Making Peace with the KamiPosted: January 13, 2011 | Author: Doug 陀愚 | Filed under: Religion, Shinto | 1 Comment »
Recent newcomer, Cocomino, has been posting some excellent photos of Japan in his blog. This photo in particular really caught my eye. This is a photo of a very popular Shinto ceremony called jichinsai (地鎮祭), which as Ian Reader explains in his book:
New building projects in Japan usually involve a Shinto ritual known as a jichinsai, or ground-breaking ceremony, in which the local kami area placated and their cooperation is sought for the successful completion and safe continuity of the structure. (pg. 67)
Indeed, from reading this book and other sources, it seems to me that Shinto is a way of life for cultivating relationships with various kami. The ritual above is intended to placate the kami that inhabits a certain area of land, but the key here is the human-kami relationship. A relationship with a kami may seem mundane, since it is usually for concrete needs (business, health, success in love or exams), but in time it can develop into something closer. As the book explains later:
Sincerity and gratitude [cardinal virtues in Shinto] are interlinked: one should be sincere towards the kami, and at the same time retain a sense of gratitude towards the kami. Gratitude is an important attribute for Shinto, and it is a basic injunction of Shinto that when one is praying to the kami, one should do so in a spirit of gratitude and thanks for their benevolence in providing the good things of life. Equally, petitioners should return to shrines to give thanks for favours granted – an obligation which, although not always followed, hints at the establishment of a continuing relationship.
Indeed, one Japanese study of the attitudes of shrine visitors at Ishikiri Shrine near Osaka, showed that a large number of of them were regular visitors, whose prayers had been answered in the past by the shrine kami, and who had made return visits of thanks as a result, which had developed into a continuing practice. (pg. 111-112)
The jichinsai ceremony is more of a standard ritual, but it shows how even basic rituals are part of a complex relationship between the kami and people, and in some cases can develop into life-long ones.
Given my visit to Yushima Tenmangū Shrine last year, and my sincere petition to Tenjin to help me pass the JLPT, I do indeed plan to go back if I pass the N2 and offer thanks myself.
As Humphrey Bogart said at the end of the movie Casablanca: