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It is without a doubt that religion plays a vital role in Japanese society. I’ll briefly share what I have learned during my time in Japan what that role turns out to be .

Religion is deep rooted in culture. It is nearly impossible to separate religion from the culture and traditions of Japan. That being said, I’ve noticed that religion itself doesn’t really play an active role in the everyday lives of the Japanese, especially in the younger generation. Temples and shrines were mostly visited by young families, the elderly and/or foreign and local tourists. Just like many other countries go to church during Christmas, an average Japanese also go to these temples to partake in religious rituals at ceremonies, such as visiting a shrine or temple at New Years and participating in other local matsuris (festivals), most of which are of religious backgrounds and origins. Religion is practically an interwoven entity rather than a separated form. It is so infused to the culture that just by being born Japanese and/or growing up in Japan, participating in rituals and other religious traditions, they become part of the religion. One could be daring enough to say that most of Japanese culture is non-existent without Shintoism and Buddhism. The Japanese can claim to be Shinto or Buddhist, or both, without having to know the foundations of said religion because they grew up in that religion.

The impact, however, of religion in Japan society is that it unites people in celebrations. For example, before I left my host family, we set up the hina doll set to celebrate the upcoming hinamatsuri. These festivals can also be timestamps that people can use as  a time reference in reminiscing the past and also conversational topics that people use.

Born Shinto, Married Christian, Buried Buddhists. Gods play a different role between monotheistic religions such as Christianity and Islam and polytheistic religions such as Shintoism and Buddhism. With a Christian or a Muslim, the believer is dependent on one God and that God plays an active role in the believer. Meaning that lives of the believer revolves around the commands and central values of the God. On the other hand, Shintoism and Buddhism believers live independently without having to depend on a god in everyday lives. The Japanese go to temples usually pray to specific gods asking and thanking for specific things. This is usually done to boost morale. The gods are entities that revolve around their lives, the gods are used. They don’t have a need for a god to control them but rather they can create their own god to simplify and better their own world. Being flexible in religion, they can pick and choose certain values, beliefs, and rituals from any religion for their own gain. In a book called “Why the Japanese Consider Themselves Irreligious”, Toshimaro Ama says the that “Japanese would turn to Shintoism for specific things, but they looked for salvation in Buddhism”.

Gender Roles. Japan, like Korea, were heavily influenced by Confucian ideals originated from China.


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