Goals: 1. encourage visual learning by using the website’s videos and by asking the students to answer questions about them 2. encourage active learning by having students answer the questions on their own and by discussing them in small groups (2-3).
Choose at least one of the videos from the website and show them in class (e.g., from Ise Jingu, Higashi Honganji, Household rituals, Gion Festival, or Tenjin Festival, etc.). Point out the specific rituals and preface the video by explaining whether it’s a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple, for example. If you have assigned a reading that discusses one or more of these shrines, festivals, or rituals, be sure to point that out so they make that connection.
Another video that is worth showing is a CNN news video on the unusual ways two Buddhist priests are trying to connect to younger Japanese (by hip-hopping and running a Buddhist bar). Go to “Temples”—“Kyoou-ji” and scroll down for the “CNN video report”. We met these two priests. What they’re doing is very unusual, but they are sincere in their hope to spread Buddhism these ways.
Before viewing the videos, tell the students to be prepared to answer and discuss the following questions. (Feel free to edit them or add your own.)
1. What do these videos teach you about the way many Japanese “do” religion? In other words, what are some of the rituals involved?
2. What do you think some of the rituals or actions mean?
3. What did you see in the videos that reminds you of religious rituals or practices you are familiar with? (How are their actions similar to other religious traditions?)
4. What struck you as something that you found particularly interesting? Why?
**NOTE: [I encourage you to read this to your students before watching the videos.]
It is easy to watch these videos and discuss Japan as being “so different”, “unique”, or “weird”, but it is best to avoid such generalizations. Japanese religious traditions have much in common with others, and though it is tempting to “other” them (or “Orientalize” them as exotic), that does not help students discover the important underlying similarities of the ways humans use religion. Such sentiments also invite students to see themselves as too far removed from Japanese (and others) and does not teach them the value in respecting and valuing other cultures.
After viewing the videos:
Option 1 (5-10 minutes): Ask volunteers to give their responses to the questions.
Option 2 (10-15 minutes): Break the students into small groups (2-3 people) and discuss their responses to the questions. Afterward, call on volunteers to discuss their group’s responses for the entire class. [If you have the time, Option 2 is better for reinforcing learning and encouraging active learning through discussion]