A question that many foreigners to Japan seem to ask is, “Are Japanese people religious?” This is a very fascinating question, considering that most Japanese people practice two religions, rather than just one or none at all. To many countries, this fact is exactly why people question their methods. For countries who only have one dominant religion (essentially every country other than Japan) having two religions is absurd and must mean they don’t truly believe in either. However, this is not the case. Unfortunately, the religious view of a Japanese person is very abstract and hard to explain.
In Japan, if you ask someone if they are religious, they will tell you no. Then, they will walk over to a shrine and pray, go over to a temple and pray, celebrate Christmas, go to a temple on New Year’s Eve, and go to a shrine for New Year’s Day. So what is going on in their heads?
Many Japanese people explain that they are more spiritual than religious. While they wouldn’t label themselves as a follower of any religion, praying to temples and shrines is tradition and has existed in their lives for generations.
What truly makes Japan unique from all other countries is that they are tolerant and accepting of all religions. The Japanese people agree that every religion should be respected, whether or not you believe in it. To the Japanese, life is not about “believing in something” but rather “respecting something.”
The Japanese people look at religion as a free-for-all. If they like an aspect of a different religion, they might borrow it and use it for their own. They believe that religion shouldn’t be constructed of labels and rules, but rather shared and common morals, respect, and good-doing.
If you visit a temple in Japan, it often will have a shrine on the premises. These are two separate religions, yet they work hand-in-hand. The Japanese people think that religion exists to make people feel safe and assured, not fearful. If different aspects of different religions make you feel safe, then go forth and practice them both.
Taizoin Temple Deputy Head Priest Daiko Matsuyama explains that religions change based upon what country they are in and what those people need; adapting to their culture, tradition, and morals.
The Japanese view on religions is the most peaceful outlook there is. If this view was shared all over the world, there would be far less war, loss, and suffering.