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Religious diversity in Japan

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Most Japanese think themselves as non-religious. Yet, there are not many countries that have more diversity in religions than Japan.

When a baby is born, Japanese celebrate according to Shinto rites. Shinto is the Japanese original traditional religion. It relates to worshiping the emperor and nature. Shinto is symbolized by a lot of shrines. When Japanese people get married, they usually choose either the Shinto style or the Christian style – the latter becoming increasingly popular these days.

In Japan, Christianity doesn’t have much influence, compared with Europe, North and South America, Africa and even some other Asian countries. Japanese celebrate Christmas. But they don’t celebrate Easter. This tends to show that it is more for fashion or commercial reasons – or its romantic atmosphere – that they celebrate Christmas.

Buddhism is obviously major in Japan. Nowadays, though, Buddhism rites observed in Japan are usually funeral rites only. But the essence of its philosophy is deeply ingrained in Japanese society.  It still influences the Japanese way of thinking. Zen has become a bridge between Buddhism and Taoism.

Confucian ideas are strong and are still a social . For instance, respect for elders, loyalty for one’s company are originally rooted in Confucian ideas. Taoism has brought huge influence in Japanese Arts, in Martial Arts. “Tao” means “the way” or “the road”. It is pronounced “Do” in Japanese. So there are a lot of kinds of “Do” in Japan: judo, kendo, kyudo, aikido, sado, kodo, shodo, and so on. Some Japanese people strive to acquire their own straight road and want to master a “Do=Tao” their whole life.

All things considered, Japanese people are very generous and tolerant towards religious beliefs. They have a pragmatic approach: they take the best of what each culture (or religion, for that matter) has to offer. Most Japanese are agnostic but they enjoy practically religious customs and remain open about religions.