance" (one of my favourite Christian songs), Christianity tends to shy away from dancing, seeing it as heathen and all. In Shinto there is nothing more sacred than dance. An important point is that Shinto is something that you do, and that you learn by watching, copying and doing rather than from reading a book. One can convey a dance to an extent in words - you swing your hips, you go to the top of a hill and pray - but they wont so proscriptive. The dance, or perhaps the state of mind that accompanies the dance, is the important thing. The lack of "thou shalts" means that Shinto may appear unconstrainded, but this is because it has "moves," and these are perhaps just as constrained. 

Now returning to the Japanese question. You asked if Shinto was "Japanese social conditioning".

I think that a lot of Shinto may be "Social conditioning" but not only "social." A lot
of Shinto can and is done on ones own. While most Christians go to church all at once as a group and listen to sermons, most Shintoers do it on their own. But being a dance, Shinto is in a sense "conditioning" or rather "practice," and one usually learns the practice from someone else. But that other person, and the person doing the practice does not, in my opinion have to be Japanese.

I don't think that Shinto is exclusively social. There is an extent to which it just comes, since there is an extent to which it is natural in the sense of already there. But I don't think that it is all already there; there are moves.

Posted by timtak at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)

How to do Shinto

Some suggestions as to how one might take part in Shinto
1) Read books on Shinto. Not terribly useful but it is a start. A reading list should have been sent to you. The most practical book for this purpose is perhaps Stuart Pickenfs <a href="">Shinto Meditations</a> (it has details about misogi for instance). A book that stresses the universal nature of Shinto is Mason's <a href="">The Meaning of Shinto</a>.

2) Try and find a shrine where you are or visit Japan.  There are shrines in Hawaii, Seattle, Canada (British Colombia), Brazil, Amsterdam.

3) If in the US, get in touch with Tsubaki Grand Shrine near Seattle (see


4) Set up a <a href="">household shrine</a> and worship there.   Buy one or make your own  Rev. Barrish of Tsubaki America has suggested that you can also make food offerings and prayer before an Ofuda without a kamidana. Failing that, you can greet the rising sun each morning (it is the source of life in Shinto thinking). Bow twice, clap twice, and bow again facing the sun...then put your
 hands together and offer gratitude and prayer.

5) Read the articles on this site, particularly those listed in the side bar.

6) Create your own shrine at a place of natural beauty, perhaps, in your area and worship there. We are seeking examples of people who have created their own shrines, and links to related sites would be gratefully received.

7) Perhaps, set up an ancestral shrine using photographs perhaps of your deceased relatives, expressing your gratitude to them as if they were there.

8) Take up a Japanese martial art (with Shinto influence) particularly perhaps Aikido.

9) Read Japanese mythology, particularly the first chapter of Kojiki.  See for example

10) Think humble, try to say thank you for everything, to any and every one, and be nice to people that need your help.

11) Keep clean, both physically and mentally. Makoto is an ideal state of natural sincerity, achieved by dusting the mirror in your heart.  Misogi is a ritual form of purification in cold water  (  You can make your own tamagushi for self-purification:

12) Participate in the <a href="">ShintoML mailing list</a>.

Tim and John

Posted by timtak at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

What Makes a Mountain a Deity?

Fujisan Mt. Fuji: April 11, 2004 Originally uploaded by derochan3
. Mount Fuji is a kami, a symbol of Japan. And kami are the deities of Shinto, they are objects of worship.

How do mountains get to become "Kami"? According to Motoori Norinaga's famoust definition of kami, they are "What ever seemed strikingly impressive, possessed the quality of excellence and virtue, and inspired a feeling of awe was called Kami".

Thus in Japan outstanding features of the natural landscape - such as mount Fuji - as well as warriors, weapons, rulers, and sumo wrestlers are regarded as kami, since they all inspire awe.

It is tempting to suggest that it is not the human perception "that is strikingingly impressive" or "that is awe-inspiring" is an effect rather than a cause of supernaturality. Not so fast. Another definition of kami, from the record of sayings of shinto, states "Kami are not precious in themselves, but are prescious as a result of being respected by humans." The chief priest of Koura Shrine went to far as to say, "Kami are notjust a given. We have to work [their creation] through the process of enshrining them." Sometimes the magic works, and people feel awe when they look at Mount Fuji. Other times, even if it does not work, Shinto encourages them to keep trying: to climb mount Fuji again, or pray to the giant tree at the top of a mountain, or to wrap a rope made of rice straw around the giant rock, and often the magic returns. We feel awe again.

But what is the big deal? Why should inspiring awe make a thing supernatural? On the basis of this arguement, every quack-pot, primitive, superstision, every new religious fad, every cruel or violent cult would, if the believers "feel awe," be entitled to claim that the object of their religion is in some sense supernatural or at least a kami. I think that the Shinto answer would be yes, they all are.

My own explanation as to why being "striking" or "awe-inspiring" should make something supernatural derives from my understanding of Buddhism or perhaps simply humility.

Buddhism teaches us that the world is in a sense a fantasy. We are used to a world of objects and dimensions. Of things and events like keyboards, shoes, yesterday and the three dimensions of space. Buddhism argues that all these things are human interpretations, of the true unfathomable nature of things. Instead of climbing mountains, buddhist often take are more direct approach, trying to to tun off their intepretive mind, but chanting, or counting their breath and trying to think of nothing.

I don't think that it is necessary to believe in Buddhism to realise the conditioned nature of the world. All one really needs to be is humble. We now know that humans have basically the same structure as earth worms. We share most of our genes with dogs. But at the same time we do not presume that worms or dogs know much about the world. Worms have a wormy world view and dogs have a doggy one. The human interpretation of the world as made up of three dimensions, plus time, and populated with things, is about as close to the truth of universe as that of the worm.

So here comes Mount Fuji. In my experience, nature, like works of art has the effect of preventing human interpretation. There is that "Mount Fuji whammy", the size, the feeling of awe takes ones breath, and more importantly ones interpretive mind, away. Mount Fuji seems to have the ability to do inspire awe in a large number of people. It is I believe Mount Fuji's ability to bring us back to our humility and the unfathomable nature of things is why it gets to be a Kami.

Posted by timtak at 05:43 PM | Comments (0)

Eggplant and the Korean Origins of the Japanese

At these times of strife and intra-Asian discord it is nice to remember that the Japanese probably came from Korea.

It is a sad fact that in Japan, the Korean origins of the Japanese is downplayed. The Japanese say that yes, some peoples did come from the Korean peninsula but that these people were visitors from the continent, or that they interacted with the indeginous people bringing technology, and similar peaceful explanations. These explanations give the impression of a continuity between the ancient Joumon people of Japan, whose history stretches back thousands of years, and the later Yamato people that unify Japan under their rule in the 4th and 4th centuries.

There is clearly a great deal of discontinuity in form of Japanese culture at the time. Jomon culture is very different to the Yayoi and Kofun (ancient tomb) cultures that succeeded it.

The Japanese however usually explain these differences

 in terms of technological changes, particularly with reference to the arrival of wet field rice technology from the mainland. The Koreans, in other words, were not the ancestors of the Japanese, but the bringers of grains of rice and the knowledge of how to grow it. The arrival of rice, it is argued, created new wealth, new leaders to emerge (from within the indeginous population) and hence the differences between the ancient Joumn and Kofun/Yayoi cultures.

For me, this theory does not hold water. The least of the theory's troubles is that, as shown by recent archeological evidence, rice was already present and consumed by the Jomon people hundreds of years before the changes that it was supposed to have brought about. The height and bone structure of the two peoples should put an end to the continuity myth alone. The genetic changes were quite profound. And the Japanese mythology mentions the importance of the Korean peninsula. When for example Jinmu Tenno set up court in Kyushu before moving towards Nara, he did so because the region was close to the Korean peninsula. The Korean author of a book on the Korean origins of the Japanese people, as traced in Japanese myth points out in the foreword that, when the Paechke kingdom was anhiliated the Nihon shoki records the people of Japan lamenting "Ah, will we never be able to vist the graves of our ancestors."

It does not bother me that the Japanese may have been invaded and conquered by Koreans, that their genes, their blood line, the culture and probably even the emperor is probably to a large extent Korean in origin. But I guess that to some Japanese this theory may sound a bit like the theory exposed by Clifford Worley to Vincent Concotti in True Romance: "You're part Eggplant." This theory wherein one in which one country overuns, rapes, dominates another is I believe, simplistic and chauvinist, and yet closer to the historical relatity of the interaction between the Joumon and the peoples of the Korean peninsula than the version of history taught in schools. The part of the story that I definately do not agree with is the chauvinism - I like eggplant. Being part Korean sounds like something to be proud of.

The more that the Japanese come to terms with this ancient history the more that they are likely to feel a sense of community with their neighbours. And that would be a very good thing.

Posted by timtak at 05:42 PM | Comments (0)

The Origin of Amaterasu and Blanchot

What is the origin of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu? We don't know much about her but we are told that: She is probably female (but this is controversial), she was upset by her brother and hid in a cave, she came out of the cave when she was shown a mirror that she mistook (?) for herself, and that vast mirror she was given should be worshipped as if it were her. There is a mirror in most shrines in Japan, thanks to the Meiji reformers.

Theories regarding the origin of the Sun Goddess, often mention the reference to a female leader of ancient Japan mentioned in the "Wajinden." 

One theory, says that there was a

transition from a shaman like (female) person that tends to and communicates with the sacred, to that mediator being worshipped, as Amaterasu the sun goddess. Or in a phrase, "ancient vicar becomes godhead?"

This is, I believe, a famous theory. I am not sure if the writer of <a href="">this page</a> made it famous. But I have read it quoted more than once. Personally, however, I don't have all that much faith in it.

The Japanese have one ancient history book about their country written my a Chinese: the "Wajinden". This is like what the Romans had to say about the ancient Celts or Britons. It is a very important historical document, a direct link from that ancient time to this and, at the same time, it is of course pretty distorted. It was written by an outsider, and especially in the Japanese case it is very brief (a page or so in total).

The bit about Himiko, the ancient "shaman" queen of the Japanese people mentions (from memory, but there is not more than about 5 sentences)

The mini-countries in Japan had a war, and as a result eventually chose upon princess Himiko to lead a union.  She was in consort with the spirits and confused or spooked the populace (the Kanji is "konwaku" no "kon" or "madowasu"). She kept herself hidden communicating via her brother.

So, this hidden lady that speaks with the spirits and confuses people, and has a brother, does not fit too badly with the Amateraus myth. If someone that has the role of communing with the spirits can be called a shaman then Himiko was a shaman (but then so is a priest or vicar).

So perhaps, that is the origin of Amaterasu. Is her origin bound up with the political situation of ancient Japanese states?


But, I like to think that there is a lot more relevance for us now in the theory that the supreme spirit is the sun goddess. I prefer the Kuro-zumi Shinto sect theory (that there is a mirror soul of the sun goddess in all our hearts), crossed with Jacques Lacan (the mother/other in our psyche) and Phenomenology 101. Phenomenological speaking, it seems to me that I am presented with a roughly spherical mass of qualia, that it is impossible for me to describe. What is this disk of light that we are looking at anyway? and a fabulous Jorge Luis Borges's story about a <a href="">Celt losing a shiny coin with only one side</a>. It seems to me that sometime over the course of the process of civilisation we have lost sight of the coin, or mirror, so much so that some people even do not seem to think it is there.

Haven't we lost that disk? (Sounds like geek trauma!) But I kid myself that, when I pray at a shrine, I sort of find that disk again, darkly, and ever so fleetingly, drawfing the little me that stands and claps before the mirror in the Shrine.

Yes I am dwarfed by the size of the real mirror. While the Borges's short story, "<a href="">The Disk</a>" (1975) is very cool, words like "disk" and "coin," make the sphere seem small. The Sun Goddess' mirror, we are told is much bigger, "Yamata" (?) vast even.

I am not sure if this is at all relevant to the origin of the Amaterasu but in a story by Maurice Blanchot, he has a vision, an "*agonizing contact with the day*," when he sees a woman with a baby go first through a door, in "<a href="">The Madness of the Day</a>"

What did Mr. Blanchot see? I like to think he saw Amaterasu. He writes,

"As the cold wrapped around me from head to foot, I slowly felt my great height take on the dimensions of this boundless cold; it grew tranquilly, according to the laws of its true nature, and I lingered in the joy and perfection of this happiness, for one moment my head as high as the stone of the sky and my feet on the pavement. All that was real; take note."

Originally posted to the Shinto Mailing List

Posted by timtak at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

The Passion of the Christ and Shinto Rites of Passage

 was very impressed with Mel Gibsonfs g<a href="">The Passion of The Christ</a>.h Admittedly that is probably because I was raised in a Christian family and know the story, the background and consequences. I wept, but my Japanese wife fell asleep. You can see the <a href="">trailer here</a>.

A considerable part of the film showed Jesus and friends carrying large pieces of wood up a mountain. For part of the way Jesus was helped by someone else. So, two men carried a heavy piece of wood, while women watched and were mightily impressed.

This spectacle seems to have a lot in common with a lot of Shinto festivals

In many Shinto festivals men carry heavy objects through streets, often while women watch, for the sake of a spiritual purification. So why is that a lot of men do a lot of back breaking tasks **carrying things** in order to have a religious experience. And is it important that women watch?

Surprisingly, it does seem to be important that women were watching, in Mel Gibson's version of the passion at the very least. From reading the books upon which the film was based I was not particularly aware of the "women watching" aspect. But Mel Gibson's film made Jesus rather "mazacon" (mother obsessed? with conflicting feelings towards his mother) in a sense, or at least the film concentrated on their relationship to a very considerably extent. The whole film wallowed in maternal love. Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ took place before the eyes of his mother.

I don't know whether the episode is in the book, but the scene from the film in which Mary sees Jesus fall, unable to bear the weight of the cross is doubled with a scene from Jesusf childhood when his mother ran to him when he fell over as a boy. Painful enough is the thought of a guy with his flesh torn to shreds, falling down under the weight of a giant log, but how much more painful and sad, when seen from the point of view of his mother, who sees him as a little boy.

But it was not clear who was seeing who as a little boy. The images from Jesusf past, of his relationship with his mother, were more his own than those of his mother. In the Gospel according to Mel, Jesus saw his own suffering from the eyes of his mother - And how much more painful that
must have made it.

And for me seem to lie the rub, the point of the whole exercise. Why do all these Japanese gentlemen take their kit of an carry logs up or down hills? What was Jesus up to?

I have only done the carrying bit in one festival, that of Hesogaki-Sai held in June on the side of Mount Kora in Kurume. Gentlemen young and old, take their clothes off, put on a loin cloth, and carry a palanquin to the top of a mountain shouting "essah, hossah." The carrying part is very lightweight, nothing whatsoever on Jesus of course. But the purpose is a right of passage. The loincloth is the first one that young boys put on, and by putting it on they join the crowd of men, who take part in
the festival. The festival signals becoming a man. The important thing is, perhaps, that *only the men do the carrying thing*, and by taking part one signals that one is a man. The women have to stand at the side and watch (until very recently -- women are allowed to take part).

It is probably my own bias again but, looking at Mel Gibson's Passion it seemed as if Jesus was doing it to get away from his mother. "The son of man" was determined to carry this break through to the end, to make the cut, to pass that rite of passage.

What is at stake is not Jesus' real mother of course -- to get away from ones real mother is a lot easier. The attempt at which Jesus triumphed was to get away from the mother that he was carrying with him. The one through whose eyes he saw his own suffering. Even as he was seeing his suffering through her eyes, and we, he and she are aked to weep and watch, the very wallowing in matrios (motherly love), that makes us realise the fictional nature of the beast, the way in which we are creating a mother-internal to weep for us.

And even more, it seemed to me, there were times when Satan, played in a slinky-snake-like, hermaphrodite way by a woman, Rosalinda Celentano, seemed to double with Mary Mother of God. Both Rosalinda's Satan and Mary *seem* to love Jesus. Satan's love is seduction no doubt, but what of Mary's? Satan, like Mary is seen watching Jesusf suffering all the way through. While Jesus is being whipped, Satan is for some reason nurturing a grotesque child. As Jesus carries his cross, Satan and Mary gaze at him from either side of the street. At first I thought that this indicated some sort of tension between them but...

Jesusf final words -- before the famous ones  -- was to tell his mother that the young man she is with is her son and the young man, that Mary is her mother. That final cut precedes, crack-a-boom, heaven and earth rent asunder, and Mary's horrified face cuts to Satan's screaming as if at the bottom of the well. Satan had lost to 'the son of man', and a mother had lost her 'baby boy'. Then, "it is done" or "the prophecy is fulfilled."

I very painful way to become a man perhaps but, thanks to Jesus - very possibly a fictional account at the very least in case of Mel Gibson - it may be many Christians suffer less pain than the average man taking part in a Shinto festival. Christians use fiction to fight fiction.

All in all, I was very impressed by the film. I don't mind blood and I like Peter Gabriel. The Passion of the Christ  seemed to add a new dimension to carrying heavy pieces of wood around, and to the meaning of Sin/impurity and purity/redemption, which may not in fact be all that different after all.


Posted by timtak at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

The Meiji Orthodoxization of Shinto Kagura

In the late 19th century, Meiji reformers, impressed with the social cohesive effect of monotheism in the West, and under the banner of the Japanese emperor, took the more chaotic, polytheistic, syncretistic living Shinto tradition and tried to make it structured, based upon the ancient (Chinese import) Ritsuryo system, the Kojiki and the rites of the imperial family.

<a href="">The Ritsuryo system</a> was basically the same sort of thing: Meiji part one. Or perhaps the Meiji reformation was Ritsuryo # 2. The Japanese government had been fiddling with Shinto throughout its history.The Shinto-Buddhist syncretism was as much a result of government interference as was the post Meiji Split. And no one knows what "Shinto" was like before the Ritsuryo.

With the introduction of the resultant Meiji State Shinto, there was then created a profession of centrally funded priests that had not existed for a thousand years. I am sure that many large shrines had their own priests and that some families were shrine owners and traditionally priests by profession from before the Meiji restoration, but it is my impression that the Meiji Restoration allowed only religion that was given the government seal of approval (chucking out all Buddhist effigies and monks from Shinto shrines - a process known as haibutsukishaku - and outlawing some forms of Japanese worship such as Shukendou for instance.

Prior to Meiji there were all sorts of religious practitioners but after Meiji, clergy were either a Kanushi with a particular rank or they were a propagator of "meishin" - superstition.

I think that Koujin (Aragami) Kagura, such as is
found in the Chuugoku (Okayama, Tottori, Shimane) region, was not allowed as one of the accepted expressions of Shinto (in the same way that Shukendo was not accepted either). So in the same way that Shukendou practitioners suddenly found themselves out of a job, labeled as 'lay persons', or worse, charlatans, there were also perhaps Kagura performers that also lost their job, that become suddenly classified as merely "villagers." There were many more semi-religious and religious practitioners, of healing, foretunetelling, exorcism, and perhaps traveling kagura troops, that would were outlawed in the great orthodoxization of Shinto that the Meiji Reformation brought about.

Koujin Kagura was performed in some rural villages partly with the purpose of deciding would be the next priest, since the role of priest in
the village was taken in turns, decided by lots drawn at the time of the

I have theorised (lamely, in vain) that the multitude of coloured paper strips festooned from the tengai (the crown) of the Kagura stage, that people seem to want to take home after the event may have something to do
with this drawing of lots and various rituals seen in totemic religions.

While there may have been some Kagura groups disbanded as a result of Meiji, there are too many roles in the average Kagura for all of them to have been performed by "priests". It seems to me that Koujin Kagura was very much a village event. But perhaps I have been biased by the events that I have seen in Shimane Prefecture. Events in which the whole community participates, which I would recommend to anyone. 

Originally posted to the Shinto Mailing List

Posted by timtak at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

Tea and Shinto

Sadou or the Japanese Way of Tea is more strongly associated with Zen. But Zen has a strong affinity to Shinto. It seems to me that the form of Zen Buddhism that is found in Japam, the wordless, and some would say ultimate path to the Buddha, became so wordless (even though the man, Siddhartha Gautama, himself was quite a talker) as a result of the meeting of Buddhism with Shinto. It is true that Zen Buddhism started in China. And some would argue that Zen is Buddhism plus Taoism, and fair enough, but I think that it flourished in Japan because Japan, as Shinto-land, is the land of the way <a href="">that can not be spoken of</a>.

I collected some links between Shinto and the Way of Tea, that can be found on the net.

<a href="">Kubo chief shrine priest</a> writes that the "Dou" (Dao, or Tao in Chinese, Michi in Yamato Japanese, and often Path or Way in English) in Shinto (Shindo), is the same as that in Judo, Aikido, Sado (tea ceremony), Kado (Flower arrangement) Koudo (the way of scent?), and that he feels Japanese identity permeates through all of them.

The <a href="">Sotan Inari Shrine</a> is to a Tea-Person (Cha-Jin) Sotan, who is the <a href="">grand master and Zen priest of hot water</a> for Tea.  There is also a tradition that the fox (to which all Inari shrines are dedicated) of this shrine would pose as a man and give tea parties. Local Tea practioners <a href="">come to drink and make tea there</a>.  Sotan Inari Shrine is in the grounds the large <a href="">Shokukuji Zen Temple</a>.

The temple may sell Ofuda, or Omamori (most likely ones from the temple rather than the small shrine, if they sell them at all). They publish their <a href=" ">email address</a>.

This <a href="">Shimoga Shrine</a> has an affiliated little shrine to Susano.

who it is claimed is the spirit of the tea ceremony. Susano? He is one of the more agressive untamed of spirits, so that is a bit of a surprise.

<a href="">This shrine</a> seems to be connected with tea, housing a tea pot and having a monumnet to a tea practioner in its grounds

This article claims that there are strong Shinto-Tea connections and quotes <a href="">the opinion of a leading Tea practioner</a> that the Seiza form of sitting came from Shinto

Being a Briton at heart, I take a large bit pot of <a href="">PG Tips tea</a> to work everyday, thanks to my Japanese wife.
Originally posted to the <a href="">Shinto Mailing List</a>

Posted by timtak at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)