Six months since Japan, I’ve got serious itchy shrine feet!….metaphorically itchy, I’ve totally clean toes!
I guess I wouldn’t call myself a religious person, and I still don’t. My need for Shinto shrines is fundamentally different from a religious need, more of a spiritual chill out. Shinto being the indigenous spirituality of Japan, and saying spirituality instead of religion is actually important. Its structured so different that it really isn’t akin to religion as we know it in the west. Of course there are beliefs in Shinto, multiple gods, both human like and animistic, and codes of discipline to live life by, but not necessarily doctrine.
I asked many of my co-workers and friends in Japan about religion, (as they were plenty eager to learn about Jesus) and the same statement kept something up, Shinto takes you through life, and Buddhism takes you through the afterlife. I’ll natter about Buddhism another time 😉
Shinto therefore gets all the fun festivals during the year, spring and summer celebrations, ceremonies for young children to celebrate different special ages called shichigosan (shichi-7 go -5 san-3), and also each local shrine will have its own community festival during the year linked to a special event in its own local history.
Why I like the shrines, its a time out. There is a process to a shrine visits. Usually climb a big hill to get there, then find a slatted box that centers an alter, make an offering of money, usually 5 yen (couple of cent), ring the bell, bow twice, clap twice, bow once. I think that is an official way of it, but as long as you throw in some money bow and clap at some point I’m sure the message is getting heard.
For me the act of going to such a calm and quiet place, having something on your mind and then making a big bunch of noises is a cathartic experience. So to recreate that here in Dublin I need to find a quite sacred spot and make lots of noise…..that wont bother anybody!
Above image is from 北野天満宮, Kitano Tenmangū, this shrine is associated with the god of education and is nearly always flocked with students hoping for success in exams. I like it because of the two life sized brass bulls at the entrance that you rub for luck! more pics on my flikcr