Te Deum laudamus!
Господа Бога славим!


дьякон Андрей КУРАЕВ

иеромонах Сергий (РЫБКО)


РЕЦЕНЗИИ (фантастика, фэнтези)

Some other religious customs of Shinto Japanese allude to unknown origins, and in each case a close relation to Jewish religious tales and traditions can be found. Take for example, both the entrances to Shinto shrines and Jewish synagogues hold golden bells that are to be rung before entering or engaging in prayer. The floor plan of the Shinto shrine is very similar to that of a Jewish tabernacle. The "torii" or "gate" that is the entrance to a Shinto shrine, is almost exactly the same design as the "taraa" gate / entrance to a Jewish tabernacle. At a traditional Shinto festival "Ontohsai" the ancient tradition was to sacrifice seventy-five deer, followed by the symbolic (simulated) sacrifice of a young boy who is saved shortly before death by another priest playing the role of a "kami" or "god (spirit)," this is comparable to the Hebrew story of Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac. This similarity is compounded by the fact that the Hebrew ceremony also called for a sacrifice of seventy-five sheep. However, since there were originally no sheep in Japan, it is believed that deer were substituted because they are kosher; never mind the fact that animal sacrifice plays absolutely no role in any other Shinto traditions and seems to go against the very nature of Shinto itself (it was eventually outlawed in the Meiji era, and is now simulated with stuffed animals). And finally, a rumor that the holy mirror in the Shinto shrine of Ise contains an actual Hebrew phrase (scripted in Hebrew). On three separate occasions, and by three unrelated people1, this phrase has been translated as the Hebrew name of God, meaning "I Am That I Am."

Some Hebrew social traditions also may have found their way into Japanese culture, such as bowing as a form of greeting, the imagery of mountains as holy places of enlightenment and spiritual discovery, similar styles of folk-dancing amongst both Hebrew and Japanese peoples, and the sowing of salt before an important (or religious) undertaking as a symbol for purification. Not to mention the similarities between the royal crest of the Japanese imperial family carrying the exact same design as the seal over Herrod's Gate in Jerusalem (one of the most important entrances to the holy city).

With all of these findings to consider, one can easily see why the influence of Jewish mysticism is so strong in Japanese anime. And the introduction of Christianity to Japan in 1549 by Jesuit Francis Xavier, and its reintroduction in 1859 after Japan's two centuries of seclusion, has also served its part in shaping the religious and social lives of the Japanese. Although true freedom of religion did not show itself in Japan until the Allied occupation in 1945, it has long been the nature of Shinto to tolerate and even absorb certain aspects of other religions2. Shinto-ized versions of Christian angels and demons have found their way into Japanese art and story. Naturally, with the strong apocalyptic tendencies of Japanese entertainment, one can see how the Christian idea of angels as saviors, while also being juxtaposed as the bringers of Armageddon, would be a fascinating subject for the Japanese. One example can be found in "Wish," a Japanese manga by the leading female artist group CLAMP, which tells the story of a young angel, Kohaku, sent to earth to find another missing angel, Hisui. While these angels are depicted in the traditional Christian manner (white wings, halos, white robes, etc…) they are assigned very pagan roles. There are four archangels, but they are not the typical four found in Christian mythology, instead they are given Japanese names, and represent the elements of nature: fire, wind, water, and earth. Kohaku himself represents a fifth element, that of spirit, and he is assigned with the role of "hatching" new angels from the "tree of life," (possibly a Qabbalistic association with Jewish mysticism). Coincidentally, God's "messengers" are hares, a traditional Shinto myth animal-association with communication, sending warnings or messages.

A situation which illustrates the angel as destructor can be found in the anime "Neon Genesis Evangelion." These "angels" are certainly not represented in the typical Christian fashion as far as looks are concerned - they are definitely given a Japanese flavor by being portrayed as giant mecha - but their arrival in Neo-Tokyo is seen as a sign of the coming of the destruction of the earth.

These current trends of including Western religious symbolism in Japanese tales do seem on the surface to be not much more than a sprinkling of the exotic to Japan's "Western-crazed" fads, but I strongly believe it to be a reflection of distant past influences to their religious and social traditions, the memory of which may have been lost for many generations.

1 The three people were: Arinori Mori (the cultural minister of Japanese education, culture, and science, around 1899), Dr. Sakon (a professor at Aoyama-Gakuin University, around 1947), and Yutaro Yano (a Shinto priest, in 1978). Yutaro Yano actually copied by hand the scribing on the back of the holy mirror, and this picture can be found in his book which was handed down through his Shinto tradition to his daughter who has recently published it. The drawing clearly shows the Hebrew phrase, but it is not known if the drawing is an accurate representation due to the fact that few other people have been allowed to look at the holy mirror.

2 In Shinto, notions of "purity" and "cleanliness" are very important. Blood is considered unclean, as well as artifacts associated with death or corpses, therefore the tasks of funeral rites and burials were meted out to Buddhists, who have no strong aversion to dealing with death. This tradition continues into the present day.

© Sabrina Surovec
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