Bishop: JinK-san, I went to a Japanese wedding last weekend.
It was interesting to see things that were in my Japanese textbook about Japanese weddings were actually true.
JinK: Such as?
Bishop: First of all, the wedding was done by a priest in a Christian church,
although neither the bride nor groom were Christian.
JinK: That’s pretty common. Only 1 or 2 percent of Japanese people are Christian,
but more than 70% of weddings are done Christian-style.
Bishop: Why would someone have a Christian ceremony if they are not Christian?
JinK: I think the biggest reason is that Japanese brides want to wear a wedding dress.
Christian weddings have become more and more popular ever since Princess Diana’s wedding was televised.
Brides want to be a princess on that one special day.
Bishop: That makes sense. It still seems odd to make vows to a god they don’t believe in.
JinK: It is odd, but it would also be odd to wear a wedding dress to a Shinto ceremony at a shrine.
A Shiromuku (Shinto-style white wedding dress) fits best in the atmosphere of a Shrine,
and a wedding dress fits best in the atmosphere of a church.
It’s more of a fashion statement than anything.
Bishop: Hmmm, interesting. But a wedding is a religious ceremony, not a fashion statement.
It would be hard to imagine Christians having a Shinto ceremony as a fashion statement.
To make matters worse, a lot of the priests doing the ceremonies in Japan are English teachers
doing it as a side job, not real priests.
I hear it pays quite well actually. Are Japanese people OK with the priests not being real?
JinK: I know how you feel. But most Japanese are not Christians anyway, so they don’t care
whether or not the priest is real.
As a practical issue, I think there are just a lot of fake priests since there are so few Christians in Japan.
Bishop: Ah, so that’s why… one thing I don’t get about Japanese people, is how they can go to a Shinto shrine
to celebrate New Years, have a wedding in a Christian church, then have their funeral in a Buddhist temple.
Why do Japanese people use different religions for different things? Do Japanese people just have
an anything-goes attitude about religion? Do they actually believe anything?
JinK: It’s hard to say anything definitively about religion, since it’s such a complicated topic.
I think it would be wrong to say that Japanese have no principles regarding religion, though.
Bishop: Go on…
JinK: I think that Shinto forms the base of the Japanese belief system.
Historically, Japan has always had earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and other natural disasters,
so we have a strong sense of awe toward nature. Nature has also always seen as the giver of life
– people prayed for fertility and for good harvests.
So Japanese believe that there are 8 million gods (8 million used to be the largest number known,
and was used to represent the concept of “multitudinous”).
We feel that there are gods everywhere – gods in the mountains, gods in the rice paddies,
gods in the bathroom, gods in the kitchen, and gods all over the place in our everyday life.
For example, it is said that there are 7 gods in every grain of rice.
That is why Japanese people feel we should treat nature as a blessing, and not waste
even one grain of rice by leaving it in the bowl. Of course, not every Japanese person feels that way, though.
Bishop: That makes sense.
JinK: Shinto doesn’t have dogma like Christianity does, so it’s more like a spiritual base for Japanese people,
rather than a religion per se. On top of that base, you have elements of Buddhism,
Bushido (the way of the warrior), and Confucianism.
I’d say that’s the basic spiritual structure of Japanese people.
Bishop: Hmmm, that’s complicated.
JinK: I’m no expert, and I don’t understand religion that deeply, so there are a lot of things I shouldn’t be so hasty to say.
But to put it very simply, Shinto for Japanese people is like a computer’s Operating System, acting as base.
There are a lot of different types of applications and middleware that work on top of that.
There’s Buddhism for how to deal with death, and there’s Bushido and Confucianism for
how to live your everyday life.
I think that in America, freedom, individualism and the frontier spirit are like the Operating System,
and there are lots of applications on top of that. Just my personal opinion, though.
Bishop: I see. But I still don’t get why people would say vows before a priest when they are not Christian.
JinK: I think that’s because the wedding vows hit close to the heart of Japanese people.
I think the words are wonderful: “Do you promise to love her and comfort her, to honor her, to keep her
in sickness and health, in good times and bad, in prosperity and in adversity, as long as you both shall live?”
It’s very Japanese to take in things that we think are good or important and use them as our own.
Bishop: I see. So Christianity is similar to Bushido and Confucianism for Japanese people – an application to be used
when it fits the purpose, which does not have to conflict with the Shinto base.
JinK: Precisely. Another way to think about it is that Japanese have 8,000,001 gods – the 8 million gods of Shinto
plus the Christian God because they believe their wedding vows. Japanese people just think Gods are Gods and
most of us do not have a clear distinctions among them, though.
Bishop: When you put it that way, I think I may want to have a Shinto ceremony for my wedding.
I think the Hakama that men wear look really cool, and they haven’t really been used much in America before.
I like the way Japanese think about nature, and it is in my Operating System to do things different
and be somewhat of a pioneer (LOL)
JinK: If you do, I’ll be your Kaminushi (Shinto priest). I don’t think you’ll find them so easily in America.
I’ll even give you a discount (LOL).
Fact #8: In Japan, more than 70% of weddings are done Christian-style
while only 1 or 2 % of Japanese people are Christian.
by Bishop & JinK.