Considering the often wonderfully relaxed approach to religion in Japan, it’s still sometimes surprising to see a relatively steady stream of worshippers at many of Tokyo’s temples and shrines. But whether a lot of these trips are of a spiritual or more superstitious nature, is really hard to say. It could also be down to simple custom too. Yet whatever the actual reason, the seemingly quite ambiguous nature of many visits is really quite fascinating.
And at New Year, when the trickle of visitors very quickly becomes a torrent, such contrasting intentions become clear — yet at the same time, utterly unclear.
There’s reverence, and irreverence.
Plus seriousness, and simply pleasure.
All in the same frame. Often in the same family. Carried out all over the country.
I think a lot of it is: “My father did it, I’m supposed to do it”… which then evolves into “We all do it. I do it.” And if you ask why, they just repeat the above statement.
That is at least what I get out of my own in-laws and their family.
Very few take it seriously (or they would do it throughout the year) and very few do it in a thoughtful, spiritual manner (otherwise, they would always do it in the same place â€” I can’t see anyone thinking that some local deity or demi-whatever would happily give away some form of power or blessing to people he didn’t know or didn’t know him and never visited his temple just because he was given a few coins.)
not meaning to start an argument here though… sorry if that was offensive.
Not offensive at all James.
That’s always been my assumption to be honest. Especially so at New Year. The number of people who go to shrines and temples during the rest of the year does surprise me though. Along with the mixture of those who do so. But again, how much of their visit is simply habit or expectation, is very hard to say.
Marc Tobolski says
Should I pull the rope,
ring the bell or talk to the
Gods via my Handy?
By email I reckon!
Mike Smith says
It’s all about tradition……. and that’s all it needs to be.
New Year definitely. The reasons behind visits throughout the year though may not be quite so simple though. That’s what really fascinates me.
Same here – lots of folks turning in, and if you care to ask – each does so for an entirely different reason. Perhaps if they tried to agree on their reasons, no one would show…
I wonder whether it takes a dozen centuries or so for such a spirit of celebration, or whatever you might wish to call it… to clot up one way or another. In any case, it makes most talk of consensus and representation sound foolish enough. I doubt anyone cares very much, however. No sweat. Apparently, there is no need.
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year to you too!
Yes, the fact that nobody cares one way or another is probably the key point.
Hans ter Horst says
I agree, it is tradition, especially the hatsumÅde visit to the shrine and it does make people feel better. I’m not religious at all but I do enjoy the occasional visit to a shrine where I put the few yen in the box, ring the bells and fold my hands to focus on what really is important in my life. In the chaos and the materialness of the modern world, I find this refreshing. I think most people visiting temples and shrines do this for the same reason.
That’s a very good point. I’m the same, but I do like visiting temples and shrines. The peace and quiet along with the surroundings are perfect for taking a little time out.
The slight ritual choreography you mention does feel good, must agree. It certainly helps to have a familiar one, but wouldn’t call this a necessary condition. I do not know what the feeling is by any other name: perhaps some deep acknowledgement that shared gestures among strangers are reassuring… perhaps a small part of the jumble of emotion packaged by religion. And not the one oddly universal.
Oops! The last sentence should have been: and not the only one oddly universal. Sorry for the mess…
Always a pleasure turning to Tokyo Times, by the way!
Not at all. And thanks, glad you enjoy coming here.
That’s a very good point. For me, the most enjoyable parts of the New Year celebrations are the crowds, the camaraderie and the generally jovial mood. Things not always found in Tokyo.
Can I just say – fantastic photos.
Thank you very much!