Want to understand Shintoism? Watch a Miyazaki movie



Shinto is an old religion that has existed in Japan for ages, and Hayao Miyazaki describes it in his films with touching care and cautious tales.

Shinto, which translates to “believer” or “way of the gods”, is the indigenous religion of Japan. Faith is animist and polytheistic, and has been with the Japanese for as long as they can remember. Due to its long history, it’s no surprise that Shinto has had a significant influence on Japanese art – from woodblock paintings of centuries ago to anime productions of the modern era. It would be hard to find a director who taps into the gods’ path with as much artistic flair and devotion as Studio Ghibli’s, Hayao Miyazaki.

This piece will be a crash course in how Miyazaki’s films can give anime fans a glimpse into two of Shintoism’s most essential beliefs. It would be rash to try to contain an explanation of an ancient religion in a few paragraphs, but argue My neighbor Totoro is a great place to start.

RELATED: New Studio Ghibli Blu-ray Set Introduces Rare Ghiblies Short Film

Totoro grows a tree with the girls

Sacred nature and the Shimenawa

My neighbor Totoro is full of glorious imagery: an azure blue sky with rolling clouds, crystal clear streams and lush forests. Just like in many Miyazaki films, nature is more than appreciable, it is sacred. In a particular scene, where the Kusakabe family walks through a forest, this sacrament of the natural world is shown when the family meets the great camphor tree. In this context, “meet” can be a strange word for some people. However, in the Shinto religion, the camphor tree is more than just a tree; it is a living entity to be worshiped.

Viewers watching the film will notice a series of strings encrusted with folded paper, and some may wonder what such an object is. In Shintoism, this is called a Shimenawa, which is used as a symbol to tell people that a particular thing or place is sacred. This is why, during the Camphor scene, the Kusakabe family gives thanks to the big tree, with bows and solemn prayers. For those who are not involved in Shintoism, this may seem like a strange practice. But in the traditions of the religion, the natural world is personified by Kami, and Kami, according to most non-Japanese people, is roughly translated as “god”. But the Kami are not gods as some might think.

RELATED: Classic Studio Ghibli Robot Recreated As A Sugar Cookie

The Kami are complicated

Princess mononoke best demonstrates this key principle of Shintoism. Kami can be literal gods or goddesses, this is where the polytheistic aspect comes in, or forces of nature and life that have been given meaning and are therefore worthy of worship – where the animist element comes into play. Princess mononoke, most human characters fight and kill the “forest gods”, who pose as giant beasts such as wolves, monkeys or wild boars. This might be the most difficult aspect of Shintoism to really grasp: how can a human kill a god? It may sound absurd, but figuratively speaking, since nature is worshiped, nature is a deity. A human can kill God by destroying nature. In Princess Mononoke, such an act has disastrous consequences.

In Shintoism, anything can be a Kami. A rock, a tree, animals, a river, even humans. From the perspective of Shintoism, people can also be worshiped as Kami when they die, as they are believed to become spirits who can help (or even harm) those who are alive. Although Shintoism does not have a holy book like Christianity or Islam, and it does not list sins in the traditional sense like most other religions, it is convinced that anything that harms nature or takes away his glory is considered defiled. Tsumi is a Japanese word that can be roughly translated as sin – and all that keeps humanity away from the Kami is Tsumi.

RELATED: Giant Totoro Balloon Unveiled for Ghibli Museum’s 20th Anniversary

Anime Princess Mononoke Boar Demon Virus

On the other hand, Musubi is a term which encompasses the exact opposite meaning. It refers to cleanliness and harmony, especially with the world, as of primary importance. “Thou shalt not do” is not a saying in Shinto, but anything that harms humanity by keeping it away from the Kami is something to be avoided. Most of the human characters in Princess mononoke ignored this principle and handled the backlash of nature.

Miyazaki, the environmentalist

If one word can sum up Shintoism, it is environmentalism. Considering that Japan is a beautiful place, it’s no surprise that a religion focused on the natural world is emerging. Miyazaki is an avid environmentalist, with many of his films focusing on how to treat the world around them. When the world becomes entangled, whether in people’s hearts or literal pollution, the Kami will do whatever is necessary to balance the scales. Miyazaki urges humans to treat the world with the same sacrament as their religious beliefs, and whether the viewer believes in the Kami or not, there is something to be said about keeping the world green.

KEEP READING: How The Best Classic Anime Ags So Well Over Time

Functionality of Commissioner Gordon Joker

The Joker turns Commissioner Gordon into a victim of DC’s Leatherface

About the Author

Source link


About Author

Comments are closed.