Background story: You see them everywhere around you when you walk around in Japan, the red ‘torii’ gates and the ‘kami’ statues. Throughout the last weeks I conducted a research on the influences of imported Western scientific and theological insights on the current state religion of Japan, Shinto. I was amazed of how Western scientific insights, brought to Japan by the Dutch, changed the entire outlook of the world for the Japanese people in the 17th century. Out of a sudden, the Sun was the middle point where the Earth revolves around, instead of the other way around. Humans apparently have one liver, and not a liver divided in 6 parts (maybe some people think they do, but to them I suggest to stop drinking so much). Revolutionary.
I was even more amazed on how Hirata Atsutane, the ‘founder’ of modern ‘Fukko’ Shinto, reinvented an ancient religion that would later contribute to a restoration of the entire imperial empire in 1868. How Atsutane by hand of (forbidden) Christian works revived a Shinto ‘God’ of life’s creation, ‘Taigen Kososhin’. How shape was given to a ‘world of spirits’. When you travel, you see these objects and you think ‘oh that’s cool’ , or ‘hey that’s a torii!’, but you miss out completely on the relevance of these objects for Japanese people in daily life, and how it, in some way, shaped the way they view the world. Through this research, I got closer to the realization of what Shinto truly means to Japanese culture, and I look with different eyes at the pictures I took there. Again!