ABSTRACT

Japan is spiritual. In thinking about the symbols of Japan in Exercise 1.1, it may be that you included its Buddhist temples or Shintō shrines. Such places naturally become the focus for tourist activities in Japan. Consequently, it is natural to assume that most Japanese are religious. Yet many Japanese do not consider themselves to be religious. How can we explain this paradox? This is one of the questions that this chapter will address. As you will discover, central to much ‘religious’ activity in Japan are attitudes to death, and this chapter will look at how deaths are remembered and memorialised as an example of this. Building upon this, the chapter will then go on to consider another paradox: why is it that in a country where rituals relating to remembering and paying respects to the dead, in which cele - brating the living is a key component, are so many seemingly prepared to end their own lives through suicide? The chapter concludes by looking at the ways in which religion may influence another part of Japanese society and culture: the nature of Japanese service. To help with our discussions about religion in Japan, please complete Exercise 5.1.