In Japan religion has a significant impact on our culture. The unique part is that most people do not believe in a certain religion and even if they did many of them would not mind going to both a Shinto temple and a Buddhist temple. In fact most people celebrate Christmas even though there are not many Christian or Catholic churches compared to Buddhist and Shinto temples. However, there are a fair amount of people who believes in the existence of god. How the Japanese people in religion is a lot different from how the people outside of Japan believe in their religion.
Religion in Japanese is “宗教（しゅうきょう）”. It is said that this word originally came from Buddhism. “教（おし）え” is teachings in Japanese and “宗” means sect.
Here is a list of the names of each 宗教.
By putting “徒（と）” after the religion name the word will mean a person who believes in that religion. Here’s an example.
Ex)“I am a Buddhist.” → 「私は仏教徒です。」
“He is a Muslim so he cannot eat pork.” → 「彼はムスリム教徒なので豚（ぶた）が食（た）べられませんん。」
The word “priest” is translated into different words depending on the religion. For example, a Christian priest would be “牧師（ぼくし）” and a Buddhist priest would be “僧侶(そうりょ）” or a “お坊（ぼう）さん”.
Church in Japanese is “教会（きょうかい）”. Mosque is “モスク”. Temple is called “寺（てら）” but a Shinto temple is called “神社（じんじゃ）”.
Like I have mentioned in the first part of this blog many Japanese people do not believe in a certain religion and that we celebrate events for different religions. Popular events that come from Christianity are Saint Valentine’s day (バレンタインデー) , Christmas（クリスマス）, and Halloween. However, we do not really pray or anything on these days. For Valentine’s day we give out chocolates to people and some may confess their love to who they like. Christmas is a day when people go out on dates with their lover and go outside to see illuminations together. On Halloween day, we wear costumes and party just like in many other countries, but the difference is that we party so hard especially in Shibuya (a city in Tokyo) that it is turning out to be a social issue.
New Year’s day is probably the most important day for Japanese people I believe. It is called “お正月（しょうがつ）” and family members gather to celebrate for a couple of days. New Year’s day is from Shintoism. We eat these special dishes called “おせち” when a new year starts. We eat a “年越(としこ）しそば” which means New Year’s Eve soba right before it becomes 12 in the midnight. We also go to the temple when the New Year starts to briefly pray and draw a fortune slip to know our luck for the year. The funny thing is that even though “お正月” is from Shintoism many people go to Buddhist temples as well to do this.
I think you sort of got the image of how unique the Japanese people think on religion. I believe it is very interesting and this peculiar culture made me an atheist. If you are planning to come to Japan someday, I recommend you to be here during one of these events since they are enjoyable and fascinating.