From the busy metros to the bustling school and work environment, Japan has a very vibrant city life. Although religious influences are rare and miniscule in public schools, they seem more prominent in the workforce environment. Religious activities have been syncretized into the workforce environment and have established themselves as part of the norm of daily life. The sections below consist of a fraction of the major elements of city life in Japan and how a few of them are affected by religion.
In order to successfully navigate the sprawling cityscape of Japan, one must be familiar with the common mode of transportation. The metro or subway is a punctual method of easily traveling from one side of a city to the next, all while within a clean, air conditioned environment. For the average working man and students in Japan the lines and various stops are common ways to arrive in locations quickly and promptly.
Religion in public education is rarely seen due to Japan’s separation of religion and politics, but it can be seen in some sectarian private schools (Fujiwara 2005: 353). Most religious education is given to those who attend college.
“Swarms of black-uniformed schoolboys and girls, especially in Kyoto, on their statutory school trips designed to instill in them some awareness of Japanese culture and history” (Reader 1991: 135).
“In a very real sense, shrine and temple visiting is a way of learning about Japan’s cultural history, much of which is written, as it were, in the structures, sculptures, paintings, scrolls and other artworks of the religious world. This, in many respects, is why Japanese school children are to be seen being herded in great throngs around the shrines and temples of Nara and Kyoto on their school trips: in visiting these religious centres they are being taken on a tour of their country’s cultural roots and history” (156).
Differences in the school systems ;} When Americans think about schooling around the world they think that the only things that might be different are the curriculums that are taught to the children.This is not true in Japan.In Japan even the way of getting into Senior High School is different.The kids have to test their way into certain schools that are prestigious and could help them get into a good college.The three years spent in High School can be very stressful to the students because many not only have class work to do, but also going to after school events and then to cram schools after that.Their school days could be up to 12 hours long before doing homework.The basic curriculum consists of courses, such as Japanese language, English, math, and science.The second year of High School becomes more individualized in both course content and course selections.This way of teaching is very different from that in the United States, just seeing how much emphasis Japanese put on getting into a good college, even though once they are there most students kind of coast.
Many companies have integrated shrine activity into that of special occasions and everyday activity. “Various rituals that replicate or mirror the socially cohesive and calendrically ordering patterns of shrines occur within the company framework, including induction ceremonies in which new employees are initiated into the firm by making oaths of loyalty and allegiance, and various celebratory parties at the end of the year (bonenkai) to get rid of the year’s frustrations, and at its beginning (shinnenkai), to express hopes for the future” (Reader 1991: 74). Like retreats held by big companies in America, to strengthen group cohesiveness, Japanese companies are sending employees to Zen Buddhist temples to strengthen “their resolve and [formulate] a sense of disciplined obedience to rules of etiquette and action” (74).
Some companies have communal memorial rites for employees who have died. “Such rites and memorials, which supplement rather than replace ordinary household mortuary rituals, are further affirmations of the caring nature of the company as a community in its own right, looking after it members not just in life but beyond” (74). An example of a company that has integrated so much, that they sponsored a shrine, is “the Toyota car company, whose shrine is located close by the company’s head office in the town of Toyota near Nagoya” (75). Another example is when Japanese companies have offices abroad and install kami “to help in the process of affirming Japanese identity while symbolically upholding and stimulating unity and production” (76).
Differences in Business activities There are rather significant differences between the business segments of Japan and here in the United States. Most of them come from what was culturally important to the Japanese throughout their history. In the business sector the Japanese have some of the strictest dress and behavior policies. Where most businesses in the U.S. do not enforce a very strict dress policy in Japan if proper attire is not worn there can be serious penalties not just from the bosses, but also how coworkers perceive and work with the individual. This is the same with the behavior policies of bowing and keeping good etiquette at all times. This is so important that they even have certain etiquette to giving business cards to one another. All of these certain activities can be very hard to keep up with at all times. One of the most important parts of their etiquette is the bow, which needs to be done a certain way. The less senior person has to bow lower than the senior and they must check to see if they were bowing low enough. This can be very difficult to understand and can be overlooked very easy, thinking that it was just weird to see people bowing two and three times to each other. These are just some instances that could seem weird or different to people from other countries that are experiencing this for the first time.
Written by: Becky & Travis Trosper (Intro & School Intro) & Daniel Grindle Editied by: Katie Parish &Tayln Cox Photos by: Maxwell Bloodworth, Katie Parish via Barb Smeir, Mindy Ward, Dr. Roemer
Biboliography: Reader, I. 1991. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.