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Discussion about Shinto

Student01

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Hallo everyone,

I'm a university student looking to have a discussion about Shinto with a Japanese person, for the purpose of writing a term paper on the subject of comparative religion. I was wondering if anyone here would be willing to have a conversation on this topic. Anyone who's interested, I'll be grateful if you let me know!
 

thomas

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I'm not sure what you mean by conversation (interview, debates?), but if you have any questions, just post them to this thread.
 

Glenski

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Yes, do post the questions first. There aren't many Japanese here, and it would help them decide whether to agree to any sort of "discussion" if they knew what you were going to discuss.

for the purpose of writing a term paper on the subject of comparative religion
Ah, so you are conducting a survey. I wonder how many people you need before it's a valid survey...25? 50? 100?
Comparative religion sounds like a very hefty topic. Shinto is not something like Catholicism or Protestantism, you know, so it's not like people will have as specific concepts. Most Japanese don't even claim to adhere to any sort of religious teachings, and they don't usually have much concrete to say about their adherence to Shinto in the first place, so heads up there on potentially vague and disparate responses.

And having any sort of discussion in English may not be as easy as you imagine. Be very, very, very careful in framing your discussion points.
 

Student01

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Thanks for your replies.

It's not anything as elaborate as a survey or a debate. What I had in mind for this assignment was a simple one-to-one conversation with a follower of Shinto about what they believe in and why. My questions would be mainly about their creed (principles of faith, the theoretical aspect of the religion if I can put it that way), the practical aspect of their religion (acts of worship, rituals, etc.) and what role Shinto has in their lives and in today's society according to them. It's a very basic sort of affair and the questions will be for a regular person, not a scholar of Shinto or anything (though that would be a plus in this case), just an ordinary individual who adheres to Shinto principles and teachings and believes in the Shinto creed.

This is the general outline of where I want to go with this.

Most Japanese don't even claim to adhere to any sort of religious teachings, and they don't usually have much concrete to say about their adherence to Shinto in the first place
I suppose if most folks are vague and so on with regards to Shinto, whoever volunteers to have a conversation about it would probably be someone to whom it's important? Either way, I don't mind; I just want to get a general idea of what a follower of Shinto believes in and why, and have an exchange with them about it. It's their perspective I want.

And having any sort of discussion in English may not be as easy as you imagine. Be very, very, very careful in framing your discussion points.
I'll keep that in mind.. I was actually expecting it.
 

Glenski

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You should also keep in mind that there really aren't solid tangible things like religious tenets or dogma in Shintoism. And, most people here that I've discussed this with are just passive about the whole thing and don't even claim that most Japanese hold to any belief at all, yet they recognize that the outside world likes to label them as "followers" of Shintoism.

My initial reaction to your mail is this: what is there to follow? That's for you, not them.
 

Toritoribe

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And having any sort of discussion in English may not be as easy as you imagine.
I totally agree with this. If I can answer in Japanese, there is no problem to answer any kind of questions.
 

Student01

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You should also keep in mind that there really aren't solid tangible things like religious tenets or dogma in Shintoism.
Yes, I've read this in some of the library sources I referred to. I haven't ever been to Japan or known Japanese people so I'm finding it a bit difficult to understand just what they (generally speaking) live by in everyday life, because I've read that Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan + that it now mostly shows in the Japanese people's attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle rather than belief and worship.

I'm guessing Shinto in Japan is a bit like Buddhism (currently) in China? I've heard from a Chinese friend something to the effect that though a number of Chinese do have shrines and altars at home and outside, they don't really have a fixed set of beliefs and acts of worship. Rather, they have a materialistic way of life/follow a materialistic philosophy because they were influenced by Communism, or because they are in fact Communists.

P.S. This post is not meant to generalise; I just want to get opinions and views on this from people who know so that I can reach a sort of understanding of what Shinto means to regular people in Japan, what it is to them. I wish I could talk about this in Japanese, but I can't as yet.
 

Glenski

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I've heard from a Chinese friend something to the effect that though a number of Chinese do have shrines and altars at home and outside, they don't really have a fixed set of beliefs and acts of worship
I think you're going to find pretty much that in Japan, too. People will pray at a shrine at the beginning of new year, and at funerals. That's the extent to which I can put any acts, although I don't think you'll find that they worship anything of consequence.

I'm finding it a bit difficult to understand just what they (generally speaking) live by in everyday life
It's more of a code of personal ethics, certain levels of respect and self-image. No real need for any deity, and I can fully appreciate that.
 

Student01

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I see. Where I come from, we do tend overall to have stronger religious feeling and greater observance in comparison, manifested in various forms. It has been my experience that religion is a bigger part of people's lives here than what I imagine Shinto is in Japan. Well, here's the email address I made for this account, for whoever wants to talk about this subject further, as I'll not be frequenting the forum this week. I'll be glad to hear from you.
 

WonkoTheSane

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I kind of liken it to how I am Jewish.

When people ask, I say I'm Jewish. Yet I really don't go to services, believe in the religious aspects (G-d, miracles, etc.). Perhaps once every few years I'll attend Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, but mostly out of respect for my family and because it's comfortable.

I do, however, subscribe heavily to the secular/cultural aspects of being Jewish. I believe strongly in giving to charity/helping my neighbors, doing volunteer work, treating people with respect, commitment to family, and, basically, living my life as a mensch and doing mitzvahs.

I think it's similar.
 

Student01

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Hallo everyone. Here's a video I found while searching for material for this assignment. I found it quite interesting so I thought I'd share it:

 
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