The traditional Setsubun ceremony is performed at countless temples across Japan on February 3rd — an event that involves throwing beans to dispel devils and bring good fortune. At Asakusa’s famous Sensoji Temple, however, the main event is also preceded by a lantern-bearing procession. A custom that may not bring luck or banish evil, but it does make for quite a spectacle.
New Year’s Day shrine visits see prayers made and futures predicted, but most of all the focus is very much on fun. Something that all being well 2014 will be full of.
Happy New Year!
Jizo are common sights in Tokyo — not to mention the whole of Japan. Little figures stood solemnly by the roadside. Or more often than not, in and around temples. Statues that along with watching out for youngsters and travellers, are far better known as the protectors of deceased children, including miscarried or stillborn infants. The belief being that Jizo hides them in his robes and then guides them safely to salvation.
However, invariably kitted out in red bibs and wooly hats, it’s easy to forget this sad reality behind the countless statues. Even more so the many people who dutifully go and pay respects to them. And yet at other times, it’s quite clearly, and very uncomfortably, the opposite.
Traditional Japanese weddings are often colourful affairs. They are generally on the elaborate side too. As, at least in regards the latter, are the taxis designed to whisk away the newlyweds.
Unlike many countries, Japan has a wonderfully relaxed, carefree attitude towards religion. It’s simply not an important aspect of daily life for the majority of the population. Nor does it play any real role in regards politics or public morals. And while temples and shrines may well be everywhere, it’s arguable that for most people, visits are more out of superstition and/or custom, rather than any real sense of spirituality.
Christianity, on the other hand, is a little different. Adherents have actually sought out a religion that is not associated with Japan. A belief system that for a long time was actively repressed, with those outed as followers persecuted, sometimes even killed. Of course that’s not the case now, but Christians still make up less than 1 percent of the population, and as such they have to try a little harder when it comes to finding a place of worship. But churches are out there. They just aren’t always that obvious that’s all. Neither are they especially beautiful.