Friday, May 18, 2007

Richard Halloran Holds Forth on Shinto Resurgence, Contrasts Yasukuni and Meiji Shrines

Veteran Japan hand Richard Halloran blew into town, did some walking around, came up with something that goes little noticed even here in Japan, and wrote it up in Real Clear Politics.

Maybe I've been too lazy to notice, maybe it's another case of it takes a gaijin, but Mr. Halloran's story of a resurgent Shinto makes sense. After all, there's solid evidence of a spiritual malaise begging to be taken care of, from soaring suicides rates to spiritual nostrum peddlers commanding center stage in the mainstream media (yes, I'm talking about the Sopranos-meets-Sylvia-Brown Kazuko Hosogi and the John-Edward-cum-Deepak-Chopra Hiroyuki Ehara*) to the more general dissatisfaction that seems to grip the Japanese mind whenever we are asked to answer opinion polls. We tend to blame the aftereffects of the bubble years. We are unsatisfied with the present, and worried about the future; where else are we to go?

A lesser hand might try to weave it into the surging right, military might, trope that earns space in the English-language mainstream media. Mr. Halloran instead focuses on the Meiji Shrine, and juxtaposes it with the Yasukuni, which has, fairly or unfairly, come to be solely identified in the ELMSM with the dark side of our post-Meiji Restoration history. Indeed, the two shrines surely provide the leitmotifs that weave through Prime Minister Abe's historical narrative, much in the way the pre-1945 and post-1945 biographies of his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi illuminate his personal animus (in the Jungian sense, so the dictionary tells me).

*I suppose I should be happy our low-key, ecumenical, quasi-animistic approach to the supernatural precludes the proliferation of televangelist knock-offs. Then again, some might argue that we have the Tokugawa Shogunate to thank (or curse, depending on your point of view) for being spared the worst effects of a dominant, proselytizing creed.


WDSturgeon said...

I concur - it is a delight to see Shintoism discussed without having to raise the Nationalist card. While that is an aspect of pre-war State Shinto, it is not representative of all Shinto.

Of course, the same holds true for discussing even Yasukuni. Even before it was adopted by nationalists, even if only for a few short years of its early existence, it was first and foremast a Shinto shrine. That remains truth to this day.

Jun Okumura said...

Thank you, as always, wdsturgeon, for dropping by. The Meiji Shrine, and as you point out Yausukuni less obviously, follows a long Shinto tradition of placating the spirits of the extraordinary (be they heroic or, as the case of Taira no Masakado, the pretendor emperor, malevolent). Indeed, the Yauskuni controversy itself substantially postdates the end of WW II, the conflict with which it is most strongly identified.