religion

Meiji-era vision of hell is not at all frightening, actually kind of cute

Depicting the horrors of hell through art is a tradition in Buddhism that goes back at least 1,000 years in Japan. By depicting the suffering in store for sinners, the artworks were supposed to scare people onto the straight and narrow.

But if that’s what this late 19th century scroll was for, it might have had the opposite effect. We’ve never seen such a cute hellscape!

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The Steeds of the Gods: The Shinto horses that no mortal may ride

Somewhere around the 500th step on the long approach to Kompira-san shrine in Kagawa Prefecture, you’ll find a small stable housing two special horses. They are pretty as a picture, but don’t get any ideas about hopping on for a ride, feeding them a little carrot, or even giving them a friendly pat.

These thoroughbreds are shinme, the steeds of the gods, and they are not for mere mortals like us.

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Buddhist temple singles parties: The enlightened way to find a romantic partner

Buddhism and Shintoism share space pretty peacefully in Japan, partially thanks to a division of duties. Shinto shrines, for example, handle weddings, while Buddhist temples are the locations of funerals and graveyards.

These days, though, a few Buddhist temples are helping singles find someone to marry at one of those Shinto weddings, though, as one sect of Buddhism in east Japan has branched out into organizing matchmaking parties.

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Meet Pyuri-tan, the new manga heroine who’s the literal embodiment of Puritan Christianity

For centuries, Christianity has had a role in the creation of some of the finest works of art. Any comprehensive discussion of art history has to include Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, and a host of other important paintings and sculptures from artists who don’t share their names with one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Speaking of comics, there’s a new manga that’s just started in Japan. Looking at its earnest, wholesome heroine, you might get the impression that it’s like any of a hundred other series the country has produced, but this manga lead has something that makes her unique: she’s the literal embodiment of Puritan Christianity.

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Indonesian Muslim cleric declares selfies a sin, youths reciprocate with new selfie trend

While Islam is practiced worldwide, many of us tend to only think of the Muslims in the Middle East, looking past those in Southeast Asia. However, with over 87% of its people identifying as Muslim, Indonesia actually has the largest population of Muslims in the world.

The young adult Muslim culture in Indonesia is not that much different from youth culture anywhere else in the world these days: everyone has smartphones and, like them or not, selfies are the norm. A previously celebrated young Muslim cleric, however, has recently proclaimed that the act of taking a selfie is a sin – a claim which many young Muslims in Indonesia have taken great offense to.

How did they respond to the condemnation of their smartphone snaps? By taking even more selfies than ever before.

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Face of Spanish monkey Jesus appears in Japanese roll cake

Usually, Jesus limits his food-based appearances to grilled cheese and Cheetos in certainshall we sayconservative areas of North America, but it seems like he is making inroads to Asian pastries with an appearance in a dessert offered by Japan’s popular Komeda Coffee chain. And not just that, he decided to present as a famous recent incarnation: the monkey-faced botched restoration of Ecce Homo!

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Ultra-cute moe pilgrims embark on Shikoku’s 88-temple journey in new TV show

2014 marks the 1,200th year since Buddhist monk Kukai made his holy journey to 88 temples on the southern Japanese island of Shikoku. The Shikoku Pilgrimage now attracts people from all over Japan as well as the world to visit the same temples along the 1,200 km-route.

Now, a new TV series, Ohenro, is out to appeal to a new generation of religious travelers and features three female pilgrims stylized in the ever popular moe fashion of super-cute anime characters.

But Japanese netizens, eager to soak up all things moe, are wondering if they will have to make their own “holy trip” since only four broadcasters are airing the show!

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Divine prevention – Japan using Shinto symbols to combat litter and public peeing

One of the trickier questions to answer about Japan is whether or not it’s a religious society. On one hand, the ideas of daily prayer, weekly visits to a temple, or consulting religious texts or advisors in times of personal crisis are about as foreign to most Japanese people as playing a game of cricket or eating a plate of grits and gravy.

Still, spiritualism is a big part of life in Japan. Most visitors to a shrine might not spend more than a few seconds reflecting on their place in the universe, but they’ll still toss a coin into the collection box in hope of pleasing the deity said to make its home there. Even as many Japanese people claim to have no religion, most homes include an alter with a place to hang photos of deceased relatives and offer incense.

The vagaries of theology in Japan are now being turned to in an effort to curb a growing problem in many neighborhoods, as people are putting up small versions of the torii gates that mark Shinto shrines to prevent people from illegally dumping waste, whether produced by their lifestyles or bodies.

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Step aside, Hachiko! Yamaguchi’s Cat Temple offers a samurai tale of feline fealty

Nearly every guide book for Japan mentions Hachiko, the dog who patiently waited every day for nine years in the 1920s and ‘30s in front of Shibuya Station for his master to come home, never knowing that the man had passed away at the office. It’s a touching story of devotion, and one so well-known Hachiko now has his own statue near his waiting spot.

However, some argue that Hachiko didn’t come to the station every day because he was hoping for his master to return, but because of the free handouts of food he got once he became a local celebrity. Could it be that the friendly pooch actually isn’t the epitome of animal-human loyalty?

Maybe that title would be a better fit for a cat that lived hundreds of years before Hachiko was even born, and displayed such fealty to its samurai master that its entire species is honored at their own Cat Temple.

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Jesus joins Japanese and African distance runners in Tokyo Marathon

Last Sunday, the eighth iteration of the Tokyo Marathon was held, with Kenyan Dickson Chumba and Ethiopian Tirfi Tsegaye setting new men’s and women’s course records, respectively. In fact, the two African nations dominated the race, with citizens accounting for the top seven male finishers as well as the first five women to cross the finish line.

However, somewhere farther back in the pack plenty of attention was given to a Japanese runner dressed as one of history’s most famous natives of the Middle East: Jesus.

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Robocop called in to exorcise demons at this year’s Setsubun festival in Tokyo

As we learned a few days ago, 3 February is the traditional holiday of Setsubun in Japan. Although its customs vary from region to region, most people who celebrate the occasion enjoy the practice of throwing beans to expel evil from their homes. The Shibamata Taishakuten temple in Katsuhika, Tokyo must have had some industrial strength evil in their area this year because they brought in OCP’s future of oni-fighting, Robocop, to toss some beans.

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Thank god: New app rewards prayer with free Wi-Fi

There’s already something pretty devotional about how often people check their smartphones, so why not take the next step to full-fledged worship? You never know what the gods of gadgetry might grant you. If you are using the new app called Internet Shrine, a prayer will get you free Wi-Fi.

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Why does Japan love fictional characters so much?

A lot of surprising things about Japan actually have pretty simple explanations. People eat fish raw because it’s delicious that way. Public intoxication isn’t frowned upon because the publicly intoxicated are generally well-behaved, even when they are incoherent. And late-night TV features plenty of young female skin, because young males make up the vast majority of viewers in that time slot.

But what about Japan’s love affair with cute, fictional characters? How is it that lingerie based on Sailor Moon sells out in a day? Or that a salaryman can pull out his cell phone with a strap featuring a chubby regional mascot and nobody bats an eye?

Scholars and commentators point to two of the strongest forces in shaping society: religion, and business.

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Mercedes Benz measures the brains activity of Zen monks to evaluate their new car【Video】

Given Mercedes Benz’s reputation for luxury, it’s tempting to dismiss the automaker’s cars as being strictly for trust fund sorority girls or high-flying lawyers who just made partner.

Mercedes does have quite a bit of performance cred too, though, particularly for its extra-sporty cars that bear the mark of AMG, the company’s in-house tuning and motorsports division. But while you can find plenty of driving enthusiasts who get excited by the cars coming out of Stuttgart, in a new video Mercedes tries to stir the hearts of a new demographic: Zen monks.

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Japanese Q&A site answerer makes starting a cult seem like legitimately good business sense

Back in the day, starting a cult was just as good a way to make a dishonest living as robbing banks or selling kidneys on the black market, but with the rise of the Internet (specifically, Snopes.com), attracting believers to your bogus religion seems like way too much work. Besides, Scientology kind of already has the market cornered.

Nevertheless, an inquisitive aspiring cultist took to Yahoo! Japan’s Chiebukuro question and answer site as part of his/her cult-founding due diligence, perhaps hoping for some basic advice like “keep human sacrifices to a minimum,” or “promise male cult members multiple wives.”

Instead, what the asker got was a detailed breakdown of what it takes to build a successful cult; an explanation so thorough and well-thought out, we’re actually considering a career change.

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Searching for Senyu Ryuka, the Japanese woman people call “God”

You’d think finding a god would be easy. Now, I don’t mean that in the born-again “finding God” kind of way. I mean actually finding someone who hundreds maybe even thousands of people consider a god and who walks among us.

It all started one sunny day as I was out pencil shopping along a busy street. A little old lady with a kind smile handed me the paper pictured above. The title read, “The message from the world of spirits: William Shakespeare.” Thinking, “Now, that’s a name I can trust!” I read on.

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Images depicting the life of Jesus in Korea rile Chinese Internet users

There seems to be a long-running debate over whether Jesus was white or African (as opposed, to, you know, Arabic, as most people born in the Middle East tend to be).

Apparently concerned that the squabble doesn’t have enough sides, a participant in a Chinese Internet forum has come forward with images suggesting yet another theory: Jesus was Korean.

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Miss World 2013 pageant labelled “pornography” and a “whore contest” by Muslim protestors

Last Saturday on the resort island of Bali, 23-year-old Megan Young claimed victory for the Philippines and was crowned Miss World 2013. Promising to be the “best Miss World ever,” the model and actress shed tears of joy as the audience cheered, applauded and waved paper flags — a stark contrast to the angry and threatening atmosphere felt in Jakarta during the weeks prior to the contest.

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Appalling string of thefts targets religious offerings in tsunami-damaged town

Living in Japan, it’s easy to take safety and honesty for granted. This is, after all, the country where public trains make ideal spots for a nap.

That said, with over 150 million people in the country, you’re bound to have a few bad apples, such as the lowlifes who’ve decided there’s no better place for a crime spree than the town of Yamamoto, which was hit hard by the massive earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

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Japan’s Buddhist Temples keeping up with the times using DJs, apps, video games, booze and more

While religions of all stripes have something to offer in terms of support and advice, they also share a common detriment: they’re all really, really old. While age brings with it wisdom and experience, if religion can’t relate to modern society it runs the risk of getting left behind.

To help prevent this, several monks across Japan have been adopting new technology and trends or have tried simply reaching out to people differently, in less orthodox and more human ways.

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