Presentation on Shintoism..Any info. would be helpful.
April 1, 2009 10:17 PM   Subscribe

Presentation on Shintoism...any info. would be helpful

Hi, I'm taking a class on world religions and my group is giving a presentation here in a few weeks on shintoism, just wondering if anyone practices that religion or knows about about that religion, from a personal perspective preferably, we want to make this educational though very interesting not like we're only presenting info./facts we found on the web, maybe making it where our classmates can take something away w/ them. perhaps a short activity. any suggestions would be excellent!

posted by lwclec072 to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My Neighbor Totoro, if you haven't already thought of it, is a great movie full of Shinto themes.
posted by birdie birdington at 10:56 PM on April 1, 2009

It's a relatively complex topic. The main issue from my perspective is how it relates to the history and role of Buddhism in Japan. This book is a good starting place. Don't know how to help past that.
posted by devilsbrigade at 10:57 PM on April 1, 2009

Try looking through some Joseph Campbell. I'm certain The Power of Myth has some anecdotes, "We don't have theology. We dance." This book Sake & Satori looks to be full of stuff.
posted by Outis at 11:09 PM on April 1, 2009

Oh yeah, Spring Snow (and Runaway Horses), while a novel, talks about and describes Shinto rituals and festivals. Plus it's one of the best things you'll ever read.
posted by birdie birdington at 11:12 PM on April 1, 2009

Or you could watch the movie version of Spring Snow. Mishima can be very dense. Better yet, watch the first and last sections of Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:57 AM on April 2, 2009

I recommend the book "Shinto: The Way Home" by Thomas Kasulis.
posted by mustard seeds at 6:25 AM on April 2, 2009

Not snark: when Googling for this, use "Shinto" without the "ism". "Shintoism" is what you call it when you're a mutton-chopped scholar from the 19th century. You will not get useful info with that term.
posted by No-sword at 7:32 AM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you want to look at modern or occidental interpretations, check out Matthew Barney's film Drawing Restraint 9, starring he and Bjork. Some of it is available on YouTube. In one scene, they recreate an elaborate tea ceremony.
posted by hermitosis at 7:44 AM on April 2, 2009

Some useful books look to be available online via your college's subscriptions to the NetLibrary and Gale Virtual Reference Library databases:

Shinto: A Short History

The Encyclopedia of Religion [see the "Shinto" entry]

I'd definitely follow up by calling (270-384-8102) and asking a librarian for more suggestions - there are probably print books sitting on the shelf right now that you could using to finish this assignment ;)
posted by ryanshepard at 8:05 AM on April 2, 2009

nthing My Neighbor Totoro, the Shinto references are many plus it's a good movie. Examples of Shinto: the Shimenawa (rope marking the camphor tree), the torii (gate) along the road. The sense of wonder.

2nding Kasulis Shinto: The Way Home (2004) which covers personal and political sides of Shinto (eg the Yasukuni Shrine controversy and Imperialist Japan's use of Shinto). One interesting thing he does is to frame Shinto from existentialist (I feel this way so I am Shinto) and essentialist (I am Shinto so I should feel this way) views and uses this to describe the changes in Shinto from the earliest records to today.

An older book, Sokyo Ono's Shinto: The Kami Way (1962) was the first book on Shinto I read but my memory of it is that parts felt dated. It should be fairly easy to find and is short.

Mikkel Aaland's The Sword of Heaven: A Five Continent Odyssey to Save the World (2000) is a personal story of trying to bring peace. Interesting read, but probably not before a presentation.

And John Nelson's A Year In the Life of a Shinto Shrine (1996) has been recommended to me, but I haven't read it yet.
posted by kbibb at 8:50 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Personally, I have lived in at least two houses with a "kami-dana" or a god shelf. I rented out one those houses for five years, and my wife told me: never touch the kami-dana, and if you start offering things like water, salt and laurel leaves, well, you're going to awaken the resident diety and will have to be prepared to keep making offerings every day.

Needless to say, I never touched the god shelf in that house, and the kami slumbered on, blissfully ignorant of our presence.

The second house was my in-law's house. My mother-in-law (born, raised and lived within a three-block area in rural Japan for her entire life) made offerings of salt and fresh water to the resident kami every day. She suffered a stroke a couple of years ago, and the offerings stopped. When my wife and I returned for a few months last year to help out, my wife did not make offerings to the kami in order not to awaken it.

My father-in-law made his living as a fortune teller. He specialized in numerology, and made "o-mamori" charms that helped people pass exams, drive safely, bear children, and find a suitable mate, and this is somewhat related to Shinto or kami, but has more to do with the lucky aspects of the stroke count of the Chinese characters written on the inside of the charm. It was a *very* lucrative business for him.

While he was in the hospital before he died ten years ago, I would take my wife and my mother-in-law to the local shrine to pray to the kami for his deliverance. While it didn't work (nor did my mother-in-law or my wife expect it to) both women genuinely believed in the kami they were praying to. It wasn't just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, it was part of their life.

I myself prayed to kami when our first son was near death shortly after birth. I visited a very old temple (1000+ years old) in Obama devoted to Yakushi-nyorai, the boddisattva of healing. Yakushi-nyorai is a Buddhist deity, but there are some connections to kami. The abbot recited a prayer for me, and gave me an o-mamori amulet. My son recovered.

You can't really separate Shinto from Buddhism. You don't really "practice" Shinto - it's just a part of daily life. I would recommend reading "The Catalpa Bow" by Carmen Blacker, if you can find it. It's a really, really good introduction to Japanese folk belief, include Shinto.

Shinto is really all about the respect, acknowledgment and worship of "kami", or gods. Generally speaking, in Japan there has always been formalized (and organized) religion, and folk beliefs. Kami are everywhere - in stones, rivers, trees, plots of earth and on the tops of mountains. There are shrines for these kami. The organized, "controlled" and formalized system of Shinto is relatively recent, and dates back to the Meiji Restoration, when the new government wanted to restore and promote "true" and "native" Japanese beliefs and characteristics that were "uncorrupted" by foreign religions such as Buddhism.

Up until the Meiji Restoration, kami shrines (I'm not going to use the word Shinto here) were administered (repaired, operated, maintained, etc) by Buddhist temples, usually the Shingon sect. It was not uncommon at all to find a shrine as part of a Buddhist temple.

The Meiji government changed all that, and set up a separate Shinto system, and really took control of the entire "kami" concept. It was all part of the nationalism movements of the late 18th century. Other countries such as Italy and Germany were discovering or inventing their own ethnic and national cultures, and Japan was the same. The "traditional" Japanese wedding ceremony was invented at this time. Japanese scholars and diplomats who had traveled to Europe noticed that European countries had their own elaborate wedding ceremonies, and so Japan decided that it needed its "uniquely" Japanese counterpart, cloaked in the mumbo-jumbo of state Shintoism. Of course, the Japanese court and nobility had always observed specific wedding ceremonies, but everyone else sought blessing from a Buddhist priest or a Shinto "kan-nushi", had a banquet and that was it.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:35 PM on April 2, 2009 [7 favorites]

Oh, and I would add that, most importantly, kami are local and are not meant to be controlled by any organized religion, or by the state. Kami are rooted in Japanese folk beliefs. The peasantry always believed in them. The Buddhist temples fostered and maintained the shrines (and made money off of them), and the State just took over and harnessed them. But the folk beliefs are a seperate, almost independent undercurrent.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:39 PM on April 2, 2009

Also, right from Metafilter, Kami no Michi: The Life and Thought of a Shinto Priest. KokoRyu's answer is awesome, by the way. A phrase that I've heard tossed around a decent amount is, "born shinto, die Buddhist" -- you can google for the implications of it, but it kind of sums a bunch of ideas up and might be a good starting place for presenting the ideas to others.
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:25 PM on April 2, 2009

Shinto is not a unified religion. It's the name for non-Buddhist ethnic religious practices in Japan. The reason it has a name at all is because the Meiji era government wanted to turn the emperor into a religious figure, so they developed State Shinto and attempted (unsuccessfully) to separate or exterminate Buddhism.

If you want a book that will give you as good a perspective on Japanese religion as actually taking a trip to the country, I recommend Religion in Contemporary Japan.

Hope that helps you with your paper.
posted by shii at 9:58 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

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