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Mike's Japan


few hardy types keep to the rules but many compromise on footwear and wear modern
climbing boots.
You don’t have to climb to get to the top of many peaks. There’s no shortage of
cable cars and mountain railways. And there are lots of places to leave the track for a
meal with friends.
For information on Japanese national parks visit: www.bes. or
.jp/english/parks/system.html
9 Gods and temples
Like much of Europe, Japan is essentially secular when it comes to religion.
The country is home to Confucianism, Buddhism and Shinto. The last of these
is, in a sense, the national religion. It is uniquely Japanese and I spent some
time trying to work out what it's all about.
I began by asking Japanese friends and got nowhere. At first, I thought they were
reticent about discussing personal beliefs. Then I realised they knew as much about
Shinto as I know about, mistletoe, Christmas trees, wishing wells and Easter eggs.
I would ask a question like: Why do you hang out lanterns on a certain day? And I
would get an answer like: That's what we do.
I guess that if I was asked: Why do you kiss under mistletoe? I would answer in
much the same way.
My friend Tim McHugh, who is a science fiction writer, put me right on the subject.
Tim got to know the local Shinto priests in the district where he lives with his Japanese
wife, Toshimi. In doing so he became an enthusiast for Shinto.
Tim explained that it is one of those ancient religions that sees all parts of the
cosmos as connected. We are part of the cosmos and must harmonise with it: not just
on the physical plane but on a wider spiritual plane. That's what Shinto helps us to do .
Okay. I take the point. I guess that some of us have that sort of feeling when we
decorate trees at Christmas and paint eggs at Easter.
There are two sorts of temples in Japan: Buddhist and Shinto . Very occasionally
you find Buddhist shrines in Shinto temples and vice versa.
You will see images of gods and devils in both. I get conflicting views on whether
they are meant to exist and have heard similar arguments about saints and angels
when religion is discussed in Christian countries.
 
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