Thoughts on Shinto

Reading Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye by Marie Mutsuki Mockett is filling me with so much emotion about Shinto and, more generally, Japanese animism. I went through old photos of when I lived in Japan and I am so overwhelmed by nostalgia and memory. There were shrines everywhere. I remember the tree that had been struck by lightning next to Inuyama Castle, and how the people of Inuyama claim that the tree had saved their beloved castle from the bolt, and so they have enshrined the tree and make offerings to it. I remember the towering torii and the austere yet compassionate face of Inari Okami. I remember the little stone statues with their bibs and hats. I remember dutifully cleansing my hands with water before entering any shrine.

And yet I cannot reconcile how Shinto views death as impure with the fact that death is the bedrock of my spirituality. As beautiful as Shinto is, I must only look to it for inspiration, so that I too can build a faith and practice as deeply embedded into my daily life as Shinto is embedded into the Japanese way of life.

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