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April 10, 2012

Shinto Symbols as Totemism/Bricolage

Shinto shrines are covered in pieces of paper, often zigzag strips of paper. They hang from the rice straw ropes (shimenawa 注連縄) that mark a sacred site. They are attached to the sacred branches that people give as an offering in Shinto ceremonies (tamagushi 玉串). They are used as a tool for purification, when swung to and fro in bulk at the end of a wand (大幣/祓い串). They stand next to mirrors at shrines as gohei(御幣).

In addition the the zig zag strips however, there are other pieces of paper that Shrines give out, specifically the pieces of paper that people take home to put in their household shrines (ofudaお札), and the pieces of paper that are contained inside Shinto lucky charms (omamoriお守り).

However, in many case, as Yanagita (1990) bewails, the same things are at once offerings to the gods (like money today) and invested of, containing the gods themselves (note 1).

It seems to me that essentially they are all the same, the vector for the sacred symbols of Shinto: the offerings which start out as simply pieces of paper become sacred as a result of their use as symbols. When they are in their zig-zag form, the form which is usually given to shrines, they have yet to have been cut or torn into their individual form for distribution to worshippers as sacred tags (fuda札) or lucky charms (omamori).

This video shows you how to make the zigzag strips and how I propose they were originally used, to create strips of paper for distribution to the faithful.

There is strong evidence to suggest that these strips of paper evolved from the use of branches, leaves, and grass as is recorded in the ethnology of Kunio Yanagita(1990), and as is suggested by the form of the tamagushi, which like the composite forms recorded by Yanagita, may be the old form of the Shinto symbol (a branch with leaves) combined with new (the zig zag strips shown in this video). For ethnographic evidence that these strips of paper were once branches and leaves, and that they were distributed, please notes in Japanese at the bottom of this post.

Bearing in mind the natural origins of Shinto symbols, I think that Shinto can be interpreted as a form of totemism, that is to say, a religion that values, structures, distributes a certain type of sign. Levi-Strauss (1966) redefined totemism as "bricolage," (DIY) or "the science of the concrete": the use of things to hand, things in the world to signify their gods *and themselves*. The importance of this observation is that it provides a hint to a non-logocentric (i.e. hearing yourself speak) form of self.

The problem with this interpretation is that, while Levi-Strauss(1966) concentrates on the use of natural articles for thought, he does mention the use of manufactured articles (such as gourds) used as totems, and even mythical articles (mythical creatures) used for totems. This considered, the distinction between "savage thought" and Western thought (using mental images of phonemes) becomes very vague. If Shinto is a form of totemism then it has moved beyond using solely natural articles to using seals printed on pieces of paper. In what sense if any are such symbols "concrete" or part of the world any more than phonemes are part of the world? I suggest that these symbols, that are organised, distributed and valued by the Shinto religion are above all visual, understood by the eye rather than ear of the mind.

That visual signs can mean by themselves without the vector of the phoneme is argued persuasively by Hansen (1993) but runs directly against the Western tradition (Barthes, 1977) and is attacked vociferously by scholars such as Unger (1990).

That Japanese may have used branches, leaves, and grass as important religious symbols may be the reason why they are recorded as saying things in the "Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves" (Manyoushu) and why, as recorded in the same book, as a result of the imperial government being so effectively organised (and I suggest the use of paper and ideograms) that the same trees and grass stopped saying things. I need to find those two poems.

Sorry it was not poems. In the great purification ritual in the Shinto book of prayers and rituals (engishiki) it says
国内にあらぶる神たちをば、神問はしに問はし給ひ、神掃ひに掃ひ給ひて、語問ひひ磐ね樹だち、草の片葉をも語止めて、天之磐座放れ、天の八重雲をいつの千別に千別きて、天降りし依しまつりき (Toyota, 1980, p74)
Which may mean something like. To all the wild spirits throughout the land, impeaching them and sweeping them away, the rocks and trees and the leaves of grass that before called out to us, stopped speaking, when (and) the imperial ancestors left the rock of heaven and parting the clouds came down from heaven.

By performing the purification ritual (which these days is accompanied by a lot of waving of paper, but in those days seemed to use tablets or pieces of wood that are washed away in a river) the ancient Japanese felt that their ritual provided by the new imperial system enabled them to rid of their wild spirits, and prevent the rocks, trees, and grass from speaking despite the fact that they had done so hitherto. I argue that what we are seeing here is the gradual transformation (or subjugation) of a purely natural science of the concrete (totemism), wherein rocks, trees and grass where used as symbols - hence they 'spoke' - into a ritualistically structured legal, political religious system eventually using Chinese characters stamped on pieces of wood, cloth and paper. By way of analogy imagine if some deposed EU bureaucrats from Brussels, went to live with the Nuer (as studied by Evans-Prichard, 1940), and rather than converting them to Christianity, ordered and persuaded the Nuer to formalise their belief system. "No, there is no need to cut scars into your face any more. Please use these ID cards instead. Don't worry, the same information will be contained in the bar-code here. Yes, the bar-code reader will be available at all marriages and festivals." And so the science of the concrete evolved, but it did not become logo-phoocentric (Derrida), or alphabetical (Hansen, 1993).

Implications for Non-Shintoists Recent Westerner psychologists have with increasing frequency, claimed that it is the practice of using 'inner speech' or internal self-narration that is constitutive of self. Descartes cogito has been modified from "I think, therefore I can be sure that I am," to "I think, or speak to myself, and listen to myself speaking to myself, therefore I come into being." But what sort of being can come into existence as a result of speaking? Only a fiction surely? Over this question Western psychologists and philosophers (see Dennet, 1992; Velleman, 2005) are divided, but as long as there is only one method of symbolic-self-creation, then it may seem as if humans are bound by some imperative (Kant, 1785), or hard-wired (Pinker, 1994), to narrate themselves into existence. But what if there were other ways of symbolising oneself? What if there were indeed some race of 'Cretans' who consistently prevaricated, who did not care about, certainly do not identify with, and perhaps even despised language, and who, at the same time, functioned, and created a stable society? Then the 'imperative,' 'hard-wiring' would be swept out from under the feet of the fiction, and once again perhaps we'll be 'falling, backward, sideward, forward, in all directions', unless God, of one type or another, were still alive.

Barthes, R. (1977). Elements of Semiology. Hill and Wang.
Dennett, D. (1992) "The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity." in F. Kessel, P. Cole and D. Johnson, eds, Self and Consciousness: Multiple Perspectives, Hillsdale, NJ:Erlbaum. Hansen, C. (1993). Chinese Ideographs and Western Ideas. The Journal of Asian Studies, 52(02), 373--399. doi:10.2307/2059652
Kant, I; translated by James W. Ellington [1785] (1993). Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals 3rd ed.. Hackett. pp. 30. ISBN 0-87220-166-X. Lévi-Strauss, C. (1966). The science of the concrete. In G. Weidenfield (Trans.), The Savage Mind. University Of Chicago Press. Retrieved from
Toyotai, K. 豊田国夫(1980)『日本の言霊思想』講談社学術文庫
Velleman, D. J. (2005). "The Self as Narrator". In "Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism: New Essays". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Unger, J. M. (1990). The Very Idea. The Notion of Ideogram in China and Japan. Monumenta Nipponica, 45(4), 391--411.
Pinker, S. (1994). "The language instinct: How the mind creates language". New York:William Morrow and Company Inc. (Recommended!) Yamada, T. (n.d.). Shinto Symbols. Contemporary Religions in Japan, 7(2), 89--142.
Yanagita, K. 柳田国男. (1990). 神樹篇-柳 田国男全集.
Note 1
Yanagita (1990, p214) confused as to how an offering can be holy. My comments in [brackets]
これは日本の神道の解きに くい問題の一つだが、[神の憑代である]シデと[お供えされた]ヌサのとの区別がはっきりとしていない。[神の憑代である]ミテグラは明らかに手に執る祭の木の名であったに もかかわらず、[お供え物の意味のある]幣帛(ミテクラ・へいはく)という漢字の古訓として久しく用いられ、今でも俗間では[神の憑代である]斎串(いぐし)を[お供え物]御幣と呼んでいる。幣は、贈遣でありま た財物このことであって、むしろ今日の貨幣の用法が正しいのに、どういうわけがあってわが邦(くに)でばかり、これを神々の依りたまう木の名にしたか、と いうことがまた説明せられていないのである。
On the one hand these things (natural or strips of paper) are things that are given to shrines somewhat like money is today, and at the same time are things that the deities are said to possess (such as fuda, which are containers of spirit). At some point in their history, as argued in the video above, the transition from mere offering or artefact to vessel of the sacred may have been achieved by stamping pieces of paper with a shrine seal but it is not the stamp that is important, rather the way that the artefact is used. A branch from a special tree given to a shrine may be just a branch. Leaves from the same branch given to worshippers can be symbols signifying group membership, the ability to marry (see recent post on other types of "omamori"), and identity. By their symbolic function they are transformed from mere leaves to very special things.

That these strips are given to people not just to shrines/gods
p50 棒の上端に藁苞を取り付け、それへたくさんの幣を指すベンケイのような形になる家々にその幣を配って、軒に指させ全をもらった。

That this distribution of strips of paper is not only in the paper form but also in the natural form.

p51 稲荷山の杉・伊豆さ山の梛(なぎ)[tt常緑高木、榊に少し似ている]の葉のごとく、信者が神木の枝を折って行く慣習と、著しく類似する点があるのである。

Again that originally it was not paper but branches that were used
p70竿の尖に取り付けた藁苞(わらづと) に、たくさんの小さい御幣を押し、それを抜いて家々に配る風習は前に述べておいたが、天然の神木において、祭りのたびごとにこれと類似した小枝の分配があった。その最も古­い出処は、『貞観儀式(じょうがんいしき)』巻三、大嘗祭の儀式中に、舞人八人、布の帯末額(おびまっこう)[はちまき?]を着け、おのおの阿札木(あれき)を執るとあるのがそれであろう。。。。阿札木・ミアレキは[玉串・御幣のように]神の降りたまうことである。

Prior to the use of paper, things made out of trees and their bark were used, and before that branches and grass were used as is.
白紙を細かく剪(き)ったものをシデとする以前、こちらにもすでにいろいろのシデがあった。最も著名であったのはユウシデである。このユウにも木綿 という漢字をあてているが、いまあるモメンとはまったく別なもので、何か楮(こうぞ[used in Japanese paper making, of mulberry family])の類の木の皮の繊維、またはその織物の白く晒したのを祭りの木の端に結び垂れていたろうと思われる。近世は朝の苧糸をもってこれに代用 し、紙の流行もまたこれに基づいたものらしいが、そのユウシデとても工芸品であるからには、やはり最初からの習わしとは見ることができないのである。
い ま一段と古いころのシデとしては、イトススキの葉などが想像せられる。。。。今でも稀ならず各処に伝わっている。たとえば、大井、大竜の二川の流域など を、夏の祭りのころに汽車で通ってみれば高い幟(のぼり)の竿の頂上にははきっと芒(ススキ Silver grass. )が結びつけてある。東北地方の燈籠木(とうろうぎ)には、三 ところに杉の青葉をつけたものが多い。

These strips that hang from shimenawa are called Shide (or hanging-down things) but Yanagita suggests that they originated in a word for flora.
213 (シデは垂れるのではなく) 繁きを意味する言葉で、たださまざまの木立ち草立ちの中にあっ[た」。

213 Process of using man made things instead of natural articles. This is one step away from the bricoleur who uses natural things as symbols, but it is a symbolism that is still using things as symbols.

Posted by timtak at 02:20 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2011

Earthquakes in Japanese Religion

Earthquakes in Japanese Religion by timtak
Earthquakes in Japanese Religion a photo by timtak on Flickr.

Earthquakes - more horrifying than lightening and typhoons - were thought to be caused by the movements of giant catfish.

While Typhoons and Lightening have patron gods (Fuujin and Raijin respectively) who are respected enough to be appeased, so cataclismic is the history of Japanese earthquake disasters perhaps, that they are not deified, but attributed to the maleficence of a big black fish.

Japanese catfish, or namazu, are or were thought to be, large lazy, bottom-dwelling fish with little culinary value who, for their part feel jealous of the admiration humans have for other fish species. Earthquakes were thought to be caused by the movements, or jealous malisciousness of giant catfish at the bottom of the sea, or beaneath the ground.

These catfish were held in place however by the god Takemikazuchi who is enshrined at two shrines in Ibaraki prefecture, including Kashima Jinguu (Imperial Shrine) in Kamisu City.

The Shinto deity uses an enourmous rock (whose tip can be seen in the shrine grounds - most of the rock is buried), his sword, or a giant gourd to prevent the catfish from moving.

The rock, the most famous means of keeping the catfish in places, is called a Kanameishi or keystone.

However, in moments of lapse, or while on holiday to Izumo in October - which is called the Godless-Month since all Shinto Kami are said to make the trip to Izumo - the giant catfish moves with horrendus consequence.

In the 6th century book of poems, the Manyoshu (book of ten thousand verses) there is a poem which reads

"The keystone may wobble but it will not become unstuck so long as the God of Kashima Shrine is with us."

Reading this poem three times was believed to be a protection from earthquakes by 19th century dwellers in Edo (Tokyo).

The Giant Catfish was depicted in many Ukiyoe (pictures of the floating world). The genre is known as "Catfish-pictures" but only 300 survive since they were banned by the Edo government.

As well as depicting the subjugation of the giant catfish by the God and the Key stone rock, they also showed (as in the picture above) house builders taking a different attitude to the catfish. In the above picture the group of construction workers top left do not participate in subjugating the Catfish. In another picture construction workers are shown worshiping or thanking the catfish for the profits that they earned after an earthquake. In another picture construction workers are seen helping the catfish in a tug of war between the catfish and Takemikazuchi, helped by representatives of the general population. 

After the great Tokyo earthquake of 1855 the catfish is also depicted as being responsible for redistributing wealth from rich to poor, and became regarded as a world repairing deity (Yonaoshi Daimyoujin).

So in the end it is probably true to say that Japanese religion, particularly Shinto, can be trusted to see a positive side to nature, even the most horrific, even in the face of great human loss and tragedy.

The above image is believed to be in the public domain. The above text is my interpretation of internet recsources such as Japanese wikipedia and these two blog posts (in english)
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And the source of the above photo (in Japanese)
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The theme of a natural calamity being held in check by a giant rock is also found in the Shinto creation myth. Izanami, the primal female that gave birth to all of creation, dies when she gives birth to the god of fire. Izanagi, her husband, kills the god of fire, and goes to visit his wife in the underworld where he finds her rotting form terrifying and flees, trapping Izanami in the underworld with a giant rock. Thus trapped, Izanami promises to kill 1000 people a day. Her husband responds that he will allow for 1500 people a day to be born.

The connection between the belief in the catfish and the Shinto creation myth, is reinforced since it is one of Izanagi's sons, born from the blood of the god of fire (that killed his mother, killed by his father) dripping onto rock, that holds the earthquake subduing keystone in place.

I asked my neighbours for their thoughts concerning the earthquake. One said that with the long history of earthquakes in Japan fear of them is built into their system, and at the same time their destructive power is seen as inevitable (shikata ga nai).

Perhaps the feeling is that earthquakes like death are going to come. All that we can do is postpone them, by villigence, and believe in natural creation. 

Posted by timtak at 06:45 PM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2010

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)

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)

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 Picken’s <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)

April 12, 2004

Yasukuni Shrine

Most of Shinto priests I know of seem to be in favour of Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, despite the fact that it was judge unconstitutional by an Japanese court last week.

Priests claim that visiting Yasukuni Shrine is a tradition rather than a religion. And that in any case, even if it were somewhat religious, it is quite normal for any head of state to uphold the religion of the country. In the US for example, the oath of allegience is made upon the bible and bank notes are printed with the words "In God we Trust." I expect that one could collect religious acts peformed by every head of state of every country in the world.

Admittedly the act of swearing on a bible is somewhat different to praying at a shrine to dead war heros but the issue at stake was the unconstitutional nature of the Prime Minister being invovled in religion. 

It is in this regard that shrine priests are inclined to disagree with the ruling or, if the constitution is so worded as to rule out acts of this kind, to want to throw out the constitution as some poisonous duff foisted upon Japan after a recent war defeat. Poisonous because, if you outlaw a nations' religion, or make it so tabuu that those in public office are not allowed to take part in any way, then that will help to destroy the influence that the religion has upon the populace, possibly to negative effect.

I think that my Shrine priest aquaintances have a point.

First of all the line between tradition and religion is very hazy. Is celebrating the new year, or Christmas religious? Is taking part in cherry blossom watching or watching Sumo religious?  Is getting married religious? Is upholding morality religious? Or even is being sane religious?! I think that my belief in the existance of my identity is predicated on my belief in the existance of god. In the extreme, then, one might claim that anyone that behaves as if they have an ongoing identity is behaving in a religious way.

I think that in a lot of countries there is a a hazy line between what is acceptable for a politician to do and what is not. If the UK prime minister Blair started preaching on the merits of a particular Christian denomination then he would soon be out on his ear. But if he observes Christmas celebrations or Easter celebrations then people do not complain.

Personally I think that the Japanese should dump their constitution and allow Japanese politicians to be a little more invovled in "religion."

However I do have misgivings towards Yasukuni. It strikes me that Yasukuni is a new religion that was very much a part of Japanese aspirations to bring Asia under one Japanese roof. At the very least, since it is rather like a German prime minister saluting before a swastika - Yasukuni Shrine was a central image of the pre 1945 regime - it is clear that Asian neighbours are not going to be happy about the Prime Minister's visits. I would prefer it if the Prime Minister remembered the war dead by worshipping a mountain cherry tree*.


Incidentally the Prime Minister is inspired by the kamikaze fighter pilots some of whom died hoping to be enshrined at Yasukuni. I have mentioned before, rumour has it that the Prime minister's favourite book is a collection of letters and memorabilia by fighter pilots written before they took the plunge. ("Aah, Douki no Sakura" - also the name of a war song and meaning "Aah, fellow cherry blossom of the same spring")


The first kamikaze mission was called "Yamazakura," or "mountain cherry tree," apparently, after the poem my Motoori Norinaga:


If someone asks about the ancient spirit of Japan,
It is the flowers of the mountain cherry tree that are fragrant
 in the rising sun.  

You can send a letter of support or complaint to Prime Minister Koizumi here.

Posted by timtak at 06:41 AM | Comments (1)

February 14, 2004

Etymology of Kami

The deities or spirits of Shinto are called kami but, while there are many homonyms (the words for "above", "hair", "paper", and "bite") the etymology of the word Kami is not known. For a long time it was though that it was from the word "kami" meaning above (written with the same character as "ue"). However with the discovery by a scholar, called Hashimoto in 1917, that there were more vowels in ancient Japanese, this theory was rejected.

The Vowels in Ancient Japanese
In Japanese today there are only 5 vowel sounds ("a, i, u, e, o," as we say in Japan) and till 1917 it was presumed that the same was true of ancient Japanese as well. However, Hashimoto noticed that there were clear rules for using two, distinct groups of characters to express what is today a single sound, "ko." The only, or at least accepted, explanation for this fact is that there used to be two different sounds. The same patterns were discovered for the vowel "i" and "e," meaning that there may have been 8 types of vowel in ancient Japanese, which we can write as: a, i1, i2, u, e1, e2, o1, o2.

These vowel distinctions were dying out quite rapidly. For example while there are two types of "mo" in the Kojiki (712), this distinction died out in the Nihongi (720, Nihonshoki) which was written only a few years later. And there are further complications in that some of the "extra" vowels are rarerly used, and then only in loan words. But it seems at least that a finer grade of vowel distinction did exist, and this enables us to make better judgements of etymology.

With the distinction, it became apparent that the "i" in kami = diety/spirit, and the i in kami = above are different.

The Ancient Vowel Sounds Continue Today
With regard to to the "i" vowel, the distinction between two types of "i" continues in present day Japanese. It seems that second type of "i" was somewhere nearer an "o" or "u" sound! I am not sure how to pronounce an "i" similar to "o" or "u" but I think that it was probably a "ui" or "oi" sound as we shall see.

The distinction between these two vowel sounds continues even today. For example, while "hi" as in sun, and "hi" as in fire are often thought to be of related etemology, the two were in fact written as "hi1" and "hi2," with two different types of vowel. The word for tree "ki" is another example of the second type, which we can write as "ki2." Even today these "i2" words are sometimes pronounced as "o." For example the light/shadow (the pattern it throws) of a fire is written with the character for fire and shadow, normally "hi" and "kage," but pronounced "hOkage" (with emphasis added). Similarly the word for the shade of a tree is written with the character for tree and shade, normally pronounced "ki" and "kage" but here pronounced even today as "kOkage." Similarly the "leaves of trees," is pronounced "kO no ha" as opposed to "ki no ha," berries, as "kO no Mi" and the dappled sunlight beneath trees, "kO-more-bi" (tree-overflowing-sunlight) The same "i2" is also found to change to "u," as in the god of the moon "TsukUyomino-mikoto" where the first "tsuku" is written with the character for moon, normally pronounced "TsukI" -- the "ki" was pronounced as "ku."

Returning to "kami," in the ancient "Manyougana" notation (i.e. in a notation similar to that used in the ancient Manyoushuu poem collection of poem, but this is in fact from the explanations of names of gods in the kojiki) kami is written as , as well as the character used today

In the form, the character for "mi" belongs to the i2 category. Hence, like other i2" words, kami is sometimes pronounced "kamu." For example, in ancient Japanese, "Kamikaze" (divine wind, and "suicide pilot") was pronounced "Kamukaze." Similarly there are the words "Kamu-sabi" (godly behaviour), and kamu-yo (the age of the gods. The Ainu for "kami" is "kamui," and it is thought that this is close to the ancient Japanese pronunciation. This also explains why "kami" often become "kan" in compounds, such as "Kannazuki" (November, the month when all the gods go to Izumo) and kanzaki place name, since abbreviation of "u" ("dekinu" > "dekin," "desu" > "des") and changing m's to n's ("yomu" > "yonda") happens all the time in Japanese. So what of the etymology of "kami"? First of all it is clearly different to that of "kami" meaning "above," since the latter is written with a "mi" belonging to the first category of vowel "i1" so this explanation of the etymology of Kami is incorrect.

Since in ancient Japanese the word for hair (now also "kami") was "ka" (as in "shiraga" or white/grey hair), and the mi uses i1, that etymological connection is also rejected. There is at the present time no accepted theory for the etymology of "kami." So let's make one!

Kami and Kami= Paper?
I used to think that kami as in paper, might be related or derived from kami (god) since there is so much paper at Japanese shrines: the ziz-zap lighenting strips or shide, the talismen (fuda), and fortune sripts (omikuji). Additionally, as I have mentioned before, I think there is a philosophical case to be made for the assertion that paper and god have something in common -- paper is the place where the sign meets the world.

There are several theories for the etymology of paper, one of them being "kami" (spirit) but the most popular theory is that is it is derived from the Chinese word "kan" (as in shokan, meaning letter). And once again, the "mi" of kami (paper) is i1, not the i2 of kami (god).

Kami as "bite"
By chance one oft the leaders in computerisation of the Manyoushuu, Dr. Yoshimura, is at my Yamaguchi university. You can download a Japanese version of the Manyoushuu together with a program for searching within it from his website at by entering your name and your email address. This truly wondrous piece of software enable us to look at the use of kami in the ancient book of poems.

In the Manyoushu, kami is written using the single usual Chinese character that it has today (made of parts meaning "point" and "say humbly"), so it is difficult to see what the etymology of the Japanese word might be. However, it is worth noting that kami often appears in the compound "Kannagara," where "nagara" is translated as "being at the original essence of."

Hence the old name for Shinto (kami and mich or path) was "kan-nagara no michi" meaning "path following the original essence of god."

"Nagara" is usually written with an ideographic kanji which elsewhere is read as "mani-mani" which means "as is" or "at the mercy of." The only occurrence of "mani-mani" in the modern dictionary of Japanese ( is "nami no mani-mani" which means at the mercy of the waves. Hence "Kan-nagara no mich" might also be translated as "the path of putting yourself at the mercy of god"

However, and where my other wacko kami theory comes in, today the word "nagara" is usually put on the end of verbs, to mean "while doing." For example "Ongaku wo kiki-nagara benkyou suru" means "study while listening (kiku > kiki ) to music" . And indeed, this "nagara" also used in the ancient poems (manyoushu) both as one way of writing the "nagara" after "kami" and one way of writing the "nagara" after a verb "ii nagara" - while saying. Indeed the phonetic reading of "Nagara" is only used after the character for kami and after verbs.

It is difficult to come up with a reason why this should be. Why should a deity be a "bite"? It should be remembered that the gods of the imperial lineage were created from biting and crunching up, when Susano and Amaterasu met at entrance to heaven and bit and crunched up each other accessories! And biting was also the way that they used to make that religious nectar sake.

So there is a possibility that "kami" was originally a verb. This brings us to the last homonym of kami, which is the noun form of the verb "kamu," meaning "to bite" or "to chew". So perhaps kami originally mean a bite or a chew? I am not sure which of the vowels for "i" is is written with, since the word for chew does not appear in the Manyoushuu. However, in the scene where Amaterasu and Susano bite things, the word "kami" is written phonetically with mi1. So this, for the same reason that we rejected the idea that kami means above, it seems. The true etymology of kami remains a mystery.

Kami as Abbreviation of Mirror.

One final theory for the meaning of kami is an abbreviation of "mirror," kagami. The chances of this are not strong since it is not common for etymological explanations to suggest that words are formed by abbreviating their centre, and the etymological explanations of mirror do not usually suggest a link. Kagami is said to originate in "kage mi" or "look (miru > mi) at a shadow or image (kage)," or the noun form of "kagamu" to bend over, since the first mirrors were surfaces of water, over which one bent over (I like this theory, and believe that there are many such “bendings over” = kagami = mirrors in the Kojiki)

While the etymological reasoning for supposing that kami is an abbreviation of kagami are not that strong, the connection is pointed by shinto theologians, such as the founder of the Kurozumi sect. They point out that kagami is the symbol of the soul but the soul of man contains ego "or ga." Kami is the soul of man (kagami) without the ego (ga).

However, once again, the mi of miru (see) and hence "kage-mi" (shadow-watch) and kagami is i1.

Like other 2nd vowels, mi2 is very rare in all words occuring in yami (darkness) and mi (self, nut,

The only other word "kami" that uses i2 (the rarer of the two sounds) is "kami-nari" or thunder. Since "nari" means sound, I had presumed that thunder was originally "the sound of god," and hence the word for thunder derived from the word for god and not the other way around. However, the character for thunder was sometimes written as "kami" alone, so it is conceivable that the relationship was in the reverse direction.


Text of the Kojiki in Japanese
Are "paper" "hair" "above" and God the same word
Norinaga notices that Kami as god and Kami as above are written differently.
Professor Yoshimura Makoto's homepage
Professor Yyoshimura's Manyoushuu Corner
The Registration Page for Professor Yoshimura's Manyoushu
The Manyoushuu at the University of Virginia
Ancient Online Digital books.
More Ancient Online Digital Books in Japanese
A list of the words in the Kojiki, Nihonshoki and Manyoushu for which the vowel types are known

Posted by timtak at 04:08 PM | Comments (2)

January 11, 2004


I am told that Shusaku Endo, the Japanese Catholic novelist, sought a 'maternal Christ', believing that Japan as a land of 'amaeru' had a childlike dependence on a merciful compassionate mother. This notion, that the Japanese are inclined to amaeru, may ultimately derive, as Takeo Doi suggested, from a belief in humans as the children of kami and in particular Amaterasu.

Takeo Doi became famous with his classic book, The Anatomy of Dependence The title in Japanese is "Amae no Kouzou" ("The Structure of Amae") where Amae is the noun form of the verb "amaeru." The book is de rigeur for those that study the psychology of the Japanese, and highly respected academically. Doi's theory of Amae is quoted by most papers or books in this field. Doi has written several other books since and there are books about his theory written by other authors. For example, Susumu Yamaguchi of Tokyo Unviersity and x-head of a leading cultural psychology conference in Asia, started his research life investigating amae(ru) using questionnaires and or perhaps experiments. Osamu Kitayama, x-popstar and well known Japanese psychologist has edited a book of psycho-clinical papers on amae. All in all, amae(ru) is considered to be a critical, key word when attempting to explain Japanese culture.

Amae(ru) is according to Dr. Takeo Doi a word that cannot be directly translated into English. Doi starts out by making a Sapir-Whorf hypothesis based observation that any word that exists in one language but cannot be expressed easily in others, refers to a phenomena which is culturally important in culture of the first language, but not so important in the culture of the others which lack a means of its expression.

It is very true that Amae(ru) does not translate well into English. I would use "(to) fawn upon" or perhaps "to be a baby," or "to be cute." It refers to the action and emotional state of mind of a baby towards its mother (care giver). By "emotional state" I mean that it involves the expectation, need or desire to evoke the love in the other. Another way of putting amae(ru) is "passive love" i.e. feeling and behaving in such a way as to be loved (by a parent). It does not refer to being sexy, flirting or pouting or all the other ways of attracting eros (i.e. being "erotic" ?) but ways of attracting what C.S. Lewis calls "affection," the love of parents towards children. So amae is anticipating, and behaving in such a way as to receive love, affection, or induldence. The last word is moot too since the active form of amae in Japanese, amayakasu is usually traslated as "to indulge". One of Doi's most accessible examples is the behaviour of a puppy. A puppy (or an older dog, since dogs are always children to their masters) might roll on its back and wait for its belly to be stroked. Or it might come up to you wagging not only its tail, panting, and looking you in the eye. This is partly just being happy to see you but it is also a call for affection.

On top of the fact that Doi's insight regardign Amae started from a Sapir-Whorfian insight, it has a yet stronger relationship with language, or rather the lack of language. This connection can be approached in two ways.

First of all Doi's first, and for me most memorable, example of amae, is from when he arrived in the USA and visited a friend. His friend put some cookies or something on a table and said "If you are hungry, please help yourself." Coming from the culture of "amae," Doi felt put out. He was hungry, but he was in an amae frame of mind. He did not want to say, "Well I don't mind if I do," and tuck into the cookies. He wanted his host to actively perceive ("sasshi") that he was hungry and give him a plate of cookies. He wanted to be mollycoddled. The word "mollycoddle," not so common in English, helps us to understand the term amae. Some one who wants to be mollycoddled does not articulate their desire but hopes by their person or their actions to elicit indulgence from an other without the use of language. As soon as they put their desire into language they are putting themselves on an equal footing, as another separate desiring individual - but the person who "amaes" (if I am allowed to conjugate the verb) wants to merge (Doi argues) with the other.

This brings us on to the second connection between amae and the absence of language. Doi, argues that amae is the desire to merge with the other, as if (?) still not an independent entity, and puts forward a theory of individuality (quite common these days among narrative psychologists) that says that being an individual is to linguistically articulate oneself and ones desires. To amae is to refuse to go down that path to linguistic self-hood. 

Endo Shusaku is possibly Japan's most famous Christian. Not only was he a Christian but also, as mentioned above, he tried to define a sort of Japanese Christianity. Indeed, Endo Shusaku attempted to take the best of Christian and Japanese culture to propose a more Japanese, and in a sense an even more Christian version of Christianity! In perhaps his most famous book ("Silence") Endo Shusaku raised the question of the martyr, the person that sacrifices themselves for others. The Christian bible tells us, "There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend." However, Endo suggests that there is greater love. Endo seems to come to the conclusion that the ultimate "martyr" could and would lay down his life for another, but ultimately she would also refrain for doing so, even if it meant rejecting all that she had lived for, if she felt that she would be held as an example, and thus encourage friends to lay down their lives as well. Putting it as tritely as this does not do service to Endo's sentiment but, Endo argues (successfully judging by the rave reviews from Western Catholics at that sometimes it is even more difficult to *live on*.

Living on, even when this means not being entirely true to ones beliefs, is close to the philosophy of the Bodhisattva, such as. Kannon. A Bodhisattva is someone that could throw off their ego and reach nirvana/satori but decides to hang around, at the brink of satori, in the hope, working towards the day when, all other sentient beings reach nirvana/satori too.

It also reminds me of "About Schmidt" a film I saw today, in which the hero, played by Jack Nicholson, doesn't say what he really thinks, what he really believes, but chooses a polite, positive *silence* for the sake of those that he loves (perhaps a controversial reading of this bleak, but real and interesting film.)

Putting Endo's question back in terms of a possibly non PC gender related question: "who loves more, the fathers that go to war -- perhaps to die -- to protect those they loves, or the mothers that refuses to go to war, and would rather live in slavery, and abjection, for the same reason?" I think that opinions are likely to be divided. I am afraid that my sentiment is on the side of the warrior, but one might argue that a true blue Shinto-ist would come out on the side of the mother.

Shusaku Endo is a very famous novelist. His books are even more popular among Japanese Christians, who make up less than 1% of Japanese Christians.

Takeo Doi is also, as far as I am aware, a Japanese Christian. It is concievable therefore, in my opinion, that Takeo Doi  may have been in part, subliminally inspired by the novels of Shusaku Endo. This is however, highly unlikely since (as kindly pointed out by Maraku below) Doi makes no mention of Shusaku in Amae no Kouzou. Takeo Doi does however, suggest, in the first chapter of his seminal work, that the origin of the word amae may be related to the name of the deity at the top of the Japanese panthenon, Amaterasu Oomikami. This suggests to me a common sensitivity motivating Shusaku Endo's and Takeo Doi's realisation that Japan is a country of amae. To Japanese Christians as they both are, it may be striking that there is a strong difference between their own religion, as expressed in the Bible, and that of the majority of Japanese who are much more enclined to amaeru to, request indulgence of, their deities.

Thanks to VikingSlav for the first paragraph and inspiration for this article.

I would like to apologize for an earlier version of this article that suggested a closer link between the work of Shusaku Endo and Takeo Doi. This suggestion was entirely my own and based entirely upon supposition and speculation. In any event, nothing can be taken from Takeo Doi's immense achievement of making the notion of amae available to generations of psychologists, some of whom use the theory to cure people. And incidentally, academically, I am of course not fit to wipe Dr. Doi's shoes.

Posted by timtak at 06:47 PM | Comments (8)

August 12, 2003

Tenrikyou at the Cursor

Tenrikyou, one of the sects of sectarian Shinto is more organised than amorphous, generic "Shrine Shinto" so there is more of a clear defnition of whether you are in it or not. It has an organisation and one generally joins and attends Tenrikyou gatherings, (altough I guess there are people who are doing it on their own). In contrast most people that do Shinto seem to be doing so pretty much on their own, or in looser organisations. People often ask me "How do I join Shinto ." I am at a loss to answer since there does not seem to be anything to join. With Tenrikyou there is an organisation to join.

Tenrikyou has some books written by the founder which have teachings, and constitute scripture. Shinto only has the myths and norito which do not contain much in the way of teachings, except under interpretation.

Tenrikyou people do a lot of sort of dancing or movement, starting with only the hands and the other parts of the body. Some of the forms of Tenrikyo dance resemble the Japanese dance style popular in the late 1990's, called "Parapara." By way of purification ritual, Tenrikyou-ers are inclined to perform various types of dance for long periods of time.

Tenrikyou believes in an encompassing or supreme deity. This tendency is observed in many of the Shinto related groups (I am not sure if it is appropriate to say "sect") e.g.. Kurozumikyou = Amaterasu Oomikami (the Sun Goddess) Tenrikyou = Oyasama or Tenri, or "God the Parent" Konkokyou = Tenchikane-no-Kami, Konko-Sama

It is not entirely clear to me whether "Shinto" has has an encompassing or supreme deity or not. Often Amaterasu is claimed to be head of the Shinto Pantheon by Shrine priests educated in the Shinto-universities under the auspices of "Jinja-honcho." Even above Amaterasu, or any of the other gods above, nature or cosmos is oftern revered as the absolute (contrast Christianity). Finally, perhaps *all* the shrines in Japan bear the unsaid message "Behold, this god here before you is the ultimate god!" so that the disctinction between the sects/groupings about and Shinto as a whole is non existant. If so then only difference may be that the above groupings have scripture which states this clearly. But all the same, there seems to be a tendency for the groups above to have a more focussed towards one god and have a *slightly* monotheistic tendency. Tenrikyou is particularly notable in that respect. Tenrikyou is particularly focussed on "the parental god". (But then again, I repeat, it seems to me, that a lot of Shinto-ists are *not* polytheistic like Greeks, with a god of wine, a god of music, a god of this that and the other, but simply worship the one deity of their local shrine. In this sense, Shinto-ists seem to bear some resemblance to monotheists, that believe there are other monotheisms!)

Tenrikyou like some of the other groups, has a founder or prophet. Often the founder had some sort of experience of rapture/enlightenment. Shinto does not really have a founder.

The word Tenri means "Heaven's Reason/Law (ten=heaven, ri=reason/law/order)" and Tenrikyou stresses the rational nature of the divine. I am not sure what "rational" means but it may mean, "can be expressed in words." Particularly in Tenrikyou, the divine can be expressed by the written word via "the tip of the writing brush." I may be completely wrong but it seems to me that one of the defining characteristics of Shinto is its *non-linguistic-ness.* Not only are there no scripture in Shinto but Shinto seems to me to assert that there could be no scripture since the divine is not rational (by the above definition). Obviously since there is no written scripture there is no such assertion. Any such assertion would fall foul of the liar's paradox. The bravest attempt to blast through that paradox, or aim at its heart, is in Zen (which may have been Shinto influenced?). Zen claims, in words, that the absolute can be cannot be expressed in words, with lots of finger waving and other attempts to say the unsayable.

All the same, especially when I was young, I used to really like the "tip of the brush metaphor" since it seemed to me that the place where the divine revealed itself is precisely at the meeting point between language and the world, most stricklying at the point where language is formed on the surface of paper. In this medium perhaps we might pay attention to what is happening, "at the cursor".

Finally, "Tenrikyou" seems to me to merge some of the . (Perhaps therefore I should join!). Please compare the Tenrikyou "quick summary of teachings" with the basic teachings of Christianity. I am not sure what the basic teachings of Christianity are, they are, but they seem to overlap a lot with what is written here.
Posted by timtak at 03:16 PM | Comments (7)