Why is noshi (a flattened dried strip of sea snail flesh) considered a good thing to offer the gods?
Why is sekihan (red bean-studded rice) used for good luck and celebrations?
The religious reason is that red is the colour of good luck and celebrations, and the practical reason is that the beans and the salt in it means that it keeps longer and therefore can be taken away at the end of a wedding etc and eaten up to a few days later, unlike cooked white rice.
Why do they knit red bibs for Jizo and other Buddhist statues?
Red is a lucky colour and if you believe the Japanese mukashi banashi (fairytale) the hats and cloaks are to protect them from the cold, but why bibs?? Could it be connected to how Jizo is used to represent the souls of dead babies??
Why is the summer festival of the dead holiday called “honorable tray”?
In Japanese it is “Obon”- お盆, the same kanji as bonsai- 盆栽- tray growing, but can’t imagine what the connection could be
Why is Kannon (the Buddhist goddess of mercy that Canon is named after) male in some countries but female in others like Japan?
“he is generally with so tender an expression on his face that, in the Japanese imagination, he has undergone a sex change” Alan Booth, The Roads to Sata pg 45
Why does the Thousand-Handed Kannon only have 40 hands?
“the argument [is] that each hand has the power to save twenty-five souls” Alan Booth, The Roads to Sata pg 45
Why did Christianity take hold in Korea but not Japan?
According to Shutting Out the Sun,factors in Korea included Christianity as resistance to Japanese rule, easier ability to do good works in a country that was “far more squalid and unhygenic than feudal Japan” (pg 246), literacy campaigns that emphasized hangul over Chinese characters,and humanitarian relief by American churches after the Korean War. I would also add being taken over by the Japanese discrediting the old ways and stopping them creating an alternative national ideology like the Meiji Japan emphasis on State Shinto and a divine Emperor.
Why do you get 4 and a half tatami mat sized rooms, but not 4 mat sized rooms?
Avoiding the unlucky number 4
Why do the Japanese eat soba when they move house (hikoshi soba)?
The practical reason is that it is quick and easy to prepare. In the New Year, the long soba noodles stand for long life, but I can’t see the connection here.
Why are the Koreans the only ones to switch to metal chopsticks?
Don’t know-lack of trees in Korea? In Japan, metal chopsticks are used to break the skull after cremation, which might put them off.
Why is a mirror a Shinto religious symbol?
It seems to be a very ancient thing that comes from China, but not sure what the original reason was
Why is the word for Buddha (仏様 hotoke sama) and ghost/ spirit (hotoke) the same?
Why do the Japanese never carry around rosaries like some other Buddhists, and some Christians and Muslims?
In Japan, the only religious things you can do without drawing attention (the worst thing that could happen) are the ones everyone does, otherwise outwards shows of religiousness are very much frowned upon. People can get away with crucifix necklaces because most people wear them just as fashion items.
Why are you not supposed to blow out joss sticks?
Why do most Japanese young people not even know which type of Buddhism their family follows?
The question only comes up when someone dies. Apparently families sitting around trying to remember “Which one are we? Zen?” are quite common. I can’t imaginethe same thing in the UK – “We’re Catholic, aren’t we?” “Really? I could’ve sworn we were Church of the Latter Day Saints”
Why is Japanese Zen better known than Chinese Zen?
Why are most Japanese cremated?
I thought it was a religious thing, but apparently until the Taisho era burial was more common
Why are Japanese hearses so golden?
In all societies a funeral is an uneasy balance between solemnity and a desire to show how rich and respected the deceased and his family are with conspicuous expenditure. On the hearse, the showing off wealth won.
Why are the Japanese convinced all begging monks are fakes?
Why does one lion dog at the entrance to a shrine have its mouth open and the other closed?
Why is a daruma doll only a head?
It is based on the story of a Buddha (Dharma) who meditated so long his arms and legs fell off.
Why are daruma dolls so popular with politicians?
Why do you have to paint eyes on a daruma?
Why are statues of Jizo most likely to have knitted shawls and hats on them?
Jizo is the protector of children, so they often represent lost babies or fetuses.
Why is a yuki daruma (a snow man) a different shape to a daruma?
The yuki daruma is more similar to the original story of the arms and legs of the meditating saint falling off. I guess the wooden version also lost the body to make it easier to manufacture.
Why do so few Japanese people have a Buddhist wedding?
Why does no one have a Shinto funeral?
Shinto not only has no philosophy on what happens to you when you die (something surprisingly common in ancient religions), but dead bodies are also unwelcome in shinto shrines due to the emphasis on ritual purity.
Why is shinto a seperate religion with it hardly differs from the (unnamed) animist beliefs that exist within and alongside Buddhism in places like Korea and Thailand?
I’m guessing it’s something to do within the Emperor’s founding myth predating the arrival of Buddhism
Why do Japanese Buddhist priests not beg?
Perhaps like the first Catholic priests in the 16th century they found that a vow of poverty meant that the ruling classes lumped them in with the burakumin (eta) untouchable class and so wouldn’t take them seriously. Going door to door to beg also would have been impractical during the early years of Buddhism, as it started as a religion only of the ruling classes
Why are there so many more Buddhist priests/monks than nuns?
From the early days of Buddhism in India, nuns were not taken as seriously as monks, as it was assumed they needed to be reborn as a man before they could reach enlightenment.
Why do some people have their cars blessed?
Why do you occassionally see people offering random passersby to read their palms?
They are recruiting for cults
Why are the villians in the Japanese TV programme Trick almost always cult/religious leaders? Don’t religious groups protest?
Why are the Japanese so reluctant to give money to people collecting for charities in the street?
There is a belief that most of them are actually collecting for cults. This may also be why some organisations use ranks of kids with in uniforms on official days to make damn sure you know it’s the real deal.
Why did Christianity make it in Korea but not Japan, despite being (re) introduced at around the same time?
Why did ying yang and other Tao concepts not have a big influence in Japan, despite them borrowing lots of other Chinese concepts?
It was well known, but not officially sponsored as it didn’t have the appeal for the ruling classes of warrior-like self discipline (Zen) or obeying your superiors (Confucianism)
Why do the Japanese show priests so little respect?
Unlike India, where priests are at the top of the class system, Japanese priests stand outside the class system and since Heian times have come from all sections of society. They also have always had even worse reputations for being self serving money seekers than in most countries possibly because Japanese monks, unlike buddhists in most countries, can marry and pass their money onto their families. The fact that most Japanese continue to follow two religions at the same time may also possibly means that they do not rely on either one completely and so reduces the status of both.
Why do Japanese Buddhist priests marry?
When most old wooden houses are being knocked down, how come there are still so many traditional temples in every area?
Modern architecture temples and shrines have been tried, but don’t seem to be too popular- perhaps because a church without tradition still has the scripture but a shrine without tradition has nothing. Priests can afford the expensive upkeep of a wooden building as they pay no inheritance tax (very high in Japan).
Why do you never hear Buddhist chanting in Japan?
For most Japanese, Buddhist chanting is associated only with funerals. There is a story in one of the Robert Whiting books about an American Buddhist baseball player in Japan who was shocked to be asked to stop chanting Amidabutsu before matches because it depressed all the Japanese players.
Why are there no Shinto funerals?
Shinto has no concept of what happens to you after you die. Also, having a dead body in a shrine goes against the ideas of ritual purity which are central to Shinto.
Why do the vast majority of Japanese say they are unreligious, despite praying at shrines etc?
It could partly be misunderstanding the question as meaning “Are you really interested in religion?”, which has a connection to cults. and the state Shinto of WWII
Why is there no begging in Japan, despite the Buddhist custom of monks begging and the large number of homeless people?
Not sure. If you do see what looks like a Buddhist priest standing outside touristy places like Ryogoku sumo stadium Japanese people assume they are fakes because they know how well off the average Buddhist priest is. The way the homeless make sure they look clean and their “homes” look nice and are far from the crowds suggests they might be too ashamed to beg. Alternatively, maybe the authorities just stamped it out at one point and it never came back.
Why do you never see the stone lanterns in shrines lit?
They are symbolic and not meant to be used as real lanterns.