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Question Are Temples & Mythical Creatures Considered as Sensitive Topics to be Adapted to Fictional Works?

vickyamin

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Hello all, nice to meet you! I’m a writer from Indonesia, and currently working on a fiction about Japan and its culture. The story revolves around the four mythical creatures in Japanese belief (Seiryu, Suzaku, Byakko, and Genbu), and will see the protagonist human characters exploring around temples and attractions across Japan, but in a fictional sense.

Before I’m writing too far, I want to know first how Japanese people feel about these topics — are they sensitive? Would it be considered a blasphemy to write a fiction about these topics?

For the mythical creatures, I’ve seen them being adapted freely in anime or manga. But as for temples, I’m not sure if Japanese people would be okay with fictional stories happening at real temples like Osaka’s Shitenno-ji and Nara’s Horyu-ji.

Can you offer me your views on this? It would really be helpful for me because I need to write something that doesn’t hurt any culture or religion/belief :)

Let’s discuss! Thanks in advance!
 

Lothor

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I can't imagine any problems unless you try to be deliberately provocative, and you don't sound like that sort of person! I'm speaking as long-term resident (16 years) or Japan.
 

vickyamin

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I can't imagine any problems unless you try to be deliberately provocative, and you don't sound like that sort of person! I'm speaking as long-term resident (16 years) or Japan.

Thanks for this (also for the compliment :D), it's such a relief to know! But out of curiosity, why do you think it won't be any problem? Is it because the open-mindedness of Japanese people, or is it because the topics are not that sensitive (unless, as you said, deliberately provoked)?

See, I'm coming from a place where religions are really sensitive that a small twist that doesn't align with the actual belief can be seen as an act of harassment (sometimes can be considered against the law). This makes me think that other religions and culture around the world would react the same way...
 
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Many Japanese participate in both Shinto and Buddhist rituals and also celebrate Christmas.... and they definitely use any element of any religion, Japanese or foreign, that they want to use in their fiction, without hesitation.


I'm coming from a place where religions are really sensitive that a small twist that doesn't align with the actual belief can be seen as an act of harassment (sometimes can be considered against the law).

I don't know a lot about Indonesia, but since you say this, and I notice Buddhism is one of the recognized religions, I'd be a lot more worried about local reaction. I don't know if it being a distant foreign sect makes it less protected or not. Buddhist tradition is very different in different parts of the world, but since it shares the same name and a common origin, it might be considered the same religion as your local Buddhism.

If you think what you write would be fine with local Buddhists, then I can't imagine the Japanese being bothered by it.
 

Lothor

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Thanks for this (also for the compliment :D), it's such a relief to know! But out of curiosity, why do you think it won't be any problem? Is it because the open-mindedness of Japanese people, or is it because the topics are not that sensitive (unless, as you said, deliberately provoked)?
I think that SomeCallMeChris nicely answered your question. Basically there's a blurring between the religious and secular in Japan, possibly because of the animist history of the country - and for most people, say, putting some rice on the family shrine in the house or buying an omikuji at a temple or the ridiculous attitude of prayer that television personalities make when they're hoping that the question they answered in a quiz show is correct are rituals conducted without much thought rather than religious observance (no criticism intended apart from toward the television personalities!). Without the clear division, it may be more difficult to take offence at religion.

There are also no commandments from above telling people not to take God's name in vain.
 

vickyamin

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I don't know a lot about Indonesia, but since you say this, and I notice Buddhism is one of the recognized religions, I'd be a lot more worried about local reaction. I don't know if it being a distant foreign sect makes it less protected or not. Buddhist tradition is very different in different parts of the world, but since it shares the same name and a common origin, it might be considered the same religion as your local Buddhism.

Whoa you've got a point there, thanks for the reminder! As far as I know, Indonesian Buddhists don't really have such mythical creatures (Hinduism would more likely have this) and they go to different type of worship place, totally different from Japanese temples. But it's a very great recommendation, I would also check on local Buddhists and Hindus to see if this can be sensitive for them.

Also, thanks a lot about your explanation on the Japanese themselves. I'm so happy that it seems like a green light for my story :D
 

vickyamin

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I think that SomeCallMeChris nicely answered your question. Basically there's a blurring between the religious and secular in Japan, possibly because of the animist history of the country - and for most people, say, putting some rice on the family shrine in the house or buying an omikuji at a temple or the ridiculous attitude of prayer that television personalities make when they're hoping that the question they answered in a quiz show is correct are rituals conducted without much thought rather than religious observance (no criticism intended apart from toward the television personalities!). Without the clear division, it may be more difficult to take offence at religion.

There are also no commandments from above telling people not to take God's name in vain.

This is a very comprehensive and reasonable explanation, looking back to the history of animist in Japan. I've also seen some local Japanese TV personalities paid visits to temples, but mostly in serious manner (making me a bit more doubtful in talking about this topic), but your sample gave me a new perspective on religion views in Japan.

Thanks a lot, Lothor! It's a very mind-opening discussion :D
 
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