Talking About Japan
In English

Japanese Religion

Talking about religion is a big challenge for Japanese as it is seldom done as casual conversation in Japan. Yet people all over the world are very curious about your beliefs.
Traditionally Japanese people blend the religions of Buddhism and Shintoism throughout their lives.
How would you answer these common questions put to guests in many countries?

Do you believe in God?

The Buddhist traditions do not fit easily into the concept of religion.

Japanese usually do not experience spirituality intellectually.

Philosophical discussions are left to scholars.

What religion
are you?
What do Japanese people believe?

The Japanese keep their spiritual life private, and use simple rituals to show their respect to 'kamisama' which is a term we translate as God. Yet the meaning does not completely match the Western monotheistic model.

Are you a Buddhist?
Orthodox Buddhist traditions, as found in Southeast Asia, often question the Buddhistic traditions of Japan. They can not understand how priests here can marry, drink, and eat meat. But these are not serious issues from the Japanese perspective.
Is Buddha God?
Do you have two religions, both Shinto and Buddhism?
Many Westerns come to Japan in search of spiritual insights. In pursuit of Zen as they imagine it from books published in the West.
How do you celebrate your religion?

But the answers are not forthcoming. The paradigm is different, the assumptions are different, the feelings are not quite the same.

The questions about religion are difficult to answer because they come from a completely different way of perceiving the world around us.

Do you believe in life after death,
reincarnation, angels and devils?

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