In Japan, there is a traditional religion called “Shinto” or “Shintoism” which is believed to have originated in Japan and the history of this religion goes back to the age when the country of Japan was not clearly founded. This religion has been transmitted from generation to generation and Shinto has been affecting so many customs in the daily life of Japanese people. There are lots of shrines and temples in Japan. Shrines are symbol of Shinto and temples are symbol of Buddhism.
When Shinto was believed by Japanese people as a dominant religion, new religion was introduced from China. It was Buddhism and the introduction to Japan took place back in 538. After this, both religions have been existing in Japan, which is a quite unusual situation and seldom found in foreign countries. Japanese people have been believing in both religions namely Shinto and Buddhism since the 6th century. This does not mean that some people believed in Shinto and some believed in Buddhism but it means that each person believes in two different religions , which is quite unbelievable judging from the common sense of religious concept. On top of that in our daily life, Confucianism has been followed from generation to generation.
And according to the philosophy of these three religions, Japanese people are still living their daily life. Suppose a brand new baby is born, parents usually go to shrine (Shinto symbol) to pray for a healthy and fortunate life for their baby. On the other hand if somebody passes away, a funeral ceremony is held according to the Buddhism rites by inviting a Buddhist priest. On the new year day, many people go to a temple or shrine to pray for a good life throughout the new year. Various traditional events of the Japanese royal family are still held strictly in traditional Shinto rites.
In spite of the above mentioned history and current situation where Buddhism and Shinto are deeply rooted in Japan, here is one more religion which is Christianity “supported” by Japanese people. If you visit Japan in December, you must find lots of beautiful Christmas decorations at various locations. Recently many people in Japan display Christmas ornaments at home in spite of the fact that most of them are Buddhist. According to my perception, they just make Christmas home decorations as one of annual fashion events and not because they believe in Jesus Christ. The customs of Christianity can be found not only on the display of Christmas trees and home decorations but also Christmas gifts. Many kids in Japan are given Christmas gifts by their parent. As a result of this customs, most of Japanese kids are given Christmas gifts in addition to New Year’s gift (usually present of cash called “OTOSHIDAMA”) which is a well established customs in Japan.
When I was a little girl going back to more than 50 years ago, only few kids were given Christmas gifts from their parent because the customs of celebrating Christmas was not so deeply rooted.
It was quite natural that people who are not Christians do not celebrate Christmas. However it looks like the customs of celebrating Christmas has spread in many countries no matter whether they have their own religion except for some limited number of countries where Christianity is not accepted at all.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at wedding ceremonies held in Japan. I can find strange “customs” in the case of wedding ceremony as well especially among young generations. Despite they are not Christians, many of young couples hold Christianity style of wedding ceremony at a Christian church. Until 50 years ago, most couples held wedding ceremony strictly in rites of Shinto which is the traditional religion originated in Japan.
Then how about the typical funeral ceremony in Japan ?. Most of Japanese people follow the customs of Buddhism and funerals are held strictly in Buddhism rites. In this particular case, they seldom follow Shinto rites. By the present time, most people who are reading this article must be quite confused. They must have simple question “What is the main religion of Japanese people ? ” This question is quite understandable because from occasion to occasion Japanese people follow different religions. Frankly I can easily guess people who are dedicated Christians cannot understand the religious behavior of most Japanese people.
I can introduce another story with which you will be even more confused. The grand parents of the present Japanese empress (Empress Michiko) were dedicated Christians. Although the Empress Michiko was not baptized, she got education at Christian school from Elementary school until graduation of the University called University of The Sacred Heart Tokyo. This school belongs to The Society of the Sacred Heart which was established by Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat (Santa Magdalena Sofia Barat) in France back in 1800.
If this is a story of British royal family, it must be impossible that the prince of Great Britain gets married with a lady who graduated from a school of other religion than Christianity. As seen from above, it looks like Japanese people have been quite lenient and generous to competitive religions and still now such situation is going on. Some people say it looks like Japanese people might not have any clear policy about how to handle foreign religions although the government tried to restrict and prohibit Christianity in the 16th century.
It is quite interesting to know that people in Japan do not intentionally refuse the customs of Christianity in spite of the fact that the population of Christians who are baptized represent less than 1% of total Japanese people. This percentage is considered pretty low especially compared with the situation of the next door country Korea where the population of Christians represent about 30% which is higher than the population of Buddhist.
California Flower Art Academy introduces various articles and news relating to flower designs, floral events and also holiday celebration from all over the world. This article has nothing to do with flower designs or floral arrangements. However Christmas decoration in the United States reminds me of the celebration of Christmas in Japan and just wanted to introduce the Japanese situation relating to Christmas and Christianity in Japan.