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Kelsey Bouse
Professor Plantinga
Religion 255: World Religion
Annotation assignment:Religions in Japan
Breen, John. "Resurrecting the Sacred Land of Japan." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies
37.2 (2010): 295-315. JSTOR. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.
This article looks at why Shinto, in recent years, devotes its time to selling Ise amulets
and its implication for Shinto in the twenty first century. The Ise Amulet is an amulet from a
Shinto Shrine that is hung in front of the house for protection; it comes from Ise Shrine. The
organization overseeing both the distribution and selling of these amulets is the Association of
Shinto Shrines (also known as NAS). Breen discusses reasons Shinto priests are selling these
amulets. One of the obvious reason for priest to sell amulets is to help support their Shrine.
Breen also discusses on the NAS's possible true intention when it comes to selling these amulets
by NAS. “NAS is forcing us to sell Ise amulets and make contributions for the rebuilding of the
Ise Shrine [in 2013], and our dissatisfaction is deepening. (Breen 311).
This article makes an interesting commentary on the current nature of NAS and Shinto.
The motivation to sell amulets for Shinto priests is to help their temple and the needs of their
people, whereas the NAS cares more about big ideas (change) in Shinto. “It is abundantly clear
that for the NAS these issues of very definitely secondary importance.” (313). From this one
perspective, there is an interesting view of Shinto. With the NAS lack's of care for its community
shows an interesting perspective of Shinto in the twenty-first century. According to surveys given
by NAS, “the survey revealed was 94 percent of twenty years old did not have, or did not know
they had, an Ise amulet.” (309). Regardless of NAS's efforts to increase the amount of amulets,
most of the younger generations of Japanese are knowing less about these objects.
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I read this this as my first annotation for this assignment, because I had little to no
understanding of Shinto prior to reading this article. As I read this, I was confused about the
context and the importance of these amulets. After doing other readings on Shinto, the article
became clearer. In order to grasp a better understanding of this article, it is best to do some
research on Shinto prior to this reading.
Kawahashi, Noriko. "Feminist Buddhism as Praxis: Women in Traditional Buddhism." Japanese
Journal of Religious Studies 30.3/4 (2003): 291-313. JSTOR. Web. 3 Nov. 2013
This article talks about Feminism in Zen Buddhism. The author discusses how traditions
in Zen Buddhism have had some change in recent years. For instance, Buddhist priests are now
allowed to get married. Although traditions have changed for the priests and then men in Zen,
traditions for women have not changed. The author discusses on two different accounts in terms
of women in Zen Buddhism.
In the first account, the main virtue of women in Buddhism is to obey the men. Women
are also “expected to commit themselves to secondary, supporting, or the behind-the-scenes
roles considered proper for a woman.” (Kawahashi 293). The second account “differs”, in that,
women are not able to comprehend and speak for themselves. So the men, “as experts in the
Buddhist view of human rights,” (293), must speak up for these women. These accounts are
considered “different”, but Kawahashi shows that these accounts both “portray and define these
women's subjecthood one-sidely.” (294)
After discussing these two “different” accounts, the author talks about how women in
Zen Buddhism are trying to find ways to reform Buddhism, making it more accessible to
Buddhist women. “These women's protests actually express their desire to Buddhism to life by
their own efforts. Their reasoning is that teachings that so constrain and belittle the lives and
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experiences of women cannot hold out hope of salvation to anyone” (300). There seems to be a
gender inequality in this particular Buddhism. However, this article shows women in their
religious communities trying to make reforms in their own religion.
It was interesting to see Buddhism from a different perspective than what we have
discussed about in class. While reading these two previously mentioned accounts, I did not see a
significant difference. I like the idea of women trying to make a change to reflect what is best for
their community. These women want to change and make Zen Buddhism more female friendly.
This way, it is more fair for them, and gives them the freedom to worship freely.
Tanabe, George Jr. J. "Popular Buddhist Orthodoxy in Contemporary Japan." Japanese Journal
of Religious Studies 31.2 (2004): 289-310. JSTOR. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
In this article, George Jr. Tanabe talks about the writings of two popular lay Buddhist
writers: Kino Kazuyoshi and Hiro Sachiya. First, he mentions Kino Kazuyoshi’s writings and
how he views the world through the eyes of a lay Buddhist. Kino's writing are of his personal
ideas of self affirmation, which are presented “through a loose association of stories and lessons
drawn from life.” (Tanabe 289). One example of his writing style comes from his book,
Watakushi no Tannisho, he talks about how humans believe they have free will, and control,
when it actuality there is control coming from a higher power.“Though we think we control our
lives, Kino continues, we are grasped by an eternal power. People can deny this, reject this, think
that they have been abandoned by it, but such denials do not change the primary condition in
which everyone lives in the life of the Buddha.” (294) .
Then Tanabe discusses Hiro Sachiya’s writings. Sachiya's writing differs from Kino's
writing. “...Hiro Sachiya argues for a Zen that champions individual freedom and disengagement
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from social expectations as an alternative to the stresses of Japanese life.” (289). For instance,
Sachiya is critical of those who make “invoice prayers” to the gods. Invoice prayers are prayers,
in which the person praying demands payment from the gods. “Invoice prays are bogus! One
should not offer invoice prayers to the gods and the Buddha. Prayers to the deities should be
prayers of gratitude that say, 'Thank You.' ” (298). Tanabe concludes the article by making
comparisons about the authors' belief in Buddhism, even with their different approaches to it.
It was interesting to read two similar but different views on Zen Buddhism. Between the
two authors I tend to agree with Kino's s more laid back writing, whereas Sachiya’s writing was
harsh and not as easy to relate to.
Ueda, Kenji. "Contemporary Social Change and Shinto Tradition." Japanese Journal of
Religious Studies 6.1/2 (1979): 303-27.JSTOR. Web. 15 Oct. 2013
In Kenji Ueda’s article, he speaks of the correlation between social change and Shinto
traditions. He brings up how this is a problem. Changes in the Shinto tradition resulted from
events occurring after World War II. Many traditions were changed due to the new Constitution,
including changes to traditions. Ueda discusses movements, led by the Association of Shinto
Shrine, in an effort to restore to the ways of original Shinto traditions. One of the movements
was the reestablishing of February 11th, as National Foundation Day. The movement of
reestablishing National foundation day, originally had to with “a matter of continue existence”
(Ueda 305). However, due to possible changes from the government (government suspending
the holiday). The movement changed in 1961 “to explicitly to restore National Foundation Day.”
Ueda goes further to discuss on basic Shinto responses to contemporary social change.
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He demonstrates this view through a variety of examples. One example dealing with the Fuji
Sengen Shrine. This case deals with the Shinto Shrine on Mount Fuji. There were plans to put
cable cars on one of the sides of the mountains, which to Shintoists would be entering sacred
area, so they went to court. “In 1962 it was finally decided that the top twenty percent of Mt. Fuji
belongs to the shrine.” (316-317). He then discusses problems of social change in terms of
modernization and secularization along with the factors that could affect this.
The article utilizes a decent amount of information on Shinto's history in the latter half of
the twentieth century and how social changes affected the transformation of Shinto into the
modern era. However, this article was written in 1979, so some information could be very out
dated in what it is presenting. It does not explain more recent changes in Shinto, just changes that
have happened from after World War to the late 1970’s. However the information that is does
present is still very insightful. Although the information it has is not current, it shows the
important correlation between Shinto and Contemporary changes after World War II.
Young, Damon A. "Bowing to Your Enemies: Courtesy, Budō, and Japan." Philosophy East and
West 59.2 (2009): 188-215.JSTOR. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.
Damon A. Young begins the article by discussing Akira Kurosawa’s first film, Sanshiro
Sugata. The movie is based on Tsuneo Tomita's book, also called Sanshiro Sugata, tells of the
beginnings of judo in the Meiji era. “ follows the fortunes of Sanshiro Sugata, a young man
who travels to the city to learn jujutsu from a famous teacher.” (Young 188) Young notes an
interesting trait that occurs in the fight scene of the film. Before Sugata and a master from
another school begin their match, they bow to each other; in the end Sugata wins the fight. After
Sugata defeats his opponent, both Sugata and his opponent give each other courtesy. But Young
Bouse 5
is surprised by this notion of courtesy. “What struck me about this scene was not only the
intensity of feeling, but also the depth of courtesy present in both combatants.” (Young 188). So
the author searches for the meaning behind courtesy by drawing distinctions from three main
religions in Japan: Shinto, Confucianism, and Zen Buddhism. The article puts all three religions
at the same level of importance.
This article is different from the other ones I have read for this assignment. Most of the
articles discuss one religion ( either Shinto or Buddhism). “...Nonetheless the Japanese martial
arts represent the creative preservation and development of the three great Japanese
philosophical traditions...Courtesy is the purity of Shinto, the wise propriety of Confucianism,
and the mischievous, brutal but kind of no mindedness of Zen. (206) This article, however,
discusses multiple religious practices that occur in Japan. (Shinto, Confucianism, and Zen
Buddhism) Young researches their impact and importance in all three religious practices have.
Mason, J.W.T. The Meaning of Shinto. Port Washington, N. Y: Kennikat Press, 1967. 15-240
This book, by J.W. T Mason, talks about the meaning of Shinto. But that statement is
very broad. What do I mean by “the meaning of Shinto”? Well, the book talks about multiple
topics that connect to Shinto's meaning. This includes the following: Japan's creative spirit and
the mythology of Shinto, Shinto's influence of Japanese culture and Shinto in comparison to
other ideals (religion and modernism).
Mason starts the book by discussing Japan's creative spirit. This “creative spirit” is
important in understanding Shinto, but also in understanding Japanese people. This spirit is “a
primaeval subconscious intuition that conceives humanity and Nature as divine spirit self
creating material without omnipotent guidance.” (Mason 15) This previous sentence is a good,
Bouse 6
short summary of Shinto; but this statement also shows the complications within Shinto. “But, to
know Shinto is difficult because Shinto is not a self-consciously evolved creed.” (Mason 15).
This difficulty in understanding Shinto is because it is different from our own West conception of
religion. In connection to Japan's creative spirit, Mason moves on to talk about the “creative
beginnings” in Shinto.“The Shinto description of the commencement of creation is dominated by
the subconscious idea of creative spontaneity (50). In Shinto, creation involves the spontaneity
that is caused by life.
Then, Mason makes connections with Shinto to other religions (primarily Western
religions). He points out the differences between Shinto and other mainstream religions. One
difference being “Shinto does not philosophize nor moralize about life nor does it attempt to
establish a relationship between man and divinity as a deliberate purpose.” (81) This previous
quote contrasts with how we define other religions in the world, especially with our Western
Christian perspective.
Mason makes references to how Shinto has impacted Japanese culture. One way that
Shinto has made an impact in Japan's culture is seen in Zen Buddhism. One aspect of this is Zen
Buddhism's attitude in regards to life is connected to Shinto. “The creative spirit of Shinto ever
presses for material attainments; ...the disciplines of mental powers of Zen has for its purpose the
stimulation of efficient activity (190).
Finally, Mason ends the book by Shinto in today's context in Japan. Nothing is constant
in the world, so the Shinto of hundreds of years ago had some differences to Shinto today. One
aspect of modernism in Japan that is influenced by Shinto religion is in Education. Shintoists see
the importance of Education. “Higher education for Shinto priests, in general, is essential for the
welfare of Shinto.” (240). It is important to know of Shinto not only for students in schools, but
Bouse 7
for adults as well. “Adults minds need instruction, too; and the proper place for it is the Shrines.
One section that I thought was very effective was the one on Shinto and Religion. In this
section,I thought some of the contrasting information was really effective. One example is the
discussion of Shinto in comparison to religions with omnipotent deities. “Shinto is atheistic in
that it does not recognize an omnipotent deity controlling the universe; but it is not unspiritual in
expressing.” (108) In most instances, one considers a religion that does not believe in a supreme
deity or deities to be an atheistic religion. However, this connotation may mean the loss of
spirituality,which is important in the Shinto religion.
Some of the material in this book is out dated. Although the copyright in this book reads
1967, it was originally released in the 1930s. The fact that it is outdated may come with the use
of his language. But also dealing with a lack of information as well. There may be more
examples that could be used in explaining concepts in the modern era. But with the information
that it does have, it is very useful.
In order to get a better insider perspective on a religion or culture, the outsider needs to
know and understand some of the insider language. A great use of understanding some Shinto
terms is seeing the Japanese characters (or kanji). However, the book does not use any kanji.This
may be because the book was written before simultaneously type write both English and
Japanese, or perhaps it creates less confusion for the average American. When a Japanese word,
that is important to Shinto, appears in the text, Mason italicizes the word and explains its
meaning. However, as someone who is studying Japanese, I know there are meanings within the
kanji, meaning coming from the individual symbol. If the words were written with the kanji
written next to them along with the meaning, this create an even broader level of understanding.
Bouse 8