How Japanese is Japanese Budhism?

Walking down Professor’s Row on Wednesday night.

Streetlights dancing
with the drizzling rain
A warm winter night.









The framing of Buddhism into Japan as a belief system that is both complementary to and foreign to the indigenous culture brings up an interesting set of questions; while I have studied the pre-modern history of Japan before in the past and am familiar with the introduction of Buddhism into Japan through Korea in the 6th century, I hadn’t really considered Buddhism conceptually foreign to Japanese culture. (Tsunoda 91) In what ways does Buddhism mesh with and contradict native Shinto belief? Buddhist temples are everywhere in Japan – it seems so much a part of the landscape and culture of Japan now, with certain key festivals tied to Buddhist customs (Obon), that it’s difficult for me to see Buddhism as something that’s not intrinsic to Japan. Some of the most prominent historical landmarks are Buddhist temples that are several centuries old, if not more than a thousand years old. Which is why it was surprising for me to hear that much of Buddhist theology and doctrine never really stuck with most of the Japanese populace (Inouye Lecture 4/16). I’m still trying to understand how one can lack an understanding of Buddhist theology and belief yet “go through the motions” year after year. But again, we all do a lot of things that we don’t really understand. Never really thought about why I take my shoes off at the door. I maintain that outdoor shoes are actually dirty and that it’s difficult to relax at home with your shoes on, though.

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2 Responses to How Japanese is Japanese Budhism?

  1. Find it very interesting when you talk about “going through the motions”. I feel like the majority of people are trapped in this cycle without realizing it; I feel like it is crucial to realize what is real and what is tradition, what is handed down to us. It is important sometimes to step out of the routine and experience moments firsthand.

  2. Avatar of jsilva12 jsilva12 says:

    I found your title to this post intriguing and how you highlighted the oddity of Buddhism in Japan. Japan “accepted” Buddhism, but it seems mainly its rituals and ideas that coincided with theirs. Your paragraph shows this by bringing it to light how Japanese Buddhism is more of a routine or habit rather than a belief.

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