Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My musings on the odd parts of Japanese Society, plus some updates!

I was doing some observing as I rode the bus in this morning, and I realized that there are many things here that still come across as awkward and strange even though I have been here for a month now. I figured I would just give my opinion on them a while. First though, allow me to direct you to the top of my blog where I now have a link to my Flickr photos so any of you who are not getting your share of photos can look there for some calm and comfort.

So, weird subject numero uno: Religion in Japan

Just for some background, Japan's religion focuses mainly on Buddhism and Shintoism with some other smaller religions on the sidelines. One of the strangest things that I have noticed since being here is that Buddhism and Shintoism overlap with each other to a point where you can't go to a Shinto Shrine without accidentally also going to a Buddhist temple or altar while you are exploring and vice versa. Its like they have always coexist and are part of the same entity. On the other hand, while many Japanese consider Buddhism to be a religion, if you were to ask them if the followed the Shinto religion they would tell you they don't know what it is. Not because the word is different in Japanese (it isn't), but because Shinto isn't a religion to them, it is a lifestyle. They worship the spirits of nature the same way that you would get up in the morning and take a shower and brush your teeth, if that makes sense. It is just normal everyday life, not religion. No wonder most people aren't sick here, it is because they send mail to the shrine for sore throats. No one in the United States does that... The other strange part about religion is the smaller ones. You have the Christians, which to be truthful I am not sure really exist, because there churches are very not church like and most Japanese that I have talked to go to church to play basketball or hang out with their friends, not to worship. Then there are the "New Religions" that started recently like Soka Gakkai and Happy Science that are growing in "power" and even have their own political parties sometimes. Soka Gakkai actually submitted a member to every political position in the national government at one point I believe. I saw a Happy Science building today. It was a huge, very attractive building that had the words Happy Science on the front. Not to be offensive to Mormons, but it was something similar to Mormon buildings in a way that it seemed to have large quantities of money. The thing that confuses me about Happy Science is that its name used to be "The Science of Happiness." It changed its name for some reason, and now it is just hard to take them seriously. I think there is only space enough for one "science" based religion in this world - Tom Cruise *cough cough*. So that is it for my musings on religion.

The next weird thing is snack food in Japan:

For one, Seven Eleven has some of the most amazing pre-made meals I have ever seen. They put some restaurants to shame! Then there are the Onigiri, rice balls with a meat or fish filling that are perfect for a snack anytime. That stuff is just weird because of the amazing quality from a simple convenience store. The other weird part is the dried foods. I actually just finished snacking on some dried squid jerky. I got the strips, but they also have flattened squid head that has been dried and octopus tentacles. Pretty much if it comes out of the sea and it is chewy, the Japanese have dried it, prepacked it and set it up right next to the beer case for your convenience. Funkiest looking drinking food I have ever seen.

There is also the large amount of "Hamburg" restaurants. Japanese people like steak sometimes, but what they like even more is a big slab of ground beef covered in sauce with a little black really hot thing on the side so that you can cook the meat again if you so desire too. That and all you can eat soup and salad and free refills which you have to have a coupon to get apparently. Needless to say I have had my fill of slabs of ground beef for the semester.

Lastly, this is what my life is like in Japan:

I hope that clears up any misconceptions haha.

Well have fun with this post.


P.S. Saishyo gu, injyan hoi, aikan desu = rock, paper, scissors in Japanese

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