Religions And Japanese Culture Many religions are popular within the Japanese culture. Two of the most influential religions, Shinto and Buddhism that help shaped a lot of Japanese values are Shinto and Buddhism, played a large role in shaping Japanese values. Numerous similarities and differences run between these two religions; nonetheless, the Japanese often believe in more than one religion at the same time. This is possible due to the polytheistic nature of most popular religions in Japan. It is not hard to say that religion is a big part of Japanese culture because a lot of religious beliefs can still be seen in their everyday lives.
Shinto is a polytheistic native Japanese religion. Followers believe that much of nature is sacred; spirits animates everything in the nature. For example, Japanese still believe that Mount. Fuji is sacred. They believe something that big and great exists only because “Kami,” or spirit, resides within the mountain. In this fashion, they give great respect to nature.
These Shinto beliefs have great influence on the ways Japanese today do things and their values. Japanese garden designs also reflect Shinto beliefs. Careful arrangements of rocks and plants are attempts to create a miniature universe or attempts to move a piece of nature into their house. Similarly, the principles of floral design show their interest in nature. They focus on the importance of light and shadow, and the fullness versus the void, instead of focusing on the symmetry.
The reason? Flowers and plants do not grow symmetrically in nature. They lean towards the sun creating a void in the shadow. Japanese respect and seek to bring the beauty of nature closer to them, therefore, a lot of Japanese arts are imitations or miniatures of nature. These traces of Shinto belief clearly still exist in Japan today. Later on, the Japanese adapted another religion, Buddhism.
Like Shinto, Buddhism is also a polytheistic religion. Moreover, because Shinto does not explain the afterlife while Buddhism does, these two religions co-existed in Japanese culture. Many people adapt to both religions’ belief system at the same time. Zen Buddhism became widely adapted by the samurais later on during the Warrior Period. Zen Buddhism focuses on the discipline of individuals, one of the many reasons why samurais are seen as very refined warriors.
They are often portrayed as being able to sense an enemy’s attacks before they actually happen. This is an exaggeration of a samurai’s ability to concentrate and focus on a goal. The samurais often use a Zen Buddhism technique called Za Zen to help clear their mind. A practical religion, Zen Buddhism helps to enhance self-discipline and improve one’s self-concentration. One of the teachings of Zen Buddhism is Bushin, meaning the clarification of the mind. A cleared mind allows the samurais to concentrate better on the task at hand and respond faster to enemies’ attacks, make Zen Buddhism a very attractive religion to these warriors. Martial arts in Japan today also stress the importance of concentration.
However, Bushin no longer applies to solely concentration in combat, but to all forms of concentration. For example, practicing martial arts is said to effective for improving one’s performance at work due to better concentration skills. This type of application of the Zen Buddhism is very popular in modern Japan. Religions obviously play a large role in modern Japanese culture. Eighty-six percent of the Japanese population believes they are being watched over by spirits. Ironically, however, seventy percent of the population also said that they do not believe in any religions.
I believe that there are several reasons for this irrational response of the Japanese people. First of all, many religious beliefs are already integrated as parts of the Japanese culture. This means that even though Japanese have the same beliefs as some religion, they do not necessarily believe in it. For example, non-Shinto followers also believe in the greatness of Mt. Fuji due to the “Kami” within it. Similarly, they do not have to believe in Zen Buddhism to value self-discipline or practice Za Zen and any other techniques for improving concentration.
Moreover, because the Japanese, often practices syncretism, or the attempts to reconcile two different belief systems, they might not consider themselves as belonging to any religion at all. Religions are definitely present within the modern Japanese culture, even though they might not be considered as “religions” any longer. It is truly a phenomenon to see religion being integrated into a society so well that it became a part of the culture. Religion Essays.