Omamori: Japanese Charms

Since New Year has come and gone, this is a time where people frequently purchase an omamori (御守り) charm for the year, while returning the previous year’s charm for proper, not to mention respectful, disposal. Because my family and I visit Japan every year since 2005 to see my wife’s family, I’ve picked up aContinue reading “Omamori: Japanese Charms”

The Seven Luck Gods

As 2021 draws to a close, this is a nice opportunity to review a fascinating aspect of Japanese spirituality: the Seven Luck Gods! The Seven Luck Gods or shichi-fukujin (七福神) exemplify the syncretic nature of Japanese religion, because the seven gods have different origins including some native Shinto kami to Hindu gods who have undergoneContinue reading “The Seven Luck Gods”

Japanese Pilgrimage Books

While many foreign tourists visit Buddhist temples (otera お寺) and Shinto shrines (jinja 神社), few know about a custom that has been around for centuries: pilgrimage books. The pilgrimage book or shuinchō (朱印帳), often called go-shuinchō (ご朱印帳), is a book for collecting stamps, often accompanied with some calligraphy, called a shuin (朱印). This practice, accordingContinue reading “Japanese Pilgrimage Books”

The Many Many Kami of Shinto Religion

In the past, I’ve touched on the subject of Shinto religion, and its great many kami (神) who range from great deities to little more than nature spirits or revered historical figures. In Japanese Shinto there is a saying: ya-o-yorozu no kami (八百万の神) which means “the Eight Million kami (of Japan)” which captures this sense,Continue reading “The Many Many Kami of Shinto Religion”

Happy Belated New Year!

Hello Readers! Although the first couple weeks of 2021 have been kind of lousy for us all, I wanted to take a moment to say “happy new year!” to you all. In Japanese, people greet one another the first time they meet after the new year with a special greeting. First, people say to oneContinue reading “Happy Belated New Year!”

Ablution in Japanese religion

I follow a certain Japanese taxi company (MK Taxi) based in Kyoto, Japan on Twitter, and they recently posted these photos of rubber ducks swimming in a pool of water. But this is no ordinary pond or pool, this as an ablution pool at Awata Shrine, a small Shinto shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Almost everyContinue reading “Ablution in Japanese religion”

The Beauty of Impermanence

This tweet, posted by the Yasaka Taxi Company in Kyoto, Japan was taken at a Shinto shrine named Tatsumi Shrine. The picture shows a Japanese cherry tree (sakura 桜) with fall leaves. For some reason this really struck me because when people usually think of Japanese cherry trees, they think of cherry blossoms blowing awayContinue reading “The Beauty of Impermanence”

Summer Winding Down

Summer in 2020 came and went probably like no summer in recent memory. Ignoring the painful facts for a moment that there’s a global pandemic, politics are pretty bat-shit crazy, and the economic woes, and my stress level was through the roof, it was a quiet and low-key summer. Hunkering down for the summer hadContinue reading “Summer Winding Down”

Sugawara no Michizane: from scholar to god

Shinto religion in Japan is a loose network of local deities (kami) and traditions of diverse origins, and one of those most unusual and yet popular is a kami named Tenjin, the god of learning. Tenjin is unusual because he is a deified version of an actual historical figure named Sugawara no Michizane who livedContinue reading “Sugawara no Michizane: from scholar to god”