Shinto Culture in the Age of Globalization: Challenges to Conveying Concepts

Kikuko Hirafuji (Kokugakuin University)
Michael Wachutka (Tuebingen University Center for Japanese Studies)
Religion and Religious Thought
Torre A, Piso 0, Sala 03
Start time:
1 September, 2017 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

We will discuss about how to convey Shinto concepts to abroad in the age of globalization. We will deal with some concrete examples connected to the Shinto classics (myths), Japanese folklore, and contemporary Shinto in our discussion.

Long abstract:

In the run up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan has seen the number of foreign tourists coming to its shores rise every year. This rise has been accompanied by a growing interest in Shinto culture. Many of these tourists visit such shrines as Meiji-jingū 明治神宮 and Heian-jingū平安神宮 during their stay, and it is even not unusual for foreigners to outnumber Japanese visitors in some of these places. Furthermore, many of the Japanese video games and animated cartoons that are popular overseas touch on or present Shinto culture in some way. Works in these genres such as My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro となりのトトロ) that draws on Japanese animism and Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi 千と千尋の神隠し) with its mixture of folkloric rites and beliefs from throughout Japan can be seen as creating the image that viewers have of contemporary Shinto. Still further, a fair number of foreigners have become curious about Japanese mythology arising from their interest in video games, animated films, and comic books. It seems also that as this overseas interest grows, more and more young Japanese want to be able to explain Shinto culture to foreigners in their native languages. However, needless to say translating the vocabulary needed to talk about religion and then using it to get a point across is a rather difficult undertaking. An ethnic religion like Shinto also poses inherent difficulties. These circumstances raise numerous questions for us to consider. How have our predecessors addressed the topic of Shinto culture, and what devices have they come up with to talk about it? What exactly are the difficulties inherent to the process of talking about Shinto culture? What methods for conveying information does the age of globalization demand us to seek out? We hope to address such topics in this panel, drawing on concrete examples connected to the Shinto classics (myths), Japanese folklore, and contemporary Shinto in our discussion. Our hope is that this panel will generate ideas and information that makes a positive contribution to the further pursuit of research on Shinto and Japanese religion overseas.