The Japanese Religion and Community

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  • Topic: Shinto, Festival, Village
  • Pages : 5 (1979 words )
  • Download(s) : 82
  • Published : February 5, 2008
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In societies across the world, religion has always had the ability to unite the people into communities through its rituals and celebrations. Japanese society is a major example of how people can join together as a community to celebrate their unique beliefs. However, this would then often raise the question of which came first; the close-knit community who started the religion, or the religion that jumpstarted everything and brought people together. The truth of the matter is, if one were to look at Japanese culture and society, it is rather apparent that ancient religions such as Buddhism and Shinto form rituals and traditions which would then later shape the ceremonies that the community partake in. These ceremonies are essentially festivals that villages put together to show respect and acknowledgement for a certain religion or an important event. Festivals are done with the most dedication among everybody in a village or town, and it is this dedication that proves how important festivals are to the community. Essentially, the religion is the driving force behind a culture's communal bond, and it is the festivals such as the Kenka Matsuri, Namahage Matsuri, and the Gion Matsuri that are physical representation of this union. However, these religious festivals have proven to lose its religious background and tradition and start to converge into a celebration of the community itself. A very well known festival that Japan usually takes pride in is the Kenka Matsuri, or also known as the Fighting Festival. One of the most world renown fighting festival is held in the town of Shirahama, Himeji City. The Nada Kenka Matsuri is famous for its seven competing villages and its people's sheer dedication to celebrating its annual festival. This particular festival is celebrated for its elaborate portable shrines, or yatai, that get thrown at each other as a sign of each individual village's power. This would often seem as a fierce competition rather than a festival, but that is the beauty of this event; people from all over come to just watch the spectacular fights that will unfold in front of them. The Kenka Matsuri is a great example of how religion brings people together for a common cause, and in this case, it is the desire of the men of the village to boast how much dedication they have for the Shinto Kami or spirit of the gods. They show this dedication by working countless hours on building their yatai together and practicing the ceremonial dances and drumming as one village. At the beginning of the festival, thirty five men from each village carry their own yatai on their shoulders and rush into the Shinto shrine as to represent man and god are now one. They would then show their strengths by competing with the other six villages in a fight where the only weapon is their huge yatai that they have spent so much time and money on. It does not matter though, because the men of these villages are after glory and pride to show and please their kami, and the only way of doing this is to bash each other's yatai together until there is a clear winner. The Kenka Matsuri has been around for quite some time now, it stretches as far back as 300 years and of course it went through some changes as time progresses. As seen before, participating members of each village show their dedication to their religion and culture, but one must question whether or not community solidarity is still the core value of this festival. As people can see changes occurring in society, there would then be speculation of the potential change in the thought process of the people in this Himeji community. One can make a strong point by arguing that the Kenka Matsuri is not what it was before it became popular and well known. The thing that people need to take into consideration is the amount of tourism that goes on now. People across the world are curious about this festival and with more spectators coming the more pressure to perform better. Basically, it comes...
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